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Aquavit vs.Oceana for large business lunch?

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Hi - Hoping to get some help as I hem and haw over organizing a large business lunch (likely will end up needing to do private dining because of party size). Will try to be as specific as possible to not waste your time. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!

I've narrowed options to Aquavit and Oceana for their location, they serve lighter fare/seafood, ambiance isn't too stuffy, and availability for the date I need (struck out at a half dozen other places for at least one of these reasons). I haven't eaten at either resto. I was a bit apprehensive re: approachableness of AQ's Scandanavian-influence, but menu looks fine.

Btw, attendees will be a few out-of-towners, but mostly NYC-ers who get taken out to business lunches a lot. Also mostly females.

So, do you feel one restaurant is a better choice than the other - food-wise or otherwise?

Also, despite both of these places being around for AWHILE already, is one considered still "trendier" than the other (not the "am I going to see a celebrity?" trendy but the "oh, that's where we're going? that makes me happy/excited" trendy)?

Thank you so much!!

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  1. I would choose Oceana mainly for it's space and location.

    1. I prefer Oceana. Just ate there the other day and had wonderful frog legs and grilled sturgeon. Dishes can be simple or imaginative. Desserts are wonderful. Nice spacious feeling. Excellent wine list.

      1. Aquavit all the way. Oceana's food is quite good and seafood high quality but its style of cooking nothing special/unique. In fact, to me, its location and design/layout make it feel like an upscale chain restaurant to a certain extent.

        just got one Michelin star;
        has interesting design that feels more elegant and impressive;
        is part of the New Nordic wave of contemporary cooking;
        has lovely, serene private rooms;
        is just another league of dining than Oceana - more sophisticated and higher end.

        No one goes "Oh! The luncheon is at Oceana! Wow!" Whereas they may do that about Aquavit.

        1. Aquavit.

          Better, sleeker interior and more refined cooking. Unless you want a raw bar, Aquavit is the better choice. It might be even better post-Samuelsson.

          1. Go with Aquavit. I've had business lunches at both restaurants, and while the food is good at both (although I do find Aquavit's food more interesting), service is much better at Aquavit.

            1. Thank you, all! Really appreciate the thoughts!!

              1. I'll side with Aquavit as well - it's just more exciting than Oceana. Now, granted, most of the exciting Michelin-star food is served at dinner (the lunch menu is a bit more straight-forward) but if you're doing a large party event they'll certainly cater the menu to what you like.

                And while it's true that not everyone "gets" Haute Herring as much as some of us do, there are a number of less stinky-fish based dishes that would be more approachable.

                In terms of trendiness.... well, Midtown in general is not trendy. The cuisine at Aquavit is very much on-trend with the New Nordic thing, though I think many locals a.) don't realize that there's been a new chef there for the past few years who's culinarily outshining the old, more famous guy, and b.) they're more likely to go downtown for "trendy" in general. Go with the two apps / two entrees options, maybe pick one traditional and one modern option for each course, you'll have a great meal I'm sure.

                1. Thanks again for your thoughts! Just wanted to report back that I went with Aquavit and it was great. Food was well done - even with private dining menu. It's hard to please the varying palettes of a large group with a set menu, but I felt the food/flavor combinations were nontraditional/interesting while still being approachable.