Sarabeth’s – One Great Rehearsal Dinner

When you plan a rehearsal dinner, there are many factors to take into account.

For example: Where will it be? Will the room be private? Will there be a dedicated bar and bathroom for your event? How far is this event from where most of your guests are located? What is the RSVP policy? How flexible are they on allergies and dietary restrictions? Must you have alcohol at the event? How expensive is it per person?

And…of course…how tasty is the food?

For my own rehearsal dinner, we decided on Sarabeth’s Central Park South, a restaurant that I would never normally frequent. However, I have to say that it was such a good experience that I would recommend it  for any large dinner affair, without reservation.

First, the not so great:

It is hard to get ahold of the banquet manager. She is extremely busy, since Sarabeth’s has so many locations. The onus is pretty much on you to call her and keep calling until you get through to her. Once you do, she is very responsive and answers your questions quickly.

That’s it..that’s the only somewhat con.

The rest are all pros. Yep, it is great for these reasons:

1. You don’t have to include alcohol, but you can. You don’t have to include an appetizer hour, but you can. You don’t have to use the whole back room, but you can.  Get the picture? You have so many options – you can really make the rehearsal dinner yours.

2. The space is fabulous. Large, comfortable, spacious, and very private. Trust me, we were hooting, hollering, and sobbing in tandem the entire night and never once did we get asked to quiet down. There is a dedicated bar, bathroom, and servers just for your party. It’s awesome.

3. The price is extremely reasonable. I men, it’s still insane because it’s Manhattan but it’s INFINITELY less insane than any other place in town for the amount and quality of food.

And speaking of which…

The food. Shall we get to it?

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Mixed greens

Simple, but who wants to eat something super complex or rich before she has to squeeze into a tight white dress, right? This is fresh and well dressed, with freshly cracked pepper, a bright but not overly acidic vinaigrette, and tart tomatoes – no limp, soft tomatoes here. I would eat this again with pleasure.

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Tomato and cheddar soup

My now-husband ordered this and to quote him “This is like Campbell’s had a baby with Chef Boyardee and I love it.” Yeah, he pretty much got it. This lacks acidity or any complexity of flavor, but somehow it’s still just delicious. Creamy, savory, and thick with a little salt from the cheese and many hunks of soft, sweet tomatoes. It was much improved by some Tabasco and though this is a little tame on th flavor for my tastes, a lot of people enjoyed it.

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Salmon with carrot-ginger broth, salmon caviar, and parsnip puree

Okay. The salmon was clearly made ahead of time, because it was a little overcooked and chalky and the skin, while pleasantly salty, was soggy instead of crisp. However, the broth was delicious – very sweet with a little gingery kick that was slightly reminiscent of Indian food – some freshly cracked black pepper added a deep and savory edge. The puree, interspersed with fresh spinach, is earthy and creamy – perfect to sop up those gingery juices. The salmon roe atop is a luxurious, salty touch.

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Chcoloate truffle cake

The high point of the night. Dense and chocolaty, more on the milk than the dark side of things. It tastes so comforting and honey, like grandma’s cake might taste. It’s topped with some light, airy, freshly whipped cream and the frosting is so fudgy that you might want seconds.

Don’t worry, you can get a girdle for the dress.

Was this the best meal that I ever ate? No, of course it wasn’t. It was made to please a lot of people, some of it was made ahead of time, and the flavors were far too bland for my tastes.

So why would I recommend this place? Because it is a perfect rehearsal dinner spot. Everyone liked it and some people loved it. My dad couldn’t get enough of the dessert and my husband (WOW…THAT’S STILL SO COOL TO SAY!) doused the soup with hot sauce than actually lifted it to his lips to lick the bowl. The service was excellent, speeches were uninterrupted, and drinks were constantly replenished.  They even offered t let us take home the bottles of wine that we didn’t’ finish! The prices are extremely reasonable for the city, and it’s a really perfect spot to sit with old and new friends and family for a relaxing night. The vibe is nice but extremely laid back and don’t forget chow down on the cake and an insanely delicious cheesy breadstick from the bread basket.

Next up: lunch at Bouchon!