First off, thanks to all for your suggestions. And secondly, I have to confess that I asked for a bachelor/manly type place without revealing that this was actually a bachelorette event where the theme was where we all dressed up like old-fashioned gents. Reason was we wanted to get as authentic of a vibe as possible and see what people would recommend for *real* men about town.
Anyway, we choose Shanghai 1930 because of its cigar lounge and the ambiance. It was bit swankier than 850 Cigar Bar. We also decided to do our dinner there because the vegetarian/non-red meat contigent was making a meal at a steakhouse seem like a waste of food and money. And also, Bix was unavailable for a party our size.
I had reserved a section of the Blue Bar at Shanghai 1930. They had live jazz there which was great. We pre-ordered a heavy-app meal which was very painless. We told them how much we wanted to spend per person, gave them some ideas from their menu, and they created a heavy app menu for us that worked perfectly in satisfying our dietary needs, taste, and financial constraints.
We had the following:
Minced Roasted Duck in Lettuce Petals
Naking Veggie Spring Rolls
Hunan Pepper Chicken Tenders
Sweetened Glazed Short Ribs
The har gow was extremely fresh with a good sized prawn inside rather than congealed shrimp parts. I thought the wrapper to be a triffle thick, but it was passable. It was the only dish that tasted *Chinese*. The lettuce cups were light and refreshing... it was a crowd favourite, but somehow it reminded my friend and me of something that might be Peruvian in origin. Veggie spring rolls were crisp and not oily, but vaguely tasted Central/South American as well. The mushroom purses had intense porcini flavour, but again, we thought we were having mushroom ravioli a la some Tuscan preparation. The chicken tenders were also light and crisp in batter. Reminded me of southen fried chicken nuggets. The ribs were finger-licking good in a southern smokehouse sort of way. We enjoyed our food immensely. Each dish had a distinctive flavour, but it was not Chinese in any way except for maybe name. But at $20/pp before tax and tip... no one was complaining and everyone had plenty to eat. We even had left-overs. We were rather deliriously happy that we got a delectable international apps feast at a pan-asian/nuevo-chinese restaurant for a song.
The drinks were good... we ordered many round of martinis before retiring to the Guanxi Cigar lounge for cigars and port. The lounge was plush and they had an attentive, knowlegable staff that helped us pick out cigars from their collection and our after-dinner drinks. A good time was had by all. The bride said she is forever in my debt for planning.
As a side note... we were allowed to use the private cigar lounge after we booked our party with their event planner providing we did not clash schedule-wise with another members. The private cigar lounge part of the evening really made the night and I was glad I asked about using it instead of getting deterred by the *members-only* policy.