Taking a big group out to a meal can be a challenge, with all those individual likes and dislikes and different eating habits to accommodate. And it is not just the food you have to think about, but also the ambience. The restaurants listed on the following pages cover a wide range, but they all have one thing in common: they are casual and unfussy (but not necessarily cheap). Some of the places even demand that you visit in a large group. Some types of food demand a crowd. Steamboat is great for communal dining, and so are tapas. These are foods for a gang, and are a lot less fun if there are just two of you. So go ahead and book a table for 12, 20 or more. 'Eclectic Chinese served with style' Chung's Cuisine Rm 1001, 10/F, Food Forum, Times Square, Causeway Bay 2506 9128 Fare Eclectic Chinese dishes from various regions, served with style and thoughtfully presented. Ambience While obviously Chinese, the decor has a lot of contemporary elements, such as an open kitchen with interactive cooking demonstrations in which diners may take part. Cost About HK$250 a person with some drinks. Who to bring Friends and family to take advantage of the round tables and spacious booths. Turn-ons Pleasing presentation of many of the dishes, such as sauteed, assorted, diced, dried seafood with bean sprouts and leeks; and fried rice with crab roe (prepared at your table). The chillied, sliced chicken ('saliva chicken')(left) did not taste exactly like the original recipe, but it was delicious. Turn-offs The fried rice was on the bland side and the pig's trotter stew with dried plum (right) was a little too sweet. Drinks A few wines are available by the bottle, mostly French. But this is not really a wine-drinking kind of place. Stick to beer. 'This place is a hoot' Balalaika Russian Restaurant Mezzanine Floor, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central 3579 2929 Fare Russian - from cabbage rolls to caviar. Ambience This place is a hoot. Don a fur hat and coat and do shots in the Siberian Vodka Room, where it is minus 20 degrees Celsius. By the end of the night you'll be singing along with musicians dressed in traditional Russian garb. Cost If you don't fancy the Beluga - stick with piroshkis and shashlik instead - about HK$250 a person without drinks. Who to bring The rugby/hockey/ baseball /marketing/research/sales ... any team you can get together for a good time. Turn-ons The staff - well-trained, fun-loving. An extensive list of hearty dishes, perfect for sharing. We really enjoyed the shashlik special of black cod wrapped in bacon. And the chicken pie with blinis, mushrooms and buckwheat. Turn-offs The large TV. Get rid of it! A lack of authentic dessert offerings. Drinks 60 vodkas (HK$30 a shot during happy hour) as well as a range of vodka cocktails. Adequate wine list, including some Russian. Other drinks include the sickly sweet fruit and red wine concoction, Kumpot. 'Fun and gaudy' Jumbo kingdom Shum Wan Pier Drive, Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen 2553 9111 Fare Cantonese, with an emphasis on seafood. Ambience Fun and gaudy Chinese palace-inspired decor, complete with an imperial chair. Not too noisy. The VIP area on the first floor provides a classier ambience. Cost $300 a person without wine. Who to bring Out-of-town visitors or a big group of friends. Turn-ons Free ferry service from Aberdeen fish market gets you in the mood for a touristy experience. Staff are well trained and efficient. The atmosphere is jolly and carefree. The thousand-year-old eggs with pickled ginger, deep-fried garoupa on toast and deep-fried chicken (with heavenly crispy skin and moist meat) were surprisingly good. Turn-offs A touristy restaurant with touristy prices. Dishes of a good standard, but few exceptional. The sauteed scallops with broccoli was tasty enough, but at $225 a pop (for four) it was hardly good value. The same applied to the half-dozen steamed fresh abalones with preserved mandarin peel ($22 each). The steamed assorted seafood with milk and egg white was a tad too starchy. Drinks The wine list is big for a Chinese restaurant, but having a large Bordeaux selection is misguided for a seafood restaurant. 'Western with an Asian touch' 798 unit & co 1/F, 9 Hau Fook Street, Tsim Sha Tsui 2366 0234 Fare The folks here call the restaurant New York bistro east, and the menu features an eclectic range of western comfort food with the occasional Asian touch. Ambience Edward Hopper meets Andy Warhol, with an artsy book corner and paintings by local artists propped up against the walls behind the banquette. Cost This is a dish-sharing kind of place, and you can get away with HK$150 to HK$200 a head with just food. Who to bring Good friends - especially the artistic types. Turn-ons The first thing that hits you is the lively cosmopolitan, ambience. The tapas platter (top) of crab cakes, fritto misto, chicken skewers, BBQ calamari and wild mushrooms is a world of tastes and textures and a great way to kick off the meal. The wasabi-cured beef salad was punchy and tasty, and the roasted barramundi with tomato, lemon and thyme was fresh and light. The banoffi (banana and toffee) pie was sinful. We should also put in a word about the pleasing chocolate hazelnut semifreddo. Turn-offs The Thai-style hot and spicy seafood risotto sounded like a nice idea but turned out to be rather bland. Drinks Seven reds, six whites and a Veuve Clicquot, which is acceptable for this kind of restaurant. But there could be a greater diversity of choices. Instead of three chardonnays in the white department, why not explore the world of varietals? 'Chinese steamboat' Megan's Kitchen 5/F, Stanhope House, 165-171 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai 2866 8305 Fare Chinese steamboat and Cantonese dishes Ambience Not quite western fine dining and certainly not Chinese. Chairs draped in light-coloured materials seem an unwise choice for a restaurant with potentially messy steamboats. But as a space to hang out, it's comfortable enough. Cost The steamboat dishes range from HK$30 to a few hundred dollars a pop. In general, you can get away with HK$200 without wine. Who to bring A big group of friends for the steamboat or a few for the a la carte dishes. Turn-ons Mixing your own dipping sauce for the steamboat morsels. Among the 12 sauce ingredients (left) are sesame sauce, XO sauce, grated garlic, bacon, and chopped pickles. The special of the day when we visited was fresh geoduck (HK$22 per tael), which is always good for a steamboat. The fatty Canadian beef, at HK$45, was a bargain and the sweet potato leaves were a pleasant surprise. Turn-offs We had two soup bases, Chiu Chow clam broth and Sichuan spicy broth, but neither swept us off our feet. Drinks For this kind of food, hua diao rice wine is best. Our Shaoxing (Yue Zhou) Jia Fan wine was very good value. 'Authentic Sichuanese' Sichuan Da Ping Huo L/F, Hilltop Plaza, 49 Hollywood Road, Central 25591317 Fare Authentic Sichuanese cuisine, private kitchen-style. Ambience The proprietors, a husband and wife, are artistic types and the decor reflects this. Although the restaurant has no windows, it feels breezy and airy. Paintings by the husband and his artist friends decorate the walls, and tasteful village-style knick-knacks and potted plants complete the look. At the end of the meal the wife, who is also the chef, performs a Sichuan folksong. Cost The table d'hote menu is HK$250 each without drinks, including four small appetisers, six main courses, a soup, dumplings and a dessert. Who to bring A group of friends who love fiery food. Turn-ons Almost every dish is sensational. The braised chicken with Sichuan spices in chilli oil was hot but not tongue-numbing. The stewed beef brisket and tendons in spicy gravy was heavenly. The spicy prawns (pictured) were fresh. Turn-offs The vegetable soup (heavy on peas) and the sweetened beancurd with white fungus were an anticlimax. To book a table you must pay a deposit. Drinks Very decent wine list for a Sichuan restaurant.