The Unbearable Banishment: What to avoid in NYC. Tip #2a: dining options

Friday, January 15, 2010

What to avoid in NYC. Tip #2a: dining options

A few months ago, I pleaded with NYC visitors to stay away from the chain restaurants in Times Square. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them and they have their place, but if you’re coming to New York, eat locally, not nationally.

I also think it’s a mistake to come to town and spend hundreds of dollars on a single meal just because a bunch of food snobs say it’s the thing to do.

I’ve never understood fine dining. For me, food “goodness” has a threshold. It’s not like buying a house whereby the more money you spend the more house you get. You can spend increasingly greater amounts of money on a meal, but there’s a tipping point whereby a great meal cannot become any greater. It’ll just cost a hell of a lot more.

I think the fine dining industry knows they’re preying on people’s vanity and have perpetuated this scam for generations. I often picture the chef and Maître d' back in the kitchen laughing their asses off at the suckers in the dining room. Particularly here in New York.

For instance, Frank Bruni, the restaurant critic for the New York Times was asked where the best sushi restaurant is. Are you ready?

The absolute best [sushi] I encountered in New York over the last five years is Masa, but that’s a recommendation of limited usefulness. A meal there is upward of $400 a person. I haven’t been in a long time.

So I’d like to single out Sushi Yasuda as well. There you can have a wonderfully intimate, pampering omakase experience for under $100 a person, not counting drinks. Still a major treat, but much, much more manageable.

So if you order a nice hot Saki, the bill would be over $100 per person? For friggin’ sushi?! Is a $200 bill for a sushi dinner “much, much more manageable?” Or worth it? Not to me! Believe me, there are PLENTY of sushi joints (and other restaurants as well) in Manhattan that will deliver a satisfying meal for a fraction of that cost.

Don’t believe the hype.



Blogger Leah said...

Yes. I'm with you on this one. NYC is a festival of good eating. It's always irked me when I hear about someone spending that much on a meal, and believe me I hear about it. All the freaking time. With long-winded defense of it. Paeans to insanely expensive meals. I wave it away like it's a fly in my face.

I mean, even a very special lovely meal can be had for much less than that ridiculous price, if you know where to go.

That said, a rich friend took me out to the Russian Tea Room for her 16th birthday, lo these many years ago. Just the two of us, blinis made with the very best caviar. I often think of that night with great fondness...

January 15, 2010 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Poindexter said...

Concur with you and Leah too - an exceptional meal can be had without taking out a 2nd mortgage for goodness sakes. who has that kind of budget for supper??

January 15, 2010 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when the 'expensive food is the best food' folks start yammering, i go to a happy place in my head, where i don't have to take out a car loan to pay for the meal...

when pressed? i'll explain that i have an immature palate that wouldn't appreciate the finer nuances of a spectacular meal. and if they decide to educate me? i offer them a fossilized ShockTart, or a SourPatch kid from the recesses of my purse...

January 15, 2010 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

If I ever get there, I'm takin' YOU to dinner!

On me of course! :¬)

January 15, 2010 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Leah: We live a stone's throw from some of what's supposed to be the greatest restaurants in the country but couldn't care less. Oh, the irony.

Point: On the few occasions I've eaten in very expensive restaurants, the food tasted like paper money.

Daisy: I guess that's the rub of it. I have no appreciation for expensive food.

Map: It's a deal. I'll pick up desert and the tip!

January 15, 2010 at 11:10 PM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

I've eaten in a lot of restaurants in different parts of the world. The food in Singapore was of a particularly high standard everywhere I went.There was one cheapish place I kept going back to that was every bit as good as Raffles - and their margarita was way better.

Of course at the more expensive places you are supposedly paying for things like ambience and service. The Sofitel in Hanoi was an exquisite experience - but I wasn't the one paying for it :-)

January 16, 2010 at 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe this sounds like the whining of a consumptive American, but it makes me shake my head in amazement that it seems the nicer the restaurant, the smaller the portions...and that's supposed to be part of the charm. and, yeah, you can get national chain food anywhere - - '...when in Rome, eat like the Romans...'

January 16, 2010 at 8:42 AM  

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