Shortly after Valentine’s Day, The Price Hike reported that Aldea, Manhattan’s only Michelin-starred Iberian restaurant, was switching to prix-fixe-only during the weekends, at $75 for three courses, or $95 for six-courses. Chef George Mendes also said that eliminating the a la carte menu during the week was in the cards.
Today, Mendes informed us that Aldea has reversed course, and is again serving the a la carte menu every day the restaurant is open. The reason? It’s what guests preferred. He adds that the $95 tasting menu, available throughout the week, is now nine-courses, and that he’ll be beefing up the small plate section of the menu. Here’s Mendes’ email:
Our Good Friends at Eater have compiled a list of America’s most expensive tasting menus using The Price Hike’s own “REAL COST" metric, which means they’re letting your know how much dinner will cost after tax, tip, and sometimes wine pairing. It’s a fine list, and we hope more outlets (and restaurants) will start using REAL COST as a way of displaying prices, as it lets diners know precisely how much they’ll spend without any annoying mental arithmetic.
Big shout out to Gabe Ulla, the fine food writer behind this list.
Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, one of two Robuchon restaurants left in the U.S. after the world’s most Michelin-starred chef pulled out of New York in 2012, has raised the price of its tasting menu from “a lot” to a “little bit more,” because why the hell not?
The degustation now costs $435 per person, up from $425.
Recall that I paid $385 for the menu during my (rather negative) Bloomberg News review from 2010. So dinner for two will now cost $1,114 after tax and 20% tip, up from last year’s price of $1,089. Not a whole helluva lot more, but still a helluva lot, non? Robuchon’s wine pairing prices remain at $295, $595 and $995, which means your cheapest meal for two with pairings is now $1,870 after all is said and done, brothers and sisters.
This pricing keeps Robuchon as America’s second most expensive restaurant after Masa in New York, where dinner for two will cost $1,160 after tax and tip but before wine. Urasawa in Los Angeles, at $375 remains your third most expensive restaurant, while Meadowood’s $500 chef’s menu (which includes tip), is still cheaper than Robuchon.
So is Robuchon a BUY HOLD OR SELL at these new prices? Your call, world. Editor’s note: a Robuchon host says the restaurant raised the price to $435 quite some time ago, though the website still lists the price at $425 before you “drill down.”
Alright son. We’ll keep this one short. The three Michelin-starred Jean Georges and the two Michelin-starred Corton now collect more coin if you wanna roll like a gangsta. For realz.
Jean Georges has hiked the price of its seasonal tasting menu by $20 to $188, up from $168. The wine pairings, $120 earlier in 2012, are now $138. So if it’s date night and both of you get the seasonal tasting with pairings, dinner will cost $840 after tax and 20% tip, up from $742, a total hike of almost $100. Recall that the classic tasting menu, which remains at $168, was hiked up from $148 last February.
Corton by Paul Liebrandt & Drew Nieporent, one of my favorite fine dining spots, has raised the price of its shorter tasting to $125, up from $115, where it has remained since July 2011. So dinner for two, with $125 wine pairings, will now cost $644 after tax and tip. The longer tasting remains at $155. Recall that in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Corton was offering a single menu for $135, so some regulars will already be accustomed to the higher price.
Are these two menus a BUY HOLD OR SELL at the new, higher prices? Your call, world. Though I’m still a Corton Belieber. And shout out to Matt Tulini for tipping me off to the new higher price at Jean Georges.
Maison Premiere, a New Orleans-themed oyster den and absinthe house in Williamsburg, is now offering a six-course repast for $95 per person, as Eater reports.
“There are a lot of tasting menus being served in Brooklyn and Manhattan these days, but it will be interesting to see what the critics and bloggers think about a long-form menu served in a cocktail parlor setting," writes Greg Morabito, Eater’s New York’s editor.
Mr. Morabito makes a good point; I’ve dined VERY WELL at Maison Premiere over the past few weeks, but I have to wonder whether the (excellent yet occasionally overwhelmed) bartenders, who can be hard to flag down during peak hours, will be equipped to help orchestrate the pace of an intricate menu, not to mention keep track of place settings and drink pairings. It’ll be a challenge no doubt.
So is this a BUY HOLD OR SELL? Your call, world, but for now, I’m happy ordering the fine small plates, like warm langoustines ($18) paired with veal sweetbreads. Pretty killer stuff.
“As opera, dance, theater, film and journalism strive and sometimes struggle to adapt to the decreasing attention spans (and tight disposable incomes) of Twitter-addicted millenials like myself, it’s heartwarming that the culinary arts are having a boom of sorts in their expensive, long-form incarnations.”
That’s me, Price Hike Editor & Bloomberg Food Critic Ryan Sutton, responding to a fine piece by Pete Wells that largely laments the recent proliferation of expensive tasting menu-only restaurants.
Wells sees a bit of an epidemic in this trend. I argue that it’s just another wrinkle, and sometimes a positive wrinkle, in our increasingly diverse culinary world. Agree/Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
“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.
The small restaurant in Manhattan’s Alphabet City requires 24-hours notice for the tastings menus, which are available by reservation only. The meals, which come in vegetarian and non-vegetarian formats, include four-courses, plus “additional surprises.” After tax and tip, dinner for two will cost $129. Wine and beer is extra. Yeah, we’ll rate this one a BUY.
Northern Spy’s a la carte menu, of course, is still available for walk-ins. Those offerings range form $2-$26.
Empellon Cocina, a small-plates spot in Manhattan’s East Village, doesn’t just serve damn good Mexican food, it’s also a vital addition to New York’s Italian-saturated culinary scene. I award the venue three-stars in my Bloomberg column today. There are no tacos, no tortilla chips. Rather, we get pistachio-studded guacamole with masa crisps. It’s an avocado-esque analogue to America’s chunky peanut butter.
Chefs Alex Stupak and Lauren Resler have given us risky fare. Eating Empellon’s carrots with mole poblano evokes the pleasure and excitement of other envelope-pushing regional restaurants, such as Aldea, George Mendes’ haute-ode to Portugal, or La Promenade des Anglais, Alain Allegretti’s paen to Provence.
Of course, we focus on numbers here at The Price Hike, and what’s curious about Cocina is that most dishes are under $20; the most expensive item is a $27 rabbit. Compare that with Empellon Taqueria in the West Village, where entree-sized tacos top out at $39 (for lobster with corn) and $37 (for Iberico with bacon). Menu historians will also recall there were once $200 Kobe steaks and $60 Hawaiian prawns at the original Empellon.
The lesson here is that tacos made with excellent products shouldn’t necessarily be cheaper than composed dishes. Just the same, Empellon is abiding by the Momofuku-maxim that high-end small plates can be served at affordable prices.
Stupak himself rolled the dice with higher price points at Cocina, testing out a $90 nine-course prix-fixe on Valentine’s Day. Here’s how the chef responded when I asked him what kind of plans there still were for a tasting menu:
- "None. That is what I was initially contemplating but I had a change of heart at the last moment. I think its important for a restaurant to have a sense of place. I dislike tastings out of a fine dining context because they are rarely executed as well. A real fine dining concept would have been wrong here. Service would be poor and overtaxed and costs would be repellent. I wanted this to be a place that the neighborhood would embrace. My hope is that people will pass by and casually want to stop in yet be able to still experience something interesting and thoughtful."