those expensive NYC tasting menus
Lucky us, we live within 25 miles of America’s most well-known and awarded tasting menus. When Michelin announced its 2018 stars, it was no surprise that four of the five three-starred New York City restaurants were tasting menu only dining experiences. Per Se led us to try all the best of French fine dining and California cooking in one experience. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare modernized open kitchen group dining. Eleven Madison Park took the tasting menu to new heights and then reimagined it for the millennial diner. Masa honored the traditional Japanese Omakase style of enjoying raw fish. [incidentally, Le Bernardin is best experienced as a tasting menu, but you can order à la carte, unlike the other four.]
It doesn’t take a restaurant genius to figure out you can drop $1000 and have a delightful meal. Sure, in theory, two can dine at Eleven Madison Park, tax and service included, for the bargain price of $708. But let’s keep it real. At any of these places, if you want to have the full experience (read: wine), you are not walking away for less than $1000. Per Se and Masa will easily climb to $1500.
original painting by gail chandler, photo by jenn kosar
I am fortunate to have had these admittedly expensive experiences. But I am here to tell you: it does not have to be that expensive to be good. A neighbor recently posed the question: “where can I go for a tasting menu in New York City that doesn’t break the bank?” Ahh, the thrill of the challenge! I mean, this is exactly why I started foodwithaview.com! To share my list!
So here it is, my list of New York City restaurants that feature tasting menus that do not break the bank. Since this is a NY and NJ area food blog, I am including my favorites in the northern NJ suburbs as well, because sometimes you just don’t want to bother with NJ Transit. And those little getaways I mentioned? Many of these feature that option as well. So make your own list, and make some reservations, it is going to be a fabulous year for dining out.
New York City Tasting Menus under $100
This is Manhattan. Wine pairings are assumed available and wonderful unless otherwise noted.
Soho ⋅ 39 Downing Street
Seasonal, French and American dishes in a serene environment, recently reopened after an unfortunate fire closed the restaurant for a year. If you have dietary preferences or restrictions but long for the tasting menu experience, Mas is the place for you. They are not only known for pleasantly accommodating vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, you name it — they have actually revamped kitchen practices to make these tweaks simple even when diners opt to experience the tasting menu. You can enjoy a lovely four-course menu for only $92, or a six-course upgrade for $140.
East Village ⋅ 138 Orchard Street
Perfect for foodies with decision fatigue, the only choices you will make at Contra are whether to add the bread and the cheese courses. No selecting between two dishes within a course here — at Contra, the dishes are barely even described. The seasonal menu reads more like a grocery list: “squid, lardo, squash … mackerel, radish, beet”. But do not be fooled by the simplicity. The dishes are exquisite and expressive from first presentation to final bite. An absolute steal at $74, or $91 with the bread and cheese. Yes, you should order the bread and cheese.
Tribeca ⋅ 211 West Broadway
Perfect for the younger food lovers in your life, Distilled takes traditional pub food up just a tiny notch. I am talking twists just interesting enough to avoid bar food boredom, but nothing too crazy if you have a picky eater in your midst. A four-course chef’s choice tasting menu is offered for $40 per person, including off-menu items. We found it a perfect way to sample the best of this menu while enjoying the extensive cocktail, spirits, and beer selection, as the portion sizes are just right for a light dinner. Wine pairings are not expressly done for you, but you can design your own or they will assist you in suggesting wines with each course.
Midtown ⋅ 538 Madison Avenue
I know, you are thinking I am insane including Caviar Russe on a list of New York City tasting menus under $100. I thought it was crazy too when my Aunt suggested it, as it goes down as one of the most expensive (and best) meals Gary and I have ever enjoyed. Imagine my surprise, there is indeed a lovely three- or five-course tasting menu option for $95 or $145, respectively. Not a bad way to sample some of the world’s most precious food in a beautiful setting.
photo via pixabay
Greenwich Village ⋅ 75 Washington Place
Blue Hill – a New York Times critics’ pick and still going strong as one of the most well-loved restaurants in the city, this local vegetable-focused dining experience is showing no signs of atrophy. It is routinely described as unpretentious, despite what seems like a pretty pretentious premise. Unlike its upstate counterpart, the tasting menu in the Greenwich village location starts at a mere $95 for four courses or $108 for six.
Tribeca⋅ 239 West Broadway
I have recommended Bâtard as a date night favorite and in my commuter-friendly restaurants roundup, and there is a reason it makes so many of my lists — great food and service at a level that far exceeds the price point. I love how the menu is entirely customizable from start to finish. You can keep it simple with two courses for $59. Or, you can go all out, with four courses for $89, adding a foie gras course for $15, a truffle pappardelle supplement (in goldilocks-style sizes priced from $65 to $175), a cheese course… hell, you can even add a whole roast chicken. Go crazy. Point is, you can choose your own food adventure here, and it is fantastic.
Tribeca ⋅ 30 Hudson Street
For those familiar with Japanese haute cuisine, known as “kaiseki”, Brushstroke is David Bouley’s experiment in bringing that intense, complicated, delicate art to the Manhattan dining scene. It is not about sushi, although that is available if you are in desperate need. It is, shall we say, an experience, and one worth trying. Brushstroke is, however, one of the more value-priced options I have seen for this pricey style, as a seasonal 5-course menu is available for only $85. If you want the full experience, you can opt for the 9-course menu for $170.
Soho ⋅ 6 Bond Street
Sushi of Gari
These are both options for Omakase, the Japanese style of eating in a manner that says “I’ll leave it up to you”. Fair warning, Omakase is not a cheap way of consuming your sushi (ask my friend Anne about the cost of one casual dinner in Japan). These two restaurants have the highest quality for the price, in my view. The overall risk is the market price of fish and the lack of control over what the chef will choose to prepare. It is also very rude to intervene with special requests. BONDST Omakase begins at $56 per person; a full tasting menu is available starting at $95. Sushi of Gari does not list a price, but my experience is it is at least $60-75 per person. Specifically designed wine pairings are not available, but of course there are adult beverages.
New Jersey Tasting Menu Restaurants
I did not limit the price point to $100 here, because the overall landscape is far narrower. Fortunately, the best of the best is still far more accessible than Manhattan from a cost perspective. This is New Jersey, so unfortunately, wine pairings are not assumed available. Each restaurant description includes information on that situation.
1 Wild Turkey Way ⋅ Hamburg, NJ
Consistently rated one of the top restaurants in NJ thanks to a string of high-profile executive chefs, all putting their mark on seasonal, locally focused cuisine. Latour was also once again named to Wine Enthusiast’s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants, joining the likes of French Laundry, Le Bernardin, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester County. Latour is tasting menu only, either the five-course option for $115 or the seven-course chef’s tasting menu for $145. Wine pairings are available with both, or you can grab the iPad and select from one of 75,000 bottles in the world-class cellar. Stay at the Grand Cascades Lodge and make it a mini-getaway; brunch the next morning is also fantastic.
167 Park Avenue ⋅ Rutherford, NJ
The name says it all; you are instantly transported to Paris, perhaps right into a painting, the moment you step in the door. Beautiful patio seating is available in the garden in season. Cafe Matisse features a flexible tasting menu with the choice of three, four, or five courses, prices ranging $75 to $115. They are BYO, so if you’d like to pair wine with your meal you can check the menu out online in advance.
New Jersey Restaurants with Optional Tasting Menus
And if that wasn’t enough for you, a few other excellent NJ restaurants that, while not exclusively tasting menu focused, have tasting menus available.
The Bernards Inn
27 Mine Brook Road ⋅ Bernardsville, NJ
Our special date night treat, just as lovely as Latour but not as far away. This is a classic from start to finish, with gracious service in an elegant atmosphere. Start with a drink at the piano bar, then enjoy a leisurely six-course tasting menu, currently priced at $95. Wine pairings are available at two different price points, or the talented sommeliers will help you select from the extensive wine list. The Inn is another wonderful place to extend your evening with a glass of port knowing your commute home is just up the stairs.
331 Bloomfield Avenue ⋅ Montclair, NJ
Declared amazing Italian by my actual Italian friend, with all the little twists we have come to expect from the talented Chef DePersio. We know he has gone on to do lots of wonderful things since opening Fascino over 14 years ago (like his latest, The Kitchen Step in Jersey City), but it is clearly still his first love. Fascino is BYO.
168 Maplewood Avenue ⋅ Maplewood, NJ
It does not get any more classically French in NJ than Lorena’s, and who would have thought it would live in Maplewood. The food is exquisite, rivaled only by the dedicated servers who make everyone who visits feel like family. Full disclosure, the tasting menu is a new feature that I have not yet experienced. I am pretty sure I have eaten everything on this menu, so I have no doubt it will be delicious. Lorena’s is BYO, but rumor has it they are working on a new venture across the street complete with liquor license.
6 Roosevelt Avenue ⋅ Chatham, NJ
For when you just can’t decide on your own, the chef features a nightly three-course selection of the best of this French Country menu for $55, with wine pairings for a bargain $25 more. Saturday nights, enjoy the full “small plates” five course tasting menu for $89 with wine pairings for only $39 extra.
The Frog and The Peach
29 Dennis Street ⋅ New Brunswick, NJ
Recently named, along with Common Lot in Millburn, as one of the Best Restaurants in New Jersey by the Garden State Culinary Arts Awards, The Frog and the Peach makes most top NJ restaurant lists. Sample their best with the five-course tasting menu for a very reasonable $64. Optional wine pairings are only $45. Or have fun choosing your own wine — NJ Monthly recognized them for their “Best Wine List” in 2017. The Frog and the Peach also hosts tasting events, like the Allagash Brewery beer and food pairing dinner coming up on January 25.
a note on Degustation: Those of you who have asked me for recommendations on NYC tasting menus under $100 would have seen this restaurant on the list, and are probably wondering why it is absent. It suddenly closed on or about January 1. As of publication date, I have no information on why it has closed, if it will reopen or when. Stay tuned!
What’s your favorite tasting menu experience? Leave a comment so we can all hear about it and live vicariously through you!
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