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What is the most expensive restaurant in the Bay Area?

riceandwheat Oct 18, 2010 02:34 PM

Some coworkers and I were discussing over lunch what the most expensive restaurant in the Bay Area is? A couple of us thought French Laundry but some claim there must be places more expensive than FL. Couldn't come to any conclusion so thought I'd consult more knowledgeable folks.

As basis for comparison, we're just talking what one person can spend on food alone, i.e. excluding the options of buying a $800 bottle of wine, etc.

Any ideas?

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

  1. Robert Lauriston Oct 18, 2010 02:49 PM

    Some recent discussion:


    1. bbulkow Oct 18, 2010 03:50 PM

      TFL is almost certainly the most expensive.

      Manresa is $170 without wine without service, compared to TFL's $240 with tip. Manresa's $98 wine pairing is excellent, but with TFL you end up buying a few bottles.

      1. n
        nocharge Oct 18, 2010 04:05 PM

        It's probably hard to beat TFL if your are comparing basic tasting menus. On the other hand, if you order a la carte at any place with an upscale caviar service that serves A5 beef, one person can probably spend $500-$1000 on food and be done with dinner in an hour.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nocharge
          bbulkow Oct 18, 2010 04:16 PM

          COI is $135 with a $95 wine pairing, without tip.

          373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

        2. v
          vulber Oct 18, 2010 04:28 PM

          TFL is now $250

          I believe it's third most expensive in the US, behind Per Se (NYC's french laundry equivalent), and Masa in NYC

          Masa's Restaurant
          648 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

          4 Replies
          1. re: vulber
            J.L. Oct 18, 2010 05:17 PM

            Actually Urasawa in Beverly Hills has been charging $350 per person (food only) for quite some time now. A fantastic dining experience.

            1. re: J.L.
              K K Oct 20, 2010 10:09 AM

              The ever controversial but rarely talked about Sawa Sushi in Sunnyvale has a $350 (minimum) omakase of, according to the website at sawasushi.net, "Unparalleled Variety, Pure Taste Enlightenment" of 25 courses (from what I understand, lots of giant cuts of sashimi splashed with various fusion style plating and sauces, and various cooked dishes) of which is the chef's attempt to get into the FL/Urasawa style realm beyond the nigiri and sashimi omakase (and he does crazy name rolls too nowadays it seems).

              Add a bottle (or two) of his high end sake offerings and the bill will easily top over $1000 for two.

              Urasawa would definitely be a better experience though.

              1. re: K K
                vincentlo Oct 20, 2010 01:23 PM

                I also wonder how much one can possibly blow at Koi Palace by going crazy on the most expensive shark's fin, abalone, and live seafood from the tanks (Australian lobster, geoduck, etc.).

                Koi Palace Restaurant
                365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

                1. re: vincentlo
                  K K Oct 20, 2010 01:42 PM

                  Excellent point...considering they have VIP rooms and wine stashes of sour French grape bottles that can go up to $1K per, as well as that special dish Jade Green Lobster Meat Sauteed that's on the menu with a seasonal price as mentioned by hong_kong_foodie, costing $300 to $400


          2. m
            ML8000 Oct 18, 2010 04:29 PM

            TFL has a more expensive option if you book the private room, $3,500 for 10 people...but you get extras. A friend booked it for a family thing.

            So does TFL still add on supplemental costs for premium items? That can add up.

            1. o
              OldTimer Oct 18, 2010 04:41 PM

              I think a more significant analysis would the ratio of satisfaction versus cost. I know that our society seems to equate cost with quality, but it ain't always so. Any restaurant can be the most expensive, but do they serve the best food? Is it a real bargain? Do you feel like you have been ripped off? Is the ambiance and service stellar? For example, I have foodie friends who prefer Cyrus to TFL, all things being equal.

              3 Replies
              1. re: OldTimer
                ML8000 Oct 18, 2010 04:47 PM

                Agreed, satisfaction is bigger deal and with high end restaurant there's often unrealistic expectations. I know I had them the first time at TFL. Myself, I prefer Manresa to TFL, the mellower CA vibe works for me and the food is more interesting and unique.

                Manresa Restaurant
                320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                1. re: OldTimer
                  riceandwheat Oct 18, 2010 05:03 PM

                  Oh yes, no doubt that's a different and perhaps more interesting/relevant analysis. I've been to Cyrus myself and thought it was a worthwhile experience. Never been to TFL or Manresa, but have had some friends say they didn't feel TFL lived up to the price for them.

                  Back to original topic, in our lunchroom discussion, we were going for pure numbers, out of curiosity's sake. My coworker who's from Beijing posed the question, to try to get a sense of how it compares to the most expensive restaurants there.

                  Manresa Restaurant
                  320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                  1. re: OldTimer
                    ikb Oct 18, 2010 05:20 PM

                    hmm, if we're talking ratios i think in & out burger would beat all these places. totally different conversation.

                    i'd be very surprised if there were any bay area restaurant that took in more per customer than TFL.

                  2. r
                    riceandwheat Oct 18, 2010 05:08 PM

                    Thanks all! It does sound like TFL might be the winner as far as normal, basic tasting menus go.

                    In Robert's link to a previous discussion, it says that Saison does have a $500/person Chef's Table option that beats TFL's $250/person. But not sure if TFL or other high-end places also offer a Chef's Table option, so perhaps those are in a class of their own.

                    2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: riceandwheat
                      Robert Lauriston Oct 18, 2010 06:06 PM

                      In that same linked topic, somebody said TFL's special menus can run $1000 a head.

                    2. l
                      Littleman Oct 18, 2010 06:10 PM

                      Let me ask a question. I have been to FL. I have been to Per Se. I have been to some of the highest priced restaurants in America. But personally I would never attempt ever again in my life to get a reservation at a place that's so difficult. SF has some fantastic restaurants that do not require the problems one has to go through to get into FL or Per Se. Do you think it's worth it. Some do. I don't. I would never go back to either if it was free. I won't even attempt to describe the chain of events that take place once entering the great FL or Per Se.

                      Boulevard is a great restaurant in SF. I would go there in a heart beat before I wasted hours and hours of my time trying to get a decent reservation at either of the above. Take the great restaurants you have and enjoy them. If you want to go to Yountville just go to Bistro Jeanty or Bouchon. They are just as good. Good luck and best wishes.

                      Bistro Jeanty
                      6510 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                      6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Littleman
                        graves666 Oct 19, 2010 01:12 PM

                        Not to change the subject, but my experience with getting a reservation at TFL was completely different. I made one call, and asked "when's the next Saturday that you have a reservation open?". And they told me a date 3 months ahead. I booked it, I planned a weekend around it, and went. Wasn't hard to get a reservation at all.

                        The French Laundry
                        6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                        1. re: graves666
                          bbulkow Oct 20, 2010 12:13 AM

                          Very interesting, because the well-known system they use only books 2 months in advance. Were they being nice to you? Has the system changed? Is the "next opening" phrase magic words?

                      2. j
                        johnq Oct 18, 2010 06:17 PM

                        Most expensive restaurant: French Laundry. Hands down.

                        As various people have pointed out, it's necessary to do an apples to apples comparison. It's possible to order extremely expensive items from any high-end restaurant, and drive your bill over $1K per person, if you want.

                        I almost always eat with one companion, and we almost always both get the tasting menu plus the wine pairing. So I have a pretty good basis for comparison.

                        French Laundry, last month: $860 for two people. For lunch.

                        Again, this was the standard tasting menu plus wine pairing, for two people, plus a tip that was around 20%. That's a solid $200 more than I've spent at any other Bay Area restaurant.

                        I'm not commenting here about value or satisfaction, or anything other than the price. On that metric, TFL is easily number one.

                        The French Laundry
                        6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: johnq
                          nocharge Oct 18, 2010 07:42 PM

                          In the non-tasting menu category, the late Tsar Nicoulai in the Ferry Building used to be a ridiculously strong contender given how extremely spartan its ambience was. Their most premium caviar was $300/oz, which means you could easily spend over $1K on food in a place that was less comfortable than your average Starbucks and still leave hungry. Probably the restaurant with the most absurd price-to-ambience ratio I've ever been to. Their non-caviar dishes were more reasonably priced but not really what that place was about.

                          1. re: johnq
                            Ruth Lafler Oct 18, 2010 09:43 PM

                            Did you tip 20 percent on top of the included service charge? Because as people have noted above, to compare apples to apples you have to compare tasting menu + tip to French Laundry's tasting menu, service included.

                            The French Laundry
                            6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              johnq Oct 18, 2010 10:14 PM

                              I didn't add anything to the service charge, though I have to say that the service was so good as to be almost ridiculous. I can't remember the exact amount, but suspect it was about 20%.

                              So the comparison is apples to apples: overall price for the tasting menu/wine pairing, including a normal tip. As I said above, using that comparison I'm pretty sure TFL was about $200 higher than any restaurant I've been to in the Bay Area.

                              1. re: johnq
                                Robert Lauriston Oct 19, 2010 10:00 AM

                                The French Laundry's base price of $240 includes the service charge. For two, with sales tax, that's $522. Subtracting sales tax from the remainder, assuming there were no other items on the bill, the wine was $155 a head including service charge.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  vulber Oct 19, 2010 11:57 AM

                                  now $250

                                  1. re: vulber
                                    bbulkow Oct 19, 2010 12:15 PM

                                    I think one place on their website still has the $240 price, where I found it yesterday, but the up-to-date menu section says $250 as vulber says.

                                    The idea of a full buy-out of TFL, listed on the website, is staggering.

                          2. n
                            nocharge Nov 4, 2010 11:53 AM

                            Alexander's now has a $390 tasting menu.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: nocharge
                              vincentlo Nov 4, 2010 02:07 PM

                              This looks amazing, but I wonder if it's best to have just a dish or two (instead of the whole menu) with the truffles.

                              1. re: vincentlo
                                Ruth Lafler Nov 4, 2010 02:36 PM

                                I think a whole menu of truffles would (a) be overwhelming, and (b) make me ill. But I'm willing to risk finding out!

                            2. s
                              skwid Nov 4, 2010 01:37 PM

                              Outside the bay area I know Guy Savoy was $295pp plus tax and tip when my wife and I went a few years ago. Quite a good meal too. I think Joel Rubechon in Las Vegas was $395 when it opened.

                              As far as The French Laundry, the regular menu is $250. There are addons for Foie Gras and other items (depending on the season, soon there will be black and white truffles available, sometimes there is Wagu beef, ...). The Foie is typically about $30 and the Wagu and Truffles are about $100 each IIRC (never had the truffles but have had the Wagu).

                              At times it is possible to get an extended tasting menu which the last time I went and got it (about 3 years ago) was $450 before addons. However they can't/won't always have this option available.

                              The French Laundry
                              6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

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