What a challenge! The best meal in NYC. a brain scratcher, for sure. Would I pick Le Refuge - wonderful French hideaway on 82nd street. Home of many happy meals? How about Gotham Bar and Grill - vertical food, beautifully prepared, amazing service, impressive room. And there is always Shun Lee. Chinese doesn't get much better. Nope, although they are all memorable places and meals, I love Lupa. The last meal I had there was very memorable - lamb sausage with a warm salad with morell shavings. To die for!
Having made several visits, I can honestly say, I have always been amazed by the food, service and the relatively reasonable price - I call it good value. At Gotham Bar and Grill - expect to drop $100 per person. At Le Refuge, maybe $70 per. At Lupa, you can eat like a king (insert hilarious "here King!" joke now) for about $120 for two.
There used to be a cool restaurant called The Grand Ticino also on Thompson Street - a rock solid 2 star that finally closed after decades of making people happy. I had a few meals there that were quite good. So maybe it's the geography, but Lupa has almost made me get over the loss of that old gem.
Lupa - a Nova in NYC's galaxy of stars.