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Mar 23, 2008 05:12 PM

Suggestions for a group dinner for eight, please

I have invited some friends to dinner next month. The dinner will be on a Thursday evening, and is basically intended as a nice get-together to show my appreciation for their friendship over the years. It will be seven women and one man. Age mix is 40s-50s. Preferred location would be UWS, UES or midtown. Downtown is also a possibility but none of us lives there so it's a little less convenient. I'm looking for a place with very good food and service. It doesn't have to be super fancy or anything but I don't want to have to deal with amateurish service. In fact, I would prefer to avoid a stuffy restaurant. Ideally, the place would be lively enough but not so loud that we have to shout to be heard. I find a round table is much more conducive to conversation and more intimate than when four 2-tops are strung together so it would be nice if the former were available. Obviously, I'm not expecting people to know about table set-ups but I just wanted to indicate that I'm trying to avoid being in the middle of a bunch of restaurant traffic or something. Price range: I don't have a firm budget in mind but was thinking of something along the lines of $75 to $100, tops, per person, before tax and tip but inclusive of wine, drinks, etc. Menu should be varied enough to offer options for most tastes. (No particular food alergies or issues in the group.) I guess I was thinking along the lines of Italian, French, broadly defined, or "Continental" cuisine. Nice Matin is high on my list but the round table they offered me looked like a tight fit for eight, even though they claimed that nine and even ten "broad shouldered men" have been seated comfortably in the space. Thanks for any suggestions or advice!

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    1. re: LeahBaila

      Thanks for the suggestion, LeahBaila. I've been to Dovetail twice and didn't find the place lived up to the reviews. Maybe my hopes were set too high but I found that while some of the dishes were fine, some just didn't work for me. My friend and I did the set menu. He actually enjoyed it quite a bit but I wondered if he was being a bit too polite since it was my invitation and I picked up the tab. To me some of the dishes just had too much going on. That was the case with one of the appetizers which I think had beets in it. On another occasion I sat with some friends at the bar. The pork belly was okay but also seemed a bit excessive with all the sauce. The gnocchi was okay but nothing special. My friend is a bit of a wine connoisseur. He thought the wine list was good and found the sommelier helpful. I know the place is supposed to be all the rage on the UWS so I guess I'm an outlier opinion.

      1. re: uwsgrazer

        I agree. I just went there and while some things were good enough, there were some really NOT good things, and nothing that blew me away. I found myself comparing the things I liked to dishes at other places and it wasn't favorable. Too bad...was looking forward to it being awesome.

    2. Compass fits your needs with respect to the round table issue. Iirc, they have two, both of which can easily accommodate 8 people. We haven't been to the restaurant since Chef Neil Annis returned, but we were there during his first stint, and his New American cuisine was excellent. As for service, we've always found it to be pleasant and capable.

      1. I know I've been seated at a large round table Marseille, so that might work. Ouest may also be an option.

        1. I find that Artisanal is good with groups and they do have round tables. the menu is varied enough to appeal to most tastes, though obviously better for cheese-lovers.

          1. Thanks everyone for the ideas. 'Cesca says they have a couple of round tables, although there are no guarantees I would get one. In any case, they are nearby and I will try to stop by to check things out. I liked the food when Valenti was cooking but at least one 'hound has provided postive feedback on recent visits with the new chef so I will go for it if the table situation looks good. I do like Artisinal and may try that if 'Cesca doesn't work out. Haven't been to Compass in a long time but the last visit rubbed me the wrong way. I think it had something to do with a change in the prix fixe menu from what was on their website. And the food was okay but I was kind of disappointed given the price point (although I enjoyed it on an earlier visit).

            Definitely a big fan of Marseille but the noise level can run high. I have a mixed feelings about Ouest. I do think it would fit the bill nicely for my group dinner but I have found FLIES swirling around the dining room on at least two occasions. Rather shocking! The food is good, but can be a bit rich, imo.