A Table for How Many? at Royal Chinese Barbecue
8406 Olive Boulevard
The music is blasting, half the table is up dancing, and you're stuck screaming across the centerpiece to the groom's 80-year-old grandmother, whose name you can only remember because of her place card.
The wedding round table never seems to work out.
The other place where round tables are commonly found? Chinese restaurants. There the quiet almost forces you to converse. The dialogue seems to spin carefree around the table with each turn of the Lazy Susan. Large round tables are a fun diversion from the typical long, narrow Dinner Club table, where -- because you can only chat with the few people sitting near you -- the seat you choose can make or break your experience.
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At our Royal Chinese Barbecue round table, banter consisted of the usual pleasantries and (gasp!) religion and politics. It could have gotten dicey, but if anyone got too upset, they could easily be distracted by a new dish spinning by. In fact, a certain Dinner Clubber (my husband) was overheard saying, "While you are all talking, I am eating all of your food!"
Try it All
The one Chinese person that came to Royal Chinese Barbecue with our group gave us the all-important Chinese group dining advice: "Don't order the same thing as anyone else." With such an extensive menu of both authentic and Americanized Chinese food, it should be easy for each person in your group to pick something different. Try it all! It's polite to eat more of the item you ordered and less of everyone else's dishes, but do taste everything as it journeys past you.
There were two people in our group that didn't participate fully in the table sharing. (One was a vegetarian; the other just wanted his fried rice.) This made the bill a challenge. Should we divide it evenly, or should people pay for just what they ordered? We always do the pay-for-what-you-order method at Dinner Club, but since almost everyone shared everything, that didn't seem fair. We determined that with tip, each person owed about twenty dollars. We asked those who ate more or ordered more expensive things to consider putting in a few extra dollars while others could put in a little less. Luckily, we ended up with more than we needed and were able to leave a generous tip.
Going with a Group Should be a Requirement
While some restaurants are better with small parties, some are superior regardless of party size. At Royal Chinese Barbecue, a large group should be a requirement. You'll get to taste more, and who knows what you'll learn - there are no secrets in the round.
Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences twice a month.