ryansutton:

The $56 Carpaccio. Tuna. Foie gras. Razor clams. Bone marrow. Boom. One of the fine offerings at ZZ’s Clam Bar, which I award three stars in my Bloomberg News review. Check out the slideshow too. All photos by me.  

The good news is there’s also a $105 caviar and beef carpaccio at ZZ’s Clam Bar, which makes this foie gras and tuna treat seem cheap by comparison. Until you get the bill, that is. Dinner for two will easily run $400 after tax & tip.

ryansutton:

The $56 Carpaccio. Tuna. Foie gras. Razor clams. Bone marrow. Boom. One of the fine offerings at ZZ’s Clam Bar, which I award three stars in my Bloomberg News review. Check out the slideshow too. All photos by me.

The good news is there’s also a $105 caviar and beef carpaccio at ZZ’s Clam Bar, which makes this foie gras and tuna treat seem cheap by comparison. Until you get the bill, that is. Dinner for two will easily run $400 after tax & tip.

“À la carte was really bugging me — the sort of tyranny of the entrée was ever-present. I wanted to move away from that. It wasn’t fun to make $33 portions of food. I find it much more compelling to make a four-biter that leaves you wishing that you had a fifth. I think “the tyranny of the entrée” is the right way to put it. I don’t want to build this giant plate of food. That process ceased to be that enjoyable from a creative standpoint. I do like to embrace challenges and opportunities, but [creating entrées] wasn’t something that continued to excite me”
You want de true true? WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne speak de true true. Props to Eater’s Gabe Ulla for the fine interview. This is a good thing, as we’ve long argued against the necessity of entrees here at The Price Hike and The Bad Deal. For more WD-50 reading, here’s my Bloomberg News review of the restaurant.

Red Hook Lobster Pound was destroyed by Sandy. They reopened today. They could've raised their lobster roll prices. But they didn't.4

As I wrote in my Bloomberg News review, Red Hook serves the city’s best lobster rolls, period. They cost $16 before Sandy. And now after all the Hurricane-related repairs, they still cost $16, per a receptionist. Keep in mind that’s half the price of an inferior $32 roll at Mary’s Fish Camp in Manhattan. 

So come to Red Hook instead. We’re calling this one a STRONG BUY. 

“Sushi, on an inch per inch or time-elapsed basis, is pretty much the most expensive thing we eat with any type of regularity…So if we’re paying, say, $15 for a single bite of toro, and if we only get to enjoy that single bite of toro for ten seconds (as opposed to spending 20 minutes with a steak), we want every single thing about that single bite of toro to be PRISTINE — including the (quiet) environment in which it’s served. That’s the importance of omakase…Chez Sardine gets around the pricey toro problem by not serving pricey toro. Instead, diners get strongly-flavored fish instead of super-subtle Ichimura-style fish…the type of sushi that can stand up to Jay-Z playing on the sound system.”
The Bad Deal, talks prices, seconds, and inches to find out whether Chez Sardine, the subject of today’s Bloomberg News review by Price Hike editor Ryan Sutton, can get succeed without a formal omakase program. (Source: The Bad Deal)
“If Per Se’s most expensive dish is the $175 white truffle risotto, the second and third dearest items are surely peace and tranquility. I mean that only half-jokingly, as using real linens can add tens of thousands of dollars to a restaurant’s annual costs. Anything that absorbs noise — carpeting, drapes or extra space between tables — is an expense that restaurants pass along to you. Of course, the sound supplement, unlike your foie gras add-on, isn’t listed on the menu.”
New York’s quietest restaurants are New York’s most expensive restaurants, I write in my Bloomberg News column today. Alas, that doesn’t help us 47% percenters who can’t quite afford Le Bernardin once a month. So I also publish a list of less pricey venues, like Empellon Cocina, where the noise levels are still quite tolerable. 

Restaurants That Don’t Take American Express

This week I review Battersby in my Bloomberg News column, a good if uneven American restaurant in Carroll Gardens. It accepts cash, Visa, Mastercard. But Battersby does not take American Express, the preferred and sometimes exclusive currency of corporate dinners and client lunches everywhere.

It’s become somewhat of a right of passage for young, Kings County spots to refuse American Express, known for its higher-than-average transaction fees. So here’s a list of other Brooklyn restaurants (along with two Manhattan spots) that take credit cards but refuse Amex:

  1. Brooklyn Crab (don’t eat here)
  2. Dassara (this place is getting better)
  3. The Grocery
  4. Pok Pok Ny (the owner tells us why he refuses Amex)
  5. Battersby 
  6. Allswell 
  7. JoeDoe (we learned yesterday they take Amex again!)
  8. Talde
  9. Pok Pok Phat Thai
  10. Do or Dine
  11. Frankies 475* (one of my favorite restaurants, now takes Amex)
  12. Frakies Prime Meats* (now takes Amex)
  13. Pearl Oyster Bar (killer lobster roll)
  14. Traif (terrible meal here recently) 

Thing is, most of these restaurants can get away with not taking Amex because they’re pretty affordable and casual. I mean, you wouldn’t exactly take your boss to Dassara, a noodle joint on Smith Street, which quite frankly speaks more poorly of your boss than it does of Dassara, where you can slurp down great lamb ramen, but that’s the way the world works, son. 

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“The cost of living in the U.S. rose in September for a second month, reflecting a jump in energy expenses that failed to trickle through to other goods and services…[meanwhile]…companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) and Safeway Inc. (SWY) are among those saying price increases are difficult to achieve as 12.1 million Americans remain unemployed and rising fuel bills eat into workers’ paychecks.”
Here at The Price Hike, I mostly cover the cost of dining out. But every now and then, I’ll bring a little more context into explaining why (or whether) things cost more (or less) than they used to. This context might come, like it does today, from the good people at Bloomberg News, who employ me full time. Cheers. `Ryan

Is There an Epidemic of Tasting Menu-Only Restaurants? Not Necessarily.

  • Across the country, expensive tasting-menu-only restaurants are spreading like an epidemic…A high-end anomaly a few years ago, three- or four-hour menus now look like the future of fine dining.

So writes New York Times food critic Pete Wells in his largely skeptical take on tasting menu-only restaurants, an odd, albeit interesting world where meals last over three hours, where bread courses are dictatorially delayed until mid-meal, and where dining rooms are filled by “big game hunters,” eager to spend a thousand dollars per couple for the privilege of feasting at a trophy establishment. Instagrams of the now-closed El Bulli must be the ultimate taxidermy, non?

Smart eaters will read the NYT piece in its entirety because it’s a fine lament on an expensive & idiosyncratic slice of modern gastronomy.

But what I focus on here at The Price Hike are prices, and it’s Mr. Wells’ statement about this “epidemic” of expensive tasting menus that piques my interest, as well as another one of his musings: “I can’t feel good about watching great restaurants that were already serving an elite audience taking themselves further out of reach.”

The NYT critic raises good questions. As much as I love American Omakase spots like Alinea, Blanca and Brooklyn Fare, committing the necessary financial resources toward a pricey tasting (or dealing with the subsequent gastro-intestinal distress) isn’t exactly my regular brand of bourbon.

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Here’s Why Paying $48 for King Crab in Red Hook Is Totally Whack

Alaskan King Crab, roughly $21/lb-$35/lb wholesale, is a luxury item, and rightly so, as “foraging” for the delicacy boasts an even higher fatality rate than commercial fishing as a whole — already a dangerous profession. So let the record state that I didn’t necessarily balk when I learned Brooklyn Crab (the subject of my Bloomberg News review this week), was charging $48 for 1.5 lbs of the stuff. 

I mean, you can just ask for a half-order, right? 

Here’s the thing. When Mother Nature created King Crab, she had the good sense of dividing the meat among six legs, so it could be ordered in smaller portions by financially prudent consumers. Mother Nature knew from the get go that we didn’t necessarily want to spend $48 King Crab. 

She also knew a pound and a half of King Crab is maybe too much even for two guests. Sometimes you just want a taste. Unfortunately, Brooklyn Crab doesn’t allow half-orders; the cheapest King Crab variant is as part of a $40 Northwest steam pot. 

Mother Nature wanted King Crab to be accessible to everyone. Brooklyn Crab is making it inaccessible.

Read More

Corrupt Indian Officials Illegally Selling Subsidized Food Meant for the Poor While Their Own Constituents Starve4

This is a brilliant and heartbreaking piece of journalism by Bloomberg News.

"Twenty-one percent of all adults and almost half of India’s children under 5 years old are still malnourished,” reports Bloomberg, while adding that, “about 900 million Indians already eat less than government-recommended minimums. As local food prices climbed more than 70 percent over the past five years, dependence on subsidies has grown.”

Except corrupt officials are selling the subsidized food for their own gain. In some cases, 100% percent of the food meant for the poor has been stolen. (Bloomberg News is the full-time employer of Price Hike editor Ryan Sutton). 

The State of Steak: NYC’s Strips & Sirloins

On the heels of a Bloomberg News report documenting the rising price of USDA PRIME beef, we’re launching The State of Steak, a regular feature that helps you keep track of your meat (!!!). 

For our first edition, we’re listing the prices of strips and sirlions in NYC.  

Briefly: Your strip or sirloin is probably going to cost you $40-$60 bucks, especially after tax and tip. Sure, it might be more scientific to calculate the cost-per-ounce. But since most of these restaurants don’t allow you to purchase steak by the ounce, we don’t see much use in such mathematical undertakings. 

Here’s the way we see it, if you go to a restaurant, and if you want a strip, you’ll only have a few options. And here they are. Many of these steaks are labeled “PRIME’ on the menus. We’ll let you decide whether that’s the case. Oh, allow us to apologize in advance for any “editorializing” you might encounter below.  

  1. The Four Seasons (like a “bottle service” markup for steak): $75
  2. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle bone-in (i ate here so you don’t have to): $65
  3. 21 Club bone-in: $65
  4. Minetta Tavern bone-in strip (pretty gorgeous stuff here): $58
  5. Casa Lever bone-in strip (darn good beef here): $58
  6. Monkey Bar bone-in sirloin: $55
  7. Craft dry-aged sirloin & marrow: $55
  8. Crown (not our favorite joint but you could do worse): $55
  9. Marea 50-day dry-aged sirloin (add langoustines for surf & turf): $54
  10. Smith & Wollensky bone-in strip: $54
  11. The Dutch bone-in strip (one of our favorites): $52
  12. Saxon + Parole bone-in strip: $52
  13. Lavo bone-in strip (hopefully better than their kobe balls): $51
  14. Bobby Van’s sirloin steak: $49.95
  15. Del Frisco’s boneless strip: $49
  16. Strip House bone-in cut (no good in the hood): $49
  17. Porter House bone-in (Lomonaco reppin in da TWC): $49
  18. The Mark (JGV keepin it real on the UES): $49
  19. Lavo boneless: $49
  20. Harry’s bone-in strip: $48.50
  21. Catch (fine for Kardashian publicists; civilians should avoid): $48
  22. Abe & Arthur’s (like Catch, good steaks, but still a skip): $48
  23. Gotham Bar & Grill (marrow mustard custard & vidalia onion rings): $48
  24. Rothmann’s (don’t even talk to me about the Long Island location): $47
  25. Sparks bone-in-shell (“from premium steers”): $46.95.
  26. Colicchio & Sons (we love this place. but not the steak): $46
  27. Peter Luger: $45.95
  28. STK (website shows some lady stepping on her steak, so, avoid) $45
  29. Smith & Wollensky boneless: $45.50-$48.50
  30. Wolfgang’s (many people like this place. we don’t): $44.95
  31. Strip House boneless (Prime House does Hanson steaks better): $45
  32. Park Avenue Summer $45
  33. Quality Meats bone-in: $44.50
  34. Keens (solid joint even though they sometimes undersalt): $44.50
  35. Primehouse (I’ve had good beef here) $44
  36. Michael Jordan’s: $44
  37. Il Gattopardo: $44
  38. Cafe Boulud (blue cheese, bone marrow crust): $43
  39. Capital Grille: $43
  40. Balthazar (steak au poivre with frites & spinach): $43
  41. Ai Fiori (steak is actually a reasonably-sized portion here): $42
  42. Oceana (it’s a seafood spot but Pollinger can cook) $42
  43. Scarpetta (you can read my thoughts here): $42. 
  44. Gallagher’s sirloin$41.95-$46.95
  45. Old Homestead: $41-$45. 
  46. Hurricane Club (have had terrible meals here): $39
  47. Primehouse boneless: $39. 
  48. Dylan Prime boneless: $38-$46
  49. Lure Fishbar (melted onions au poivre potatoes),  $38
  50. Sushi Izakaya (with miso butter, which is like au poivre on crack) $36
  51. La Mangeoire (sirloin steak frites): $36
  52. DBGB steak frites: $35
  53. Union Square Cafe strip with beans, basil & tomato oil: $35
  54. STK loin strip (no thanks): $33
  55. Prime Meats with hand-cut French Fries (another favorite): $32
  56. Outback (beef is a luxury, not a commodity, so avoid) $20-$24

Given the absurd size of American steaks, many any of these “single-serving” portions could easily feed two. We generally prefer the “composed” steak entrees at the higher-end venues on this list, where the beef comes in smaller portions (last updated 08/29/2012 — added 21 Club).