If you’re a traveler who likes to live (and eat) beyond your means, the economic downturn has an upside. Now even Michelin-starred chefs are serving up life-changing meals followed by reasonable checks. Think lunch, prix fixes and small plates – and dial back on the wine.
L’Atelier Joël Robuchon’s digs in the basement of the Publicis Drugstore on the Champs-Élysées are decked out in red-and-black leather and lacquer, like a swank 1980s Vegas nightclub, and there’s a prix-fixe lunch for €35 if you hit it between 11:30 and 12:15. The meal has a bento-box feel since they serve the entrée, main and dessert all at once. The menu screams “no substitutions,” but I convinced the chef to switch the kidneys for a slab of seared foie gras. Take note: A glass of champagne, though tempting, will double your bill.
An intimate afternoon spent wrapped in the warm glow of Jean-Pierre Vigato’s Apicius is another story: a sweet, subtle three-hour affair. Savor lobster bouillon with Thai herbs, perfectly roasted sweetbreads with offal sauce, blancmange with almond milk and fresh fruits, and/or the dessert tout chocolat. Under €100 for an unforgettable meal.
Lunch at Le Bernardin, the NY restaurant with three Michelin stars, is not usually a steal at $330 for the tasting menu, but they recently began a special $45 tasting deal that gives $5 to a good cause, City Harvest, the world’s oldest food rescue organization, which feeds 260,000 New Yorkers a day.
Daniel Boulud’s empire is full of low-ball prices, which he advertises on his websites, so you can find them yourself: $110 for a pre-theater prix fixe with three wine pairings at Bar Boulud, across from Lincoln Center; Monday night dinners for two, market priced and served family-style at Café Boulud.
The best view in town right now is the span of the Med and Barceloneta from the terrace of beachfront Bravo in the new W hotel. A room at this inn might be out of range, but a "small plate" from its tapas restaurant, helmed by Michelin-star chef Carles Abellán, is the right price.
If you never scored a table at Ferran Adrià’s famed gastrotemple elBulli, his new pseudo-tapas bar Tickets serves several elBulli favorites for a song.
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photo: Laurie Fletcher
Okay, so it turns out St. John, where Fergus Henderson reinvented nose to tail in the shadow of the storied Smithfield meat market, isn’t actually pricey. A bowl of bisque, two razor clams, his signature bone-marrow-and-parsley salad and an eccles cake with Lancashire cheese ran me less than ₤20.
Former Gordon Ramsay protégé Marcus Wareing has named his haute brasserie the Gilbert Scott after the architect of St. Pancras, the soaring Victorian train station that houses it. An early supper can be had at the Gilbert Scott for ₤19 (two courses) and ₤24 (three courses), which is a smashing deal.
Shangri-Las aren’t known for their budget-conscious ethos, but Market by Jean-Georges is an exception. A seasonal tasting menu, including elegant Dungeness crab dumplings and a lamb chop smothered in mushroom bolognese, was $75.
For a true West Coast treat, Hawksworth, chef David Hawksworth’s destination in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, also has tasting deals. As the dining room manager explains, they are open to creating bespoke menus from signature West Coast masterpieces.