What does your first job interview after college have in common with your retirement dinner? Aside from bookending your career, these two events will likely involve dining out. Business meals are a “necessary evil” of business life, and NYC professionals will find themselves involved in such settings on a weekly, if not daily basis, for their entire careers. Yet strangely, so few people learn to pull the “evil” out of the equation by taking advantage of the art of the business meal— the delicate dance between participants wherein rapport is developed and authentic business opportunities are born.
Those of us who have learned the steps of the dance are ready to host the business meal. Hosting puts you at a great advantage when it comes to nurturing and managing your network. The host is the unspoken director of the event, whose forethought regarding the desired outcome of the meal can yield powerful results.
Setting the stage begins with choosing the appropriate restaurant to entertain your guests. Much thought goes into this decision: location, price point, speed, service, reputation, and of course, good food is a bonus. Still, there’s more to it than just consulting a Zagat review; you’ll need a deeper sense of savvy. Entertaining guests at fabulous restaurants can make them feel like royalty, but paying an inflated bill isn’t in every business budget, nor does it send the right message when entertaining a client, who is ultimately footing the bill.
My NYC dining experience is vast, and I have made it a sport to sniff out the hot spots with superb prix fixe lunch menus, some of which actually seem underpriced. Let me share with you four of my mid-town favorites with beautiful settings, including links to their lunch menus. Host at one of these, and you’re sure to leave the lasting impression you intended:
Felidia 243 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022 (212) 758-1479
This midtown hot spot boasts the most extensive prix fixe selection in town! Since the business meal is about building relationships (a.k.a. paying attention), be sure to look at Felidia’s menu online before your lunch to narrow down the choices. The dining room can get a bit noisy, so when making your reservation, request a quiet table. When they can, they accommodate. This is not a lunch ‘hour’ spot. $29.50 for 3 courses.
Seasonal 132 West 58th Street, New York, NY 10019 (between 6th & 7th Avenues) (212) 957-5550
I feel like I’m giving away my special secret, but Seasonal’s lunch prix fixe, at $29 for three courses, offers Austrian delights that could make a foodie weep. The caveat is Seasonal has some tiny tables— too small for a serious business meal, so specify the nature of your visit when making a reservation. Be prepared to order your dessert when you order your first two courses.
Rouge Tomate 10 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022 (646) 237-8977
A friendly and educated staff offers healthy, wholesome cuisine at this Upper East Side gem. The menu at $32 offers two choices for each course. Stylistically, the food is much like Goldie’s by the Bridge when I opened in 1991— what I referred to as Fresh Market Cuisine, reflecting the season. And the Tomate does it right!
Aureole 135 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036 (212) 319-1660
Dine at Aureole right off of Times Square, and you’ll be experiencing my go-to lunch spot. The dining room is beautifully appointed and reasonably quiet. The bar room is a bit noisier, but still stunning to look at. The service is friendly and informed, and the prix fixe lunch selection is a knockout, albeit a bit limited. Expect breathtaking food presentation. $38/$43 bar room/dining room, for three courses.