Iliana Regan has some serious tattoos, a Michelin star, and wicked future ahead of her. She is a real deal forager, serving up fried lichens, raccoon snausages, and the broth of freshly killed deer. And house made Cheerios. It’s all part of the loooong tasting at Elizabeth Restaurant on Chicago’s North Side. Expect 17-plus courses.
Regan calls this “New Gatherer Cuisine.”
Benu, a two Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant that’s famous for its faux-shark’s fin soup, has raised the price of dinner by $15 to $195. So a meal for two, after tax and tip, will now cost $502, or $888 after wine pairings — quite an auspicious number! All-in-all it’s a modest 8% hike. Also, Benu now no longer offers an a la carte menu.
The $195 prix-fixe is more or less in line with what other two-Michelin-starred restaurants in The Bay Area are charging for long tastings. Coi is $175; Atelier Crenn asks $180; Manresa is $185; Saison is $248. And $195 is also what Atera charges in New York, as does Blanca. Will Guidara and Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park used to ask $195, but recently HIKED its price to $225, which is what Benu would like to charge, as we’ll learn below.
Benu’s chef-owner Corey Lee was nice enough to chat with us about his new pricing, about his decision to go tasting menu-only, and the debate over tipping. Here’s our conversation, which took place over email on Thursday:
Hooni Kim, chef at Manhattan’s Michelin-starred Danji and critically-acclaimed Hanjan, tweeted in August that guests should stop comparing his food to the (presumably) cheaper fare at Koreatown restaurants on 32nd Street. Kim’s tweets piqued our interest because his prices are modest; almost every dish at both of his restaurants is under $20. So last week, we asked Kim if he could do an email Q&A to find out what the fuss was about.
Here’s our conversation:
How often do guests complain about your prices? Most of my negative (3 or less stars) Yelp reviews are about the prices and portions. The complaints directed at me from customers is why at similar prices the portions in Koreatown are twice as large. Why we charge for rice. Why we don’t serve banchan for free as they do in k-town. Basically why we charge more to serve the same Korean food as k-town. My answer is usually the same that we serve better ingredients which cost more so we need to charge more.
Mario Batali’s most expensive restaurant will soon start charging its customers more and paying its staff more.
Del Posto, the chef’s Michelin-starred Italian spot in Manhattan’s West Chelsea district, will raise its minimum wage to $10 for non-tipped employees in October, general manager Jeff Katz tells The Price Hike. Because of the higher labor costs, and because of rising food costs, Del Posto will increase the price of its five-course dinner menu to $126, an $11 hike, and its tasting menu to $179, a $14 hike. Lunch will remain at $39.
"If you have a dishwasher who’s making eight bucks, that guy’s going to a see a $2 increase," Katz said, adding that the raise will be "sizable for a lot of the people it’s going to affect."
The new minimum will mainly benefit dishwashers, porters, prep cooks, butchers and those who handle linens, said Katz. “We hope it can help us reward some of the staff that had been with us for a long time and just get closer to the living wage, which, depending on who you ask, $10 is that number.” The new minimum does not apply to tipped workers at Del Posto, who already “do quite well,” according to Katz.
Individual restaurants don’t typically release pay data for competitive reasons, but Katz’s remarks generally fall into line with wage estimates calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.
Torrisi, a Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant that originally charged $45 for a progressive meal of Italian-American fare in a bare-bones environment, has moved even further in the direction of fine-dining, raising the price of lunch and dinner to $100.
The longer 8-10 course menu is a $20 hike from this summer’s price of $80, or a $30 hike from the former lunch price of $70. The extended 20-course tasting, which once reached $160, is no longer available. So the REAL COST of a meal for two at Torrisi, after tax and tip, is now $258, or $412 after wine pairings, which start at $60.
Jeff Zalaznick, a partner with Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone at The Major Food Group, explained the changes in an email to The Price Hike:
Here’s the first of what will be an ongoing series of Price Hike interviews about how chefs at some of the world’s most expensive restaurants are reducing their reliance on (large portions of) animal proteins and instead finding luxury in vegetables and grains.
This phenomenon, which I’d argue is a magnificent one, (we’re all tired of eating giant slabs of pork belly), was the subject of my feature story in this autumn’s edition of Bloomberg Pursuits. It’s a story that’s been brewing inside me since my last meal at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in 2011. That dinner, priced at $208pp before wine, tax, or tip, was the first time I had a long, expensive tasting menu that was bereft of significant portions of meat. Briefly: I liked it, a lot. Even though I was a hint confused at first.
"Did I really pay that much for vegetables?," I remember thinking.
This is why Barber was one of the first chefs I turned to when researching my Pursuits piece. You’ll find him quoted throughout the story, but since he had so much to say (and since I only had 1,600 words), I thought I’d use The Price Hike to publish the first half of my July telephone interview with the nationally-renowned chef. Barber speaks about the perils of the so-called farm-to-table model, about the impact of vegetable-heavy menus on the “bank account” of the soil, and about why he serves a ton of beef in the fall.
I began my conversation with Barber by asking him to respond to this quote from David Kinch, the chef at the vegetable-heavy Manresa:
"I get asked all the time, ‘you grow your own vegetables, you must be saving money.’ We are spending three times more money than if we were shopping at farmers markets and picking up the phone and calling a produce company…What I also found out is that it’s not cheaper cooking vegetables. There is a tremendous amount of work from cleaning, cutting and prepping, just as much as with meat or fish." (Source: Find. Eat. Drink.)