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Aug 26, 2008 11:51 AM

Asian business clients coming to dinner - need reco's above 14th st pls!

I have some business clients coming from Asia and would like to take them to dinner. My forte is below 14th street so i need all you CHOW hounders to provide reco's ABOVE 14th street:

looking for:

--Non-Asian cuisine

--Nice, upscale-feeling ambience/decor (asian clients will not understand "rustic" or "charming" ambience, they need something that feels more luxe ---when they come to the States for meals, they feel that "rustic/charming/homey" decor means cheap)

--Not super expensive (Le Bernardin and Atelier JR are OUT, sorry, even Morimoto is a bit too excessive)

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  1. Is there a specific cusisine you're leaning towards?

    1. You can try Maze at the London Hotel or the Bar at the Modern. Japanese tend to like that kind of sleek decor (the latter).

      1. I'm not sure how you define "not super expensive", but here goes:
        Etats-Unis on East 81st
        Fig & Olive on 62nd & Lex
        Insieme on West 51st

        4 Replies
        1. re: acpi

          While it's been ages since we've been to Etats-Unis, unless things have changed dramatically with regard to ambiance, it's very far from luxe -- very tight, uncomfortable seating in a small space. And the food did not impress me.

          1. re: acpi

            I've only had lunch at Fig & Olive but I don't think I would take clients there for dinner. Tables were cheek to jowel, it was very noisy, and the food was just eh -- short on the good ingredients and skimpy.

            1. re: acpi

              As much as I didn't love Insieme when I went there, I think that it would suit your guests perfectly. I'd look into it.

              1. re: jakew8

                I'd recommend Insieme, terrific Italian cuisine from Marco Canora (Craft, Hearth)

            2. I would probably recommend a Steakhouse (maybe Del Frisco's or BLT Steak ?) (You may have to find a thread here in which steakhouses are being discussed to find the "best" one.). To me, "American" cuisine is somehow associated with steaks when I was growing up in Asia so if I were to visit the US from Asia, I would expect to eat a nice steak dinner.

              Based on my own experience with Asian relatives/friends/guests, I will recommend that you stay away from Indian, Middle Eastern, and/or Mexican cuisines because the type of spices used in these cuisines may be too "foreign" to many East Asians (well, unless your "Asian" clients are from India or the Middle East).

              Wish you good luck in finding a place.

              3 Replies
              1. re: bearmi

                I would agree with the recommendation of a steakhouse. It has that feeling of meat and potatoes and excess that some associate with American foodways. I don't, however, agree that Mexican is a bad way to go. I know plenty of Japanese who are wowed by Rosa Mexicano because it is so different (though Pampano might be the more upscale option for a business dinner) as well as French, which still has cachet in Asian minds.

                1. re: JungMann

                  There is no doubt that a lot of Japanese (or other Asian visitors) will enjoy Mexican food. However, it is also common in East Asian culture to be non-confrontational and be complimentary of the host when they are invited to dinner or being recommended a restaurant. Therefore, it's not uncommon that the Asian guests do not enjoy their dinners but they will still smile and say "delicious" to the host as a nice gesture. I am guilty of doing that many times myself.. haha.

                  To be more specific, cumin, the spice that gives off a flavor which resembles characteristic body odor offensive to many Asians (called Hu-Chou or "fox odor"/"barbarian odor" in Mandarin Chinese), is used heavily in certain cuisines so that's where the potential dis-satisfier lies. Nonetheless, like you have mentioned, I am sure there are people who are more receptive to foreign tastes and foreign cuisines. I suppose, in that case, the host can gauge the visitors' interest and decide on what would be best for them.

                2. re: bearmi

                  I think a steakhouse is a good rec. Keens is always my pick, and I don't believe the old school decor comes across as cheap.

                3. I recommend it often (because I think it's great) but what about Kellari Taverna on W.44th St. or Kellari Parea on E.20th. I've only been to the former; it has an intimate, sophisticated, and modern decor. You don't say how many you are entertaining, but I have been there at round table of more than 10 and other tables were far enough away that we could actually have a conversation.

                  Most important, the food is excellent, specializing in the freshest fish (on display when you enter as in many Greek establishments) and excellent meat dishes. Lovely, unrushed service and not too pricey. I think your clients would be impressed.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: City Kid

                    We haven't been to Kellari Taverna, but we recently had dinner at Kellari Parea. The space has been completely transformed from what was previously (when the restaurant was the original Parea) very stark and modern to very warm and rustic -- exactly the kind of ambiance that asianbun said would turn off his/her clients.

                    With regard to the food, while some items were tasty, others were just o.k. A major problem was that some of the food arrived at our table not hot enough and needed to be sent back.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Interesting, obviously very different from Kellari Taverna -- the decor, food, and service, which have all been top-notch on the several occasions I have been there. Definitely a place I would take an important client.

                      1. re: City Kid

                        Don't get me wrong. I was really impressed with the decor transformation at Kellari's Parea. I found the rusticity very charming and far more pleasing than the prior dark slickness. The way they've compartmentalized the humoungous space has eliminated the previous cavernous feeling.

                        Service was very good. In fact, when one of the servers came by to ask how we liked our appetizers, and we told her the spanikopita were not hot, she immediately apologized and said she would take the cost off the bill -- this, even though we had already consumed two of the three pieces. When we received our check, she was as good as her word. Also, when we sent back the 24-hour lamb because it was not hot, the chef, himself, brought it back to the table piping hot. Nice touch, but the thing is, it should never have been sent out barely warm in the first place. Served at the correct temperature, it was delicious!