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Aug 16, 2012 09:11 PM

Fine Dining on a Budget

I'll be in NY for 5 days in mid-September with a friend. Does anyone have any suggestions for prix fixe lunches? I was hoping to try some of the more iconic or Michelin-starred or generally well-regarded restaurants I've always heard of but either haven't had a chance to try on previous trips or else couldn't afford for dinner.

So far I've found:

-the City Harvest menu at Le Bernardin (three courses for $45)
-the Tastes of Spring menu at Jean Georges (two plates for $38)
-prix fixe at Del Posto (three courses for $39)

Are there any others that are worth checking out? Del Posto and Jean Geoges seems like they're easy enough to get lunch reservations to a couple of weeks in advance. Le Bernardin may be a bit of a crap shoot with their no reservation policy in the lounge on the City Harvest menu.

Also, we'll likely be packing very light for this trip, so we're hoping for places where we could dress slightly more casual to avoid bringing outfits just for lunch. Del Posto seems fairly casual, and Le Bernardin seems a little more relaxed in the lounge. How is Jean Georges at lunch? As formal as dinner, or would we be ok in, say, a blazer, collared shirt, and nice jeans?

Thanks for your help,

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  1. IIRC Jean Georges is jacket required for both lunch and dinner (it used to be just dinner but there was a change in lunch policy in early 2011).

    How much are you willing to spend for your meals? For example, The Modern's Dining room does two courses for $55 at lunch. Is that too expensive?

    For modern, experimental cuisine, WD-50 does bar dining. Only bar diners can order a la carte. The prices are a great deal: two dishes for $25, each additional is $15. The dishes vary widely in size, so ask for the bartender's help.

    Other prix fixe lunches (not all fine dining):

    Gotham Bar and Grill
    Cafe Boulud
    ABC Kitchen
    Momofuku Ssam weekend lunch prix fixe

    10 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      It wasn't so much that we had a specific dollar amount in mind, but more the appeal of dining at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (or similar) for a song. ~$40 would be reasonable though.

      Do you think a jacket with jeans would be ok, or would we need to dress it up a bit more at JG?

      WD-50 sounds like a solid choice for dinner, I didn't realize they had the bar dining option. Thanks, kathryn, I appreciate the advice.

      1. re: RobS174

        I believe JG actually has a "no jeans" policy.

        1. re: kathryn

          Fair enough, good to know ahead of time!

          Thanks again, kathryn. I've read through plenty of your other responses on the board and I've learned a lot. Very helpful and greatly appreciated.

      2. re: kathryn

        The last time we had lunch at Jean Georges two years ago, jackets were not required. There was a short period last year when they were requiring them but then rescinded it. (There was a discussion on this board about it at that time.) Have you been there recently for lunch so that you know for sure that they've instituted that requirement again? If not, the best way for Rob to be certain is to call and ask.

        1. re: RGR

          I've been to Jean George for lunch three times in the last few months and I've always seen a lot of people without jacket, especially in summer. Once I've been wearing only a white shirt and blue pants, an other time I left the jacket of my suit in the office and went again with a white short and dark trousers, and I felt perfectly normal among the other diners..

          1. re: RGR

            I just gave JG a call. Lunch is business casual, so a jacket is not required and jeans are "not acceptable". Not a big deal, at least now I can plan accordingly. Thanks for your help, everyone.

          2. re: kathryn

            I've been to Jean George for lunch three times over the past couple of years and never was asked about a jacket. They didn't seem too strict with anyone at those times, twice in the summer and once in the fall.

            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              How long does lunch at JG typically last? We will probably order dessert, and I'd consider having an add-on course or $19. I'm wondering if I could possibly make a matinee at Lincoln Center at 2:00pm with my early seating (11:45am). Google Maps estimates the walk to be less than 10 minutes.

              1. re: Kirk_T

                You'll be fine with a reservation at 11:45 or 12:00 noon. A four course lunch at Jean Georges will include an amuse bouche (typically three different bites served at the same time) and you should be done by 1:30 or 1:45. I probably wouldn't order the tasting menu though, given your time constraints.

          3. Another good option is Bouley, in Tribeca, where the four-course $55 prix-fixe lunch is excellent and great value. I've eaten there many times with no jacket, just a button-down and smart/dark jeans.

            1. Bringing this thread back....

              So I've made lunch reservations at Jeans George and Del Posto. We'll be heading to WD-50 for dinner at the bar one evening as well.

              I'm now trying to decide if we should go to Le Bernardin instead of Jeans George, or try to squeeze both in. Does anyone have any advice? Do both restaurants bring their 'A game' for lunch, or is one worth passing up? I'm a little hesitant to have too many set plans since that forces more structure into our few days in NY than I would like.

              9 Replies
              1. re: RobS174

                Personally I find the City Harvest menu at Le Bernardin not that exciting. I don't think I see any of their signature dishes there and you only get two choices per course. Fresh seafood is one of those things that is by its very nature, pricey.

                I'd stick with Jean Georges. Plus their lunch menu has a lot more variety. Also when you order the prix fixe at Jean Georges, you get a healthy amount of extras: three amuse bouche, the famous hand-cut marshmallows, chocolates, and macarons.

                At Le Bernardin, if you do the City Harvest menu, you get salmon rillettes with toast to start, and financiers to end, so a little more simple than JG's lunch.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Thanks, kathryn, I was already leaning away from Le Bernardin, that just confirms it. The other reviews I've come across seem to reinforce that opinion.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    We're planning lunches with the same idea as the OP, and currently have JG, Del Posto, and Bouley booked for three lunches. We'd like to try the City Harvest menu in the Le Bernardin lounge. Does anyone have any thoughts on the best time to go or whether there are often wait times for the lounge? If we go, it would probably be on a Wednesday. Thanks in advance.

                    1. re: Kirk_T

                      You can walk in at any time and get a seat without a wait. The lounge at Le Bernardin isn't all that crowded during lunch.

                  2. re: RobS174

                    If want to try Le Bernardin, you might consider increasing your budget and foregoing Del Posto. The signature dishes are worth it.

                    1. re: peter j

                      Ooh, are you referring to the $70 prix fixe? Which items are signature?

                      1. re: calf

                        Check Frank Bruni's and Peter Wells's Le Bernardin reviews in the NY Times for signature dishes. My own favorites are:

                        - Salmon rilettes

                        - Fluke sashimi, olive oil, avocado

                        - Tuna with foie gras on baguette with lemon and chives

                        - Charred octopus, fermented black bean, pear sauce vierge

                        - Tagliolini, warm sea urchin sauce, osetra caviar

                        - Grilled bacalao with romaine and caesar vinaigrette

                        - Seared langoustine, mache and wild mushroom salad, shaved foie gras, white balsamic vinaigrette

                        - Bread crusted red snapper, saffron fideos, chorizo smoked paprika

                        - Seared hiramasa, truffle risotto, baby vegetables, black truffle emulsion

                        - Laiskonis Egg - milk chocolate pot de crème, caramel sauce, caramel custard foam, maple syrup and Maldon sea salt served in an eggshell

                        - Chocolate-Peanut

                        1. re: calf

                          Before going, I suggest looking up Justo Thomas, their famed fish butcher.

                          He's the subject of Chapter 18 in Anthony Bourdain's book, Medium Raw.

                          Read that and then order the black sea bass with crispy skin.

                          1. re: calf

                            Will do!!—Thank you both.