Party Time - The New York Sun, 12/11/2006

For the Times Square enthusiast, a happy new year starts with jam-packed jubilates and hypothermia. But if you seek more intimate alternatives, these restaurants and bars will feed your fancy — at a range of prices and styles.

CAFÉ GRAY (10 Columbus Circle, 60th Street at Broadway, 3rd floor, 212-823-6338) is taking reservations for its New Year's Eve 2006 gala, which includes chef Gray Kunz's sumptuous fare for $550 a person. The meal begins with Royal Osetra caviar, black truffle and foie gras potage, and paupiette of Dover sole and lobster ragout. Chilled soup of pomelo and grapefruit follows filet mignon Stroganoff. An eight-piece band will play until 2 a.m., and with the unlimited champagne, surely you'll feel like dancing. For a less pricey repast, tables at 5:30 or 6:00 pm can be reserved for Café Gray's $140 fourcourse prix fixe.

At ALAIN DUCASSE AT THE ESSEX HOUSE (155 W. 58th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 212-265-7300), Alain Ducasse and executive chef Tony Esnault will present a 10-course meal at 8:30 p.m. for $480 a person. Highlights include lobster with golden Osetra caviar and sautéed Wagyu beef in a black truffle Périgueux sauce. As if milk chocolate crémeux with caramel ice cream isn't reason enough to feel good, 10% of the evening's proceeds will go to Citymeals-on-Wheels — a charity that delivers meals to senior New Yorkers in need.

For those who don't want to wring out their savings while ringing in the New Year, ARTISANAL (2 Park Ave., entrance on 32nd Street, between Madison and Park avenues, 212-725-8585), run by Chef Terrance Brennan, offers a menu that's as sophisticated as it is thrifty. The $58 three-course prix fixe between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. features Parmesan gnocchi, lobster bisque, wild Scottish pheasant, turbot with cauliflower, grapes and truffles, among other options. At 10 p.m., the previous menu expands to a four-course fête for $72. Though the restaurant is renowned for its selection of cheeses, the chocolate fondue for two is not to be overlooked.

THE RIVER ROOM (750 W. 145th St. at Riverside Drive, 212-491-1500) boasts a romantic view of the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge, and New Jersey Palisades. Enjoy a four-course prix fixe for $125 featuring the restaurant's famous fried oysters and crispy bronzed duck. An R & B band will draw diners to the dance floor from the time seating begins at 9:30 p.m., until closing at 1 a.m. Reservations for tables between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. include a $45 three-course prix fixe menu with live entertainment and a glass of champagne.

"El Morocco Fabulous" is the mission statement of MARION'S CONTINENTAL RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE'S 16th annual New Year's Eve party with seatings at 9:30 p.m. and 10:00p.m. (354 Bowery at East 4th Street, 212 475-7621). The seven-course meal and all-night swing dancing with a live band costs $125 a person and includes party favors and a glass of champagne. Marion's legendary martinis, such as the "Brassy Blond" ($10) or spicy "Cajun" ($10) will be available, too. The earlier option is a 7 p.m. reservation for the five-course $55 dinner.

And speaking of Morocco, the sultry North African restaurant and hookah bar LE SOUK (47 Avenue B, between 3rd and 4th streets, 212-777-5454) offers unlimited drinks and hors d'oeuvres between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. for $125. A DJ will be spinning all night and belly dancers will be roaming. Nearby, at the music venue and bar TONIC (107 Norfolk St., between Delancey and Rivington streets, 212-358-7501 or 866-468-7619) avant-garde jazz pioneer Steven Bernstein and his Millennial Territory Orchestra will take the stage along with guest vocalist Jennifer Charles. Tickets are $30, and complimentary glasses of champagne will be handed out at midnight.

At SCHILLER'S LIQUOR BAR (131 Rivington St. at Norfolk Street, 212-260-4555) a $45 three-course menu will be available starting at 3 p.m. Patrons can watch the ball drop on the big screen while sipping drinks like the "white chocolate martini" ($10) or "country time" ($10), made of muddled strawberries, lemon vodka, fresh lemonade, and a splash of tonic.

CANDELA (116 E. 16th St., between Irving Place and Park Avenue South, 212-254-1600) is throwing a $150 a person New Year's Eve party between 10p.m. and 3a.m. with top-shelf open bar, party favors, and a midnight champagne toast. A buffet brimming with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, short rib ravioli, seafood risotto, spicy chicken dumplings, assorted sushi, carving meats, pastries, and cakes will fuel the dance floor led by DJ Blaze. Snack on the traditional breakfast spread at 1:30 a.m. An earlier seating between 5:30p.m. and 8:00 p.m., includes a fourcourse $55 prix fixe menu featuring seared scallops, ahi tuna, and warm chocolate cake.

Italy's North and South regions will unite at DANI (333 Hudston St. at Charlton, 212-633-9333).The evening's theme is a Venetian Carnival party, but the $140 dinner menu features five courses of Sicilian fare for the 8 p.m. to 9:30p.m. seatings. Festive masks will be placed at each seat, as will treats like tuna tartar, black truffle and beluga lentil ravioli, seafood fra diavola, and complimentary champagne. A threecourse menu is available for $65 at the 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. seating.

Japanese tapas bar BOZU (296 Grand St., Brooklyn, 718-384-7770), known for chef Makoto Suzuki's "sushi bombs" and explosive flavor pairings, will offer a five-course $60 prix fixe between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Menu offerings include blue fin tuna tartar salad, followed by Chilean sea bass atop pan fried thyme shiitake, enoki mushrooms, and hot red yuzu jelly. Sushi and sesame miso steak follows.

After the restaurant closes at midnight, there's a party across the street at LARRY LAWRENCE (295 Grand St., between Havemeyer and Roebling streets, 718-218-7866) with a $75 a person open bar between 10 p.m. and 4a.m. Or shell out the $10 cover charge to party at performance and art venue GALAPAGOS (70 N.6th St. between Kent and Wythe Avenues,718-782-5188), where Your 33 Black Angels, Butane Variations, DJ Captain Heartlock, and others will play between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.

Should you wish to throw your own New Year's party, Sonnier & Castle (212-957-6481 or info@sonniercastle.com) and Dean & Deluca (deandeluca.com and 212-430-8300) are available to cater. Gifts for the hostess can be picked up at CUCINA & CO. in the Cellar at Macy's (151 W. 34th St., between Broadway and Seventh Avenue,212-695-4400).At $99,the American Caviar Tasting gift bag is filled with selections of North American sturgeon, Pacific salmon, American paddlefish, and Golden whitefish. A delicate motherof-pearl spoon, blinis, and crème fraîche complete the package. Old Navy's wine carrying cases ($5), with their graphic black-and-white print, can make a gift of wine a touch more festive (150 W. 34th St., between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, 212-594-0115, and multiple locations).

If your New Year's wish is to get away from New York, CLASSICTRAVEL. COM is offering a weeklong luxury trip to Brazil for $10,937, airfare not included (December 28th to January 5th, 2007, classictravel.com or 888-212-6444). Lodging begins in Rio de Janeiro at the Copacabana Palace, where guests can relax on the beach, tour the city by helicopter, and experience Brazilian nightlife with a private guide. A ticket to the hotel's exclusive New Year's Eve ball is included. On January 2nd, guests will travel three hours to the resort town of Buzios for a three-day stay at the boutique hotel Pousada Casas Brancas.

And once the revelry of New Year's Eve 2007 is over, the next big party is only 364 days away. Let the countdown begin.