Best value for the money?
- Under Salted Mar 9, 2008 02:11 PM
Does anyone have any suggestions about value for money? I have a few myself, but wanted to hear what everyone else says first. Now, value can mean many things, so i want to hear all opinions, from good value at 50/ main course and 10/ main course. So many times I've been ticked off when leaving a restaurant simply because i didn't think the service and food matched the cheque....
a few places that are worth my dollar: 93 Harbord, for the fine service, lovely room, and incredible appetizer platter! mains are lovely too, middle eastern influenced bistro-ish fare, very clean, fresh and simple. also, Quince for the service, ambiance and consistently classic bistro fare and fresh fish in the wood stove.
An intriguing question, mainly because there is no satisfactory, agreed-upon answer. Value is in the eye of the beholder, in restos as well as everything else. We all bring our own idiosyncrasies to the table, namely our background, eating-out experience, dining companion, financial situation, tastes and - mainly, I suspect - emotional mindset. That's why you'll find such wide variations of opinion on specific restaurants mentioned on this board. For good value, most people will list the joints they go to time and time again, because they feel they invariably get their money's worth.
In ethnic restos, like Chinese, Thai, Korean, Hungarian, middle Eastern and the like, I expect to pay under $50 a couple (not including wine, which I rarely have in such places). If it's pricier than that, it had better be substantially better (and it usually isn't). Most mid-priced restos, I find, are now $100-$150 a couple, with wine, taxes and tip included. At that price, they had better be eminently satisfying just about every time out, and the ones I frequent usually are. They're consistently good, consistency being the most difficult goal for most restos to achieve - understandably, because so many things can go wrong with a restaurant meal. Above $150 a couple, the restos I go to better hit a home run or it'll be a long, long time before I go back. At those higher prices, the diner should allow no second chances.
The one thing that turns me off restos more than anything else - and, therefore, makes them lousy value - are higher than usual markups on wine. I recognize that joints need their alcohol markups to better their bottom line, but I choose not to pay them when I deem them excessive. Many modest ethnic places inexplicably charge markups consistent with the markups at North 44. I'll still go to those joints - but for the food, not the wine. There's an Italian spot on north Yonge Street that had a $7 LCBO-priced wine listed at $48 a couple of years ago. The food was decent enough, but I never went back to find out if that markup still exists. There's a newly-opened pan-Asian resto, also on north Yonge, that wants $40 for a small 300-ml bottle of superior sake that sells at the LCBO for $8. Most of the food is very, very good there, but that $40 sake (which I didn't order, naturally) turned me off that place.
But I break my ground rules for value all the time. Is Auberge du Pommier good value at $200-plus for two for dinner? Probably not, but every now and then we'll indulge ourselves. It's a superb experience. And at a somewhat lower level, there's Pastis Express, a good French bistro on Yonge near Summerhill. The quality is high, the experience enjoyable, definitely a cut or two above most French bistros in Toronto, but - if you're a wine drinker - the wine markups are painfully fierce for a bistro. In my view, there's better value in French bistros to be had at Le Paradis. But we'll still go to Pastis Express every now and then, taking care to order only a half-litre of the drinkable house white. We just don't go as often as we go to Le Paradis.
I'm sure most of us have such shifting standards when it comes to value. It mainly depends on the whims of what we feel at the time. For the record, though, the joints I like for good value most of the time, because I leave feeling refreshed, satisfied and content with the world, include: Mashu Mashu, Zucca, Le Paradis, Sequel (rather high wine prices, so I order just a glass), Rebel House, Ferro (reasonable wine markups), Paese (for specific dishes), Pastis Express (but only with the house wine), Quince, Universal Grill, Auberge du Pommier (order beer or glasses of wine only and it almost approaches good value), Maple Yip, Kenzo, Steeles Deli and a host of assorted others that could change tomorrow, depending on what my experience happens to be when I turn up there next.
I see Quince mentioned over and over again on this board...I should check it out. As for wine, I expect it to be marked up 3x, which I know is the standard in the business. If a wine is $7 at the LCBO, then if it is sold for 21 you are doing well. A friend in the business told me that cheaper wines are often marked up more than that to make up for less of a mark up on more expensive wines, keeping the overall 'wine cost' at 30% or so. I find it funny that we get so upset at some of the markups on wine, but never blink when we order a rum and coke at 5 dollars, rum being under a dollar an ounce, and that coke from the gun at about 3 cents. Ohwell, i'm off to research Quince!
You can't beat asian food for "value". My definition would be decent quality for a cheap price and good portion size. At the top of that I would place Memories of Japan at Don Mills/Eglington. You can get a lunch teppanyaki with strip loin steak and shrimp for less than $10!! That also includes teriyaki chicken, miso soup, salad, rice and ice cream for dessert! I challenge anyone to come up with a better alternative for less.