Get your group together at these restaurants where shared plates are king
When it’s time to “dig in,” what’s better than having not one but five or fifteen dishes to choose from? Especially in Manhattan where there’s always too little time to take in too much good food, the best solution is to order for the table and try as many things as possible—a bite of this, a scoop of that. Here are four places that promise delicious shared experiences.
Unabashedly glamorous in the Meatpacking District, Buddakan is an all-encompassing experience. Those looking for a glitzy night out should book a table in the Chinoiserie, the palatial main hall straight out of the past, where enormous chandeliers hang over a long banquet table. But while the scene may play with the luxuriance of old Europe, the menu is strictly Chinese, equal parts traditional and interpretive dishes. Do as the Chinese do and pile a bunch of plates on your table: Oxtail dumplings with lemongrass broth and minty lobster eggrolls are standouts from the dim sum list, while food critics like to gush over the Peking duck and short ribs in the main courses. For a sweet foil, the chilled udon noodles with lime sorbet and peanut sauce are delicious, as of course are the Asian-inspired cocktails. (Ninth Ave. nr. 16th St.)
Maybe it’s the element of activity that does the trick, but cook-it-yourself restaurants make for some of the most entertaining meals. At the California-based Gyu-Kaku chain’s East Village digs, diners can cook up Japanese meals in Korean barbecue–style—think Kobe steak marinated in sweet soy or scallops soaked in miso cooked over charcoal at each table’s grill. Appetizers and salads aside, there’s no such thing as personal dishes here. If the menu of meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables is overwhelming, go for one of the four set menus; otherwise pick your ingredients, grab a pair of tongs, and get to it. (Cooper Square nr. 4th St.)
Lavo may be famous on the nightlife circuit for its basement club (the establishment was, after all, founded in Vegas and owned by the trendsetting Tao Group), but it has more to offer than bottles and beats. Its upstairs Italian restaurant is kitted out with a raw bar and brick pizza oven, not to mention a first-class menu of handmade meatballs with imported cheeses, every kind of pasta, and six different kinds of steaks including an impressive 34-ounce porterhouse for two. From tartare and carpaccio to salmon oreganato and veal Milanese, all the classics are here and cut no corners on quality of ingredients, so order family-style and indulge. You can always dance it off downstairs later. (58th St. nr. Madison Ave.)
Manhattan’s culinary scene is a small one, and it’s no coincidence that before he had his hand in Lavo, Richard Wolf, a partner of the Tao Group, was one of the three founders of Stanton Social, which opened in 2005 and is equally posh, though in a more intimate manner. The three-story restaurant is filled with candle-lit tables, suede banquettes, and a wine display of more than 2,000 bottles. The menu is devoid of appetizers and mains, composed entirely of small plates that the excellent servers bring out slowly, encouraging groups to enjoy their table for a while. Sliders include a flavorful veggie burger and Philly cheesesteak with truffled goat cheese fondue; global dishes come as fish tacos, chicken arepas, wasabi-crusted salmon, and pierogies; cider steamed mussels and chicken n’ waffles are sure comforts. (Stanton St. nr. Ludlow St.)