Thanks to those of you who posted in reply to my question of where to take a group of 9 for dinner and still be able to talk!! It seemed that most replies, given the restaurant ideas I put forth, indicated Philippe Restaurant. That's where we went and thanks so much--it was wonderful! We had wandered in a couple of days ahead to scope it out, and Kim, the lady in charge of booking private rooms and such, was SO helpful. Although their smallest private room was already booked, she showed us a reasonable alternative that was in a corner rather than in the center of the room.
Everybody enjoyed the dinner immensely. The food was not only imaginative, but cleverly presented as well. It was fun to taste bites of what everybody was having, and with that many people, we were able to have quite a cross-section of items. Stand-outs were the crab and avocado appetizer, ingeniously served in a "jar", the drunken foie gras, the salmon main course, beef cheeks with the delicious mac and cheese, the filet and the wonderfully-presented desserts.
The service was nothing short of fabulous! Our waiter, Vik, was outstanding in his ability to anticipate our needs and keep things flowing seamlessly. Not an easy job considering there were 9 of us, and he had a number of other tables as well. All in all, it was a memorable dining experience!
We also had a good dinner at Tony Mandola's new location--had a great table and were impressed with the new space. Calamari a la mama were as good as always, and the service was very good. Also went to Branch Water where the food was great, especially the shrimp and grits with slow-cooked egg and the popcorn.....but the accoustics really need improving! Too bad we didn't know to eat in the separate, closed-off room which, while full, was at least apart from the cacophony that was the rest of the space. The waitress seemed overwhelmed by it all, and the service suffered as a result.
Houston has so many varied and interesting dining experiences! No wonder people don't want to stay home and cook in this miserable heat!
Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions. I can't imagine a more fun experience for our group than Philippe!