Even New York’s haute cuisine strongholds are offering more and more creative and accessibly priced menus. Here’s a crib sheet for dining out at the top of the city’s food chain without paying top dollar.
Private dining rooms have been turning into low-price, small-plate hangouts. Craft’s DFF, a once Friday-only affair, has evolved into executive chef Damon Wise’s daily (except Tuesdays) offering of snacks, salads, pizzas, and dishes like salt cod fritters and big-eye tuna with lemon confit for $4 to $9. At Anthos Upstairs the prices for Michael Psilakis’s imaginative signature seafood (crispy cod, $10) or, say, a pork belly, feta, and tomato sandwich ($12) are much gentler than in the formal dining room downstairs.
The lounges and bars at the city’s most elevated spots are increasingly thinking about truffles and tuna tartare instead of just snacks. Given that Per Se’s nine-course tasting is $275, the new à la carte Salon menu is relatively reasonable—dinner with a good bottle, foie gras this, and lobster that can be had for about $100 a person. In February the lounge at Craftsteak introduced its Halfsteak menu, with the most expensive item at $14.50. (Yes, it’s a half portion of the regular hanger steak.) The cube of fried mac-and-cheese for $6.50 is a bargain; the one deviled egg for the same price, less so. Diners in the formal dining room at Gilt, in the Palace hotel, have been known to get distracted from their bay scallops by the bar’s burgers and onion rings; the same is true when it comes to the $15 cheeseburger on the new bar menu at Bar Blanc Bistro. And let’s not forget a longtime favorite, the front room at Gramercy Tavern, where the kitchen sends out simple, farm-fresh fare at $9 to $28 a plate.
Only on a Sunday
Chefs are tempting the hungry with Sunday-night specials. Dovetail’s now-classic three-course Sunday Suppa ($38) has a few choices from the regular New American menu (red snapper, lamb’s tongue), while dishes on the $20.09 three-course menu at Fishtail by David Burke mostly come from the à la carte options—the blue-crab chowder, maybe, or the swordfish “steak frites.” The recently opened Boqueria Soho does three Spanish-inflected courses for $35, and this summer Allen & Delancey pairs a $38 four-course tasting with half-price bottles of rosé.
Let’s do Lunch
Thinking haute for the midday meal makes financial sense. The $48 six-course menu at the newly relocated Bouley, for example, compares most favorably to the nine courses for $150 at dinner. And heading to Momofuku Ssäm Bar for the $25 three-course lunch means getting the same food—not least of all those luscious Korean pork buns—as in the evening but without the agonizing waiting in line. Best of all may be paying $28 for lunch at Jean Georges on Central Park West.
I’ll take the Armani
The three-course dinner for $40 at Armani/Ristorante, in the fashion company’s new Manhattan flagship, features Giorgio’s favorites, like tagliolini with arugula pesto and shrimp. Matsugen does six dishes (salad, soup, sashimi, sushi, soba, and dessert) for $35, the same price as the absolutely heavenly Italian four-course offering at Mario Batali’s Enoteca at Del Posto. It’s available every day except Saturday—at a savings of $25 a head.
Allen & Delancey, 115 Allen St.; 212-253-5400; allenanddelancey.net.
Anthos Upstairs, 36 W. 52nd St.; 212-582-6900; anthosnyc.com.
Armani/Ristorante, 717 Fifth Ave.; 212-207-1902; armani5thavenue.com.
Boqueria Soho, 171 Spring St.; 212-343-4255; boquerianyc.com.
Bouley, 163 Duane St.; 212-964-2525; davidbouley.com.
Craftsteak, 85 Tenth Ave.; 212-780-0880; craftrestaurant.com.
DFF, 47 E. 19th St.; 212-780-0880.
Dovetail, 103 W. 77th St.; 212-362-3800; dovetailnyc.com.
Enoteca at Del Posto, 85 Tenth Ave.; 212-497-8090; delposto.com.
Fishtail by David Burke, 135 E. 62nd St.; 212-754-1300; fishtaildb.com.
Gilt, 455 Madison Ave.; 212-891-8100; giltnewyork.com.
Gramercy Tavern, 42 E. 20th St.; 212-477-0777; gramercytavern.com.
Jean Georges, 1 Central Park West; 212-299-3900; jean-georges.com.
Matsugen, 241 Church St.; 212-925-0202; jean-georges.com.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar, 207 Second Ave.; momofuku.com.
Per Se, 10 Columbus Circle; 212-823-9335; perseny.com.