For the normal person who isn’t named George Soros or Bill Gates, hasn’t just won the lottery and/or isn’t on an obscene corporate expense account paid for by taxpayer bailouts, how much is a truly great dining experience worth?
I guess this depends on how much you appreciate truly great food. I am not talking about the most expensive dish at Applebees or a filet mignon with overly salted mashed potatoes at your local “Best of” steakhouse. My wife Lynn and me, when we can afford it, will spend $100 plus each at the best restaurant in Augusta, Georgia, La Maison on Telfair.
That includes a cocktail, bottle of good but relatively inexpensive wine, appetizer and entrée, rarely dessert as we usually aren’t hungry at that point. If we have dessert and an aperitif, $150 including a good tip, per person, is not unusual. For a couple of hours enjoying wonderful food in an elegant and relaxing atmosphere, great wait staff, not being hurried, and great conservation with each other, it is a bargain. This is one of the pleasures in our lives.
Some people think this is very extravagant and irresponsible, spending this much money on a meal. Yet, this is not very much compared to some great restaurants. Some people will spend ten times as much for a ticket to a Georgia Bulldawgs football game. It is all a matter of priorities.
I am getting ready to move to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirtates, to work. Lynn won’t be able to join me on a permanent basis due to family obligations in the US. So, I am arranging to actually leave the US from New York City so we can both spend a couple of days in New York before I leave. The main objective of going through New York? To try and get a table at a couple of restaurants we are dying to experience. These meals will, in all likelihood, be the best meals we’ve ever had. At least, I hope so.
So, what restaurants am I looking at and how much will they cost us?
1. Le Bernadin, Eric Ripert’s restaurant with multiple award winning Wine Director/Chef Sommelier Aldo Sohm. Many consider it the best restaurant in New York City. We would both get the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. The tasting menu is the best way to really experience what a chef has to offer and to experience a variety of offerings, perfect for a once in a lifetime experience like this. Cost? $325 per person plus taxes and gratuity. Looking at the menu, it will be worth it if I can get reservations (not easy). Some examples:
Tuna: Smoked yellowfin tuna “Prosciutto”; Japanese pickled vegetables and crispy Kombu paired with Chablis, “Vieiles Vignes”, Domaine Savary, Burgundy 2007
Monkfish: Pan roasted monkfish; Hon Shimeji mushrooms; Turnip-ginger emulsion; Sake broth paired with Meursault, Les Charrons, J. M. Boilot 2007
Parsnip: Parsnip creme brulee, roasted hazelnut, browned milk solids, vanilla salt paired with Malaga Seleccion Especial No. 1 – Jorge Ordonez, Spain 2007
These are not dishes you are going to find anywhere else, that is what makes great chefs great.
2. WD-50, Wylie Dufresne’s restaurant, with Chef de Cuisine Jon Bignelli (who won on Chopped). Inspired by El Bulli molecular gastronomy pioneer Chef Ferran Adrià, Chef Dufresne has brought approachable and cutting edge molecular gastronomy to New York. We would get the Tasting Menu with wine pairing. Cost? $225 per person plus taxes and gratuity. Some examples:
Cobia, banana-sweet potato, pickled crosnes, ver jus paired with J Brut Rosé NV (Russian River Valley, California
Foie gras, passionfruit, chinese celery
Vermouth de Chambéry ‘Blanc’ Dolin NV (Savoy, France)
Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, soybean, pickled garlic chive, Samur Champigny Domaine Regnier 2008 (Loire Valley, France)
Soft chocolate, beet, long pepper, ricotta ice cream, ‘FRV, Terres Dorées’ Jean-Paul Brun NV (Beaujolais, France)
3. Masa, perhaps the best sushi in the US and most expensive restaurant. From what I can tell, this is the ultimate experience if you like sushi and zen. No set menu, everything is uber fresh and much of it is flown in daily from Japan. Among many offerings are Fugu (blowfish that ispoison unless handled properly) uni, unreal tuna and the use of some western ingredients like truffles. The meal consists of around 25 courses, five or so appetizers followed by 20 or so sushi courses and a dessert. Cost: $450-650 per person. I talked to the reservations person there today and I will be able to get a seat at the sushi bar on the date I want. This promises to be a life altering experience.
There are other great restaurants in NYC, of course. I don’t live there, so I don’t know, these three are some I have heard about and drooled over. If anyone can recommend the best pizza place, please let me know, that is one more thing I want to experience.