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You get what you pay for

What was the most expensive meal you ever paid for? Where? What restaurant and was it worth it?

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  1. ~340euro at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris (wine and service included) and about the same amount at "Le Cinq" in Paris (wine and champagne included)

    100% worth it, excellent food, excellent service, great wine, ... left both places full.

    Not something I can afford often, but it was worth it.

    1. Le Charlevoix in La Malbaie, Charlevoix, Quebec. It was expensive, locally sourced, multi course, much wine, superb, professional and warm service and worth it. Done 9 years ago for our first anniversary.

      1. Margaux, Berlin -- 420 Euro total for two (5th anniversary dinner). Good, but too much food... so probably not worth it.

        wd-50 -- $275 each for the tasting menu plus 2 bottles of wine that were 50% off. Probably worth it, but I wouldn't do it again. I'm so over paying that kind of money for food.

        2 Replies
        1. re: linguafood

          "too much food" makes a meal not worth the price?

          Well, if you're lucky, maybe next time you can leave hungry..

          1. re: FrankJBN

            It does, if I feel full after 4 courses and there are 5 more to go, which I then can't enjoy.

        2. You mean for me or for a table?

          Oddly enough, the table of 9 family and friends I paid for a month or so ago on vacation was not much more than the most expensive meal for myself.

          With tip and without liquor I paid around $300 for 9 people to eat at Duffy's on the Lake in Wildwood Crest NJ. (BYOB) I highly recommend this place. The fare was ordinary and typical of a Jersey shore family restaurant, but 1) I called Friday and reserved a table for 9 for 7:00 Saturday and 2) the restaurant offers a spectacular sunset view.

          Without tip and with wine, I paid around $220 for a single dinner at a closed Philadelphia restaurant Circa.This certainly would have been more than ten years ago.

          Both were worth it. At Circa, I had a nice Alsace and a Clos du Bois Marlstone.

          I can't bring to mind any high ticket meals I have had that I thought were not worth it

          Just for honorable mention, I went out with a large party, more than a dozen people, for a wine tasting dinner. Although I didn't pay the bill myself, the bill was initially habded to me. For me it was very cool to get an ordinary light green tear-off 'diner ticket' as one might receive for 'eggs and coffee $5.95', and take a look down to see a total of $1,300.00.

          1. Like Frank said, is your question per person or for the table? Also are you asking for personal $$ spent or would corporate T&E count? Answer to those questions changes the amount quite a bit. A few years back, I took my family which included in-laws/nieces/nephews to celebrate my parents anniversary. Dinner cost me a few grand. Totally worth it for the occasion. For client dinners, I've spent ridiculous amounts of money on food and wine and from a personal perspective, I would have much rather eaten a simple meal at home because honestly, no matter how much you like your clients, most of us would rather be eating a simpler meal with family and friends so those meals were not worth it.

            1. A really expensive meal, to me, is one that exceeds $100 per diner; I've had a few of those, but always on someone else's tab. I think the most expensive meal I've paid for was a bit under $100 for me and an ex-wife, for lunch at Café Massilia in Monrovia; I've also had an almost-$50 lunch there myself, but I was scouting the place for a family dinner. Both meals were well worth the tab. Close follow-up, and even better, were the sand dabs and the glass of Sancerre at Le Petit Café in Santa Monica, a bit over $40. Had I splurged for the escargot (which I should have) it would've topped $50 easily …

              1. I recently had the opportunity to dine at Alinea in Chicago. There were four of us and I paid for three (me, my wife, and my daughter who has followed my footsteps into chowland). The cost was $210 pp (it is $265 pp on weekends), plus T&T, or about $300 pp all-in including a single wine pairing that we all shared and which was sufficient.

                I'm glad I did it, but for me it will certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The food was great, but at that extremely high technical level it becomes somewhat contrived, particularly the presentations. Really, it's as much or more a theatrical experience than it is a meal.

                1 Reply
                1. re: johnb

                  @johnb: I agree with you. You should not have to rely on picturesque overdone presentations to make you dish look edible. My thought is "If it looks to good to eat, what are you covering up?" Save the "make-up artistry" for you friends.

                2. I never equate expensive meals with the best meals. You are always paying for so much more than how delicious the food is. However, an expensive meal can be a satisfying experience in and of itself.

                  Having said that, I've never spent more than $110 before tax and tip, which was at Rogue 24 in Washington, DC. I spent only $66 at Minibar when it first opened, and now the outrageous demand for the twelve seats per night has the cost at $150 per night, so I guess you could say I've eaten a meal at that price, though I didn't pay it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Steve

                    $66 pp at Minibar? I went a year or so after it opened and sort of remember it being about twice that plus wine. but then there was more than a bit of wine involved in the evening and I don't remember which part of the bill was dinner and which was wine. I thought I saw it's pushing $200 pp these days, not that I'm going again anytime soon anyway (logistics, not a comment on the place)

                    I think I blew about $300 for 2 at one of Boulud's places in NYC's UES once (and Carol Burnett was laughing it up with pals across the room! AND a couple at the next table got into a HUGE fight! during a blizzard!) and about the same at a quite good but flash-in-the-pan place in Chicago's River West (name escapes me, I'm sure it's gone).

                    bear in mind that's only 3 splurge-y meals in about 5 years.

                  2. $300+ per person for food only (i.e., not including alcohol or service) at Sun Tung Lok in Taipei 20 years ago. Finest sharks fin I've ever eaten. Oddly, some of the china was chipped which seemed shoddy at that type of price and I was shorted on one dish.
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2464...

                    1. The truffle degustation at the original Alain Ducasse in Paris cost more than our airfares
                      to France but it was worth evry franc!

                      1. Fat Duck, Berkshire, UK. Two years back.

                        £180 per person, IIRC. Plus drinks. Plus fuel costs of a 300 mile round trip. Plus overnight hotel.Plus a couple of lunches while travelling

                        Worth every penny.

                        1. Avize France 1986 The regional champagne festival. The entire village was filled with tasting booths. Over a half dozen types of oysters. Chocolats and pastries galore. I spent over $150 each that day. And then $100 each at a Michellin rated place in Epernay. To put this in perspective, our room above the restaurant set us back about $20 with bath down the hall.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                            It's always a special experience when you can attend a festival and time your travel to something wonderful. It makes the food that much more delicious.

                            And it's good to see you have your values in order. You can't eat your hotel room.

                          2. I've been fortunate to have been able to experience a number of the world's best restaurants in the past few years. Generally, it's just me and my guest. After food, alcohol, supplements and tip/VAT, most of these experiences have run in the $500 per person range. Alinea, Frantzen/Lindeberg, Mathias Dahlgren, Noma, Le Bernardin and Per Se all come to mind, though I'm not sure where I dropped the most coin.

                            All of them were absolutely worth it, though it is extremely difficult choosing a favorite or where I had the most memorable experience.

                            43 Replies
                            1. re: MonMauler

                              Of course, anyone who thinks they've been to a number of the world's best restaurants is going to think it was worth it.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  Not necessarily - my last meal at Hibiscus (then 43 in the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant awards) was decidely unthrilling. And seeing as I'd travelled to London specifically to eat there, the travel, hotel and restaurants costs added up to "not worth it".

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Agreed. We were not al all impressed by our meal at Gagnaire and several of our
                                    other "starred" experiences were not particularly memorable.

                                    1. re: ferventfoodie

                                      I think that's my only "failure" with Michelin starred places. All others have been absolutely on the money. And, even with Hibiscus, we'd eaten with them twice before and had great experiences.

                                    2. re: Harters

                                      My point was in the general, not in the specific. If you buy into the concept of The Worlds Best Restaurants, then you are likely to feel that the cost is justified.

                                      It Is So If You Think So.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        And my response was in the specific, rather than the general. As someone who generally buys into the concept of the World's Best Restaurants awards, it was an example that I don't feel the cost is always justified.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          what percentage would you say?

                                        2. re: Steve

                                          Really? you can make that broad sweeping generalization? you don't believe that there are some restaurants across the globe that are considered better than others? Perhaps someone who hasn't had the opportunity to travel and experience these restaurants may believe this to be the case.

                                          1. re: tommy

                                            I don't buy into the concept that there is a basis for comparison between a mutli-course meal in a European Temple of Gastronomy, eating a feast in a Tibetan tent, or chowing down on a pizza in Brooklyn, anymore more than an essay on the difference between pan-fried chicken and a bouillabaisse (as Calvin Trillin might say). If I had to list my favorite meals, most of them would be pretty darn cheap.

                                            The 'Best' list, star ratings, and all that are pure marketing.

                                            So if you like that kind if stuff, then that's the kind of stuff you like.

                                            But I wouldn't trust a word about food from someone who thinks pizza is not as good a food as foie gras or that the experience of sitting down at a restaurant with table cloths is a more serious food experience than eating at a barbeque joint.

                                            However, if you want to list your favorite Euro multi-course tasting menus, then I would be interested in reading about that.

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              Nobody is talking about comparing different cuisines. Apparently you don't think some pizza places, for example, are widely accepted as being better than others. I, like, Harters, and I would suspect most of the planet, do not agree. However, I would like to not be able to understand or acknowledge the difference between pizza at Famous Original Rays and Keste. Life would be much more simple.

                                              1. re: tommy

                                                There are lists of the Worlds Best Restaurants, as mentioned upthread. There are also critics and publications with star ratings. Do you not detect a theme to these lists?

                                                I am not sure why thinking that a barbecue joint can be as great a restaurant as haute cuisine is reverse snobbery. I like them both, though I am more often in the position to hit up the barbecue.

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  I'm Fully aware of "lists." What theme are you talking about? Why do you insist that chow hounds are comparing foie gras to BBQ and dismissing BBQ? Why is it not clear that Antica Pizzeria da Michele can be considered as one of the best restaurants in the world, perhaps even by these lists you reference, and at the same time dismiss the opinions of people wholesale because they enjoy it and find it "worth it?". LOL!

                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                    The theme of most 'Best Restaurant' lists is expensive with Euro standards of elegance. Or, to put it another way, are you familiar with top-rated restaurants where wine is not served?

                                                    I am not putting down anyone who feels an expensive meal is 'worth it.' I said so upthread. A meal like that can be worth it 'in and of itself' without needing to conjure up a 'best' list. If you do think such a list is possible, then you will almost surely find that meal 'worth it.'

                                                    I mentioned bbq and pizza because these can be among the great meals of the world without the trappings of crystal stemware and haute cuisine that dominate most "Best' lists.

                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                      I get the feeling reading your posts that you feel that people who eat at any of the "top" restaurants are unable to actually judge the worth of the experience because obviously if they're spending so much money, they have to feel its worth it. Otherwise they would be wasting their money. Self-fulfilling. There is no doubt great inexpensive food in the world. There is plenty of overpriced stuff out there too. Good and bad in both categories.

                                                      I'm not sure how much you have experienced restaurants that are in the the various top lists, say the San Pellegrino 100. Obviously I've not eaten at most, not even a large number of them, but I would say I have had a good representative sampling. I think you're perception of these places is colored by a lot of assumptions. While there may be plenty of crystal and euro themes, there are many places that don't have either.

                                                      I will give you wine pretty much everywhere because as B. Franklin said, "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." Why wouldn't you want to take such advice?

                                                      But the places that makes such lists are all special places. The combination of the food, service and atmosphere makes for a wonderful time. Obviously there are those who don't always agree, but by and large, I think there's reasons why the restaurants are on the list that has much more to do than with french places that serve their food on limoges china and wine in riedel glasses.

                                                      Take for example Momofuku Ssam Bar which is #37 on the current SP list of top 100 restaurants. I go probably at least every other month. Its loud. Its crowded. People are milling around the door waiting for tables because the place doesn't take reservations other than for large groups eating set menus. The seats have no backs. Last time I went, I ordered beer in a can. They do have a great wine list though. Had the steamed pork bun that which pretty much puts every pulled pork sandwich I've had to shame. It better at $10 a serving. Awesome food that basically you eat with your hands, no fancy silverware. This place, at least according to SP, is the 37th best restaurant in the world. Not your image I bet of what is on the list. And its worth every penny.

                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                        If you say you've eaten at a place and it's wonderful, I believe you. If it's pricey and you say it's worth every penny, than I'd need to know a bit more about your disposition in order to believe you.

                                                        There are two things going on here:

                                                        First, I am saying that anybody who thinks there is such a thing as the '100 Best Restaurants in the World' has bought into the idea that it is worth eating at them - even if the price is exorbitant. This fits in perfectly with the thread.

                                                        In addition, I think these lists are so filled with puffery that I cannot take them seriously any more than I really believe that the Academy Awards nominated the nine best movies in the world last year.

                                                        San Pellegrino and Restaurant Magazine, who produce the list you mentioned, are marketing their product. They are not interested in trading in obscurity. I guess you think choosing Ssam Bar in Manhattan is going out on a limb for them. Meanwhile there are entire categories of food and entire countries that will never make the list. And yes that includes places that do not serve wine, or even have floors.

                                                        Or in other words: are you saying that a list voted on by readers of Restaurant Magazine doesn't have serious limitations? Why not?

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          Sigh…You’re reinforcing my thesis. The assumption underlying your view is that these lists are self serving and that since they exist, anyone who goes to them must believe they belong on such a list and that the experience they offer is worth the price they charge. I get the feeling you think people who go to such places are naïve and even foolish. Why go to some euro centric temple of gastronomy when I can get a great pizza for $10?

                                                          Value is not an absolute. In my business, we use the term relative value when we make comparisons. Different people have different views on value. That’s what makes markets. The various lists of top restaurants are someone’s or some group's opinions. It’s not represented as fact. But lists give rise to certain expectations about the places on it. Saying “Top Restaurants in the World” will lead to different expectations than a list of “Best BBQ Places in the South” or “Best Pizza in NYC.” The first category leads me to certain expectation of a combination of excellent food, great service, high design and well yes, wine. It’s about the total package. The second list doesn’t make me expect anything but really good food. It could be outdoors in a yard for pulled pork and just sweet tea to drink or in a dark bar back down some country road where I can get ribs and a cold beer. Having eaten at almost every one of the top pizza places in NYC, I know that good pizza shows up in all kinds of places too. Nothing to do with the atmosphere, service or beverages, it’s all about the food.

                                                          I’ve had plenty of touted BBQ and pizza that have disappointed me. I’ve also been to top tier restaurants that have left me wondering what all the fuss was about. While the best BBQ and best pizza I’ve ever eaten have been heart stopping good, I would never say any of them should belong on a list of the top restaurants in the world. If you think that some of your favorite places belong on such a list, well that’s your prerogative. I would suggest though that you broaden your horizons.

                                                          Think about all the various lists as guides. They identify places that fit in certain categories. No one has the time to go and try to find all these places on their own. It’s helpful that someone has created a list. You make the decision to try them or not. You get to decide whether it’s worth it or not. Ssam Bar is a place I like a lot and go to regularly. There are other places on the SP list that I’ve left scratching my head and have never been back. On the other hand, people I know have the exact opposite reaction to mine. So like I said before, it’s all about opinions and perceptions of relative value. No absolutes.

                                                          As to my disposition, I like food (Kind of obvious as I’m on this site). All kinds of food. From high end European influenced to south east asian and lots in between. I appreciate almost every cuisine. I also spend a fair bit of time in the kitchen. Most of my friends think of me as a quasi food expert and accomplished amateur cook. My collection of cookbooks runs for many feet. Because of that, I’m pretty demanding about my food. I eat out a lot. Fortunately, I can pretty much afford to eat at any restaurant anytime I want and not worry about the bill. But even with that being said, there’s one place that I’ve hesitated at trying. Masa. I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that dinner for two without the wine you seem to dislike will cost me a grand. I asked the first person I knew who went about it and whether it was worth it. All he could do was sigh and say yeah, totally worth it. I respect this guy’s view about food and wine. I still have not been able to go.

                                                          As to your final questions
                                                          Or in other words: are you saying that a list voted on by readers of Restaurant Magazine doesn't have serious limitations? Why not?

                                                          As I said, it’s an opinion or a collective set of opinions. Opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone has one. You can give it credence or not. But I find it curious that you seem to completely discount any value in the list. Makes me think that you discount the worth of people who go to such restaurants. If so, you can disregard this lengthy post.

                                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                                            "Makes me think that you discount the worth of people who go to such restaurants"

                                                            I think Steve's view was absolutely crystal clear when he posted, upthread "But I wouldn't trust a word about food from someone who thinks pizza is not as good a food as foie gras or that the experience of sitting down at a restaurant with table cloths is a more serious food experience than eating at a barbeque joint".

                                                            You will note particularly that Steve disrespects certain groups of people and dismisses ANY view they may hold about food.

                                                            As for BBQ - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/812627. But it wouldnt be anywhere close to "best" meal (but feel free to check out my profile for my opinion of what has been "best" this and last year.

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              As I said before, If you say a place is wonderful, I believe you. I will not quibble with deliciousness. But 'worth every penny' or 'best'? Sorry, I will not be moved by those descriptions if you can't equally find nirvana in the simple things that are dirt cheap and humble.

                                                            2. re: Bkeats

                                                              It's a great post, I do not disregard it. Instead of lists, I prefer reading a varied discussion like this one. That's why your input is so valuable.

                                                              This list (or pick a different star rating system) still represents a narrow view of 'Best' no matter how you slice it, and I still see no basis for comparing wildly different kinds of food or places to eat. Buying into it means followers are chasing down these places and eschewing alternatives. It is a mindset.

                                                              Music listeners are critical too. So are movie goers. That doesn't make the Academy Awards or the Grammys any more than fluff. Unles you think the best music in the world was represented by the Album of the Year category. People are looking for a certain kind of experience, and they find it. Details at 11.

                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                There are lots of lists for everything. No one says you have to agree with any list. Its always subjective. Not everyone agrees with every winner of a Grammy or Oscar. A bunch of people vote. Top vote getter wins. Does not mean the result was unanimous. If we had to have unanimous votes for everything, we would never elect anyone for any office. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                  Hah! Elections indeed.

                                                                  Go ahead and make a list of your favorite restaurants. That would interest me. Just don't promote them as The Best. That's where the puffery comes in.

                                                          2. re: Bkeats

                                                            "I will give you wine pretty much everywhere because as B. Franklin said, "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." Why wouldn't you want to take such advice?"
                                                            ---------
                                                            Only in an Eurocentric, Western-fixated view. SIGH. Wine is NOT a "tradition" in SO MANY OTHER cuisines, in the true sense, and NOT as a "Western-influenced" fad. Chinese cuisine with all its regionalities is NOT a Western-wine guzzling or wine pairing cuisine in the traditional sense. I suppose you dismiss these cuisines from any list of the top places to dine at because Western-style wine is not an inherent part of those cuisines?

                                                            In a general sense, I agree with what Steve says, and with the brief comment Harters made.

                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                              I don't drink alcohol at all, so wine does not enter my considerations for "best" or, of course, for any other dining decision.

                                                              As for the San Pellegrino awards, once you know how the voting is undertaken, it is clear why some places attract votes and others don't. And, more interestingly, why places can dramatically change position one year to another. Similarly, I suspect that if I polled people, who are regular and varied diners, in my own metro area about which local places they regard as "best", there would be a commonality of opinion.

                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                Easy fellow. I didn't dismiss cuisines from any part of the world. I was countering what Steve was saying. The quote of Franklin I picked was was for wine, but he had good things to say about alcohol in general whether it be beer or wine. My experience with most cuisines is that alcoholic beverage of some sort is often involved, even in Asia. If you read my comments, I note that while many places in top lists are euro centric, not all are. I was arguing the same point you are making. In fact the specific restaurant I mentioned is not euro themed at all, but Asian. If you agree with the notion that a restaurant on a best of list does not have to be euro-centered, I agree with you as that's what I said above. It's Steve who seems to think that any resto on such a list is so focused. So your comments leave me a bit confused.

                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                  I apologize if you really do eat all sorts of cuisines equally - but that did not come across well.

                                                                  As for Momofuku Ssam bar - It is NOT an Asian restaurant in my view, it is Western food with an "Asian" twist - and note I used double quotation marks. (Do you mean Chinese? Korean? Japanese? Why not say so? 'Asian' could mean anything from Turkish to Siberian to Persian to Keralan to Thai to Bengali to Cantonese to Szechuanese to Kyoto-style to Javanese to Mamak-style to Nyonya to...etc etc etc) A good Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong, or a good Malaysian-Chinese place in Penang or Kuala Lumpur; or a nice Tamilian restaurant in Chennai - those would be examples of what I would think of as non-Eurocentric places in Asia. Yes, alcohol is sometimes involved, in native forms or beer or hard spirits for example, but I was indeed referring to Western-type wine when I sighed about it.

                                                                  As for your comment: (quote) "If you agree with the notion that a restaurant on a best of list does not have to be euro-centered, I agree with you as that's what I said above. It's Steve who seems to think that any resto on such a list is so focused." (unquote)
                                                                  --- Well, I would agree that a "best of" list does not have to be Euro-centered - but most such lists (such as the infamous San Pellegrino list mentioned) IS "Euro-centered" with scant offerings or selections from places outside the Western Hemisphere/Europe.

                                                                  That SP Top 50 list, for example, has Iggy's and Waku Ghin for Singapore. Both are "Westernized" places (Iggy's is really a French restaurant) with food that is really "Asian-inspired" rather than Chinese or Japanese or whatever, with much hoo-ha accorded to their extensive Western wine lists too. Ridiculously expensive, as well. See, e.g., http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/790793 . See also, e.g., http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8589... and the subthread descending from that. Then the ONLY place mentioned for Hong Kong is Amber, which is - surprise, surprise! - a EUROPEAN/French cuisine restaurant with "Asian" flourishes. http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards... What, not a single one of the many, many excellent Cantonese, Shanghainese, Fukienese, etc etc restaurants in that center of gastronomy, whether they even "had floors" or not (as Steve said in a post) made it onto that "Top 50" restaurants list? Then, there's Nahm (sole entry) for Thailand - a David Thompson restaurant, a branch of his London-based place, serving somewhat Westernized Thai dishes pushing at the boundaries of traditional Thai cuisine. No place that was more truly Thai and not run by a European is on the list. Then...there's Narisawa and Nihonryori RyuGin for all of Japan. Let these two CH threads (one old, one from this year) speak for themselves: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/613683 ; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837372 .

                                                                  For my part, I don't think Steve has said, as a blanket all-embracing comment, that any restaurant on such a list is Euro-focused. For that matter, his comment (quote) "Meanwhile there are entire categories of food and entire countries that will never make the list. And yes that includes places that do not serve wine, or even have floors" (unquote) in my view is true.

                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                    Why yes I meant asian in the broadest sense. This weekend I ate at a Turkish restaurant. On Thursday night last week I dropped by a sushi place on the way home. One of my favorite places is a north indian spot. I often order thai for delivery. Various chinese places are in my rotations. One of my faves is Lebanese. Where do you put the middle east? I go to korean places. I like some persian stuff. I tried a bukharan, but wasn't impressed. I've had indonesian, vietnamese, etc. One of my colleagues is from singapore and he's introduced me to some of his favorites. My family has been to Korea, Japan, Hainan, Phuket, Guam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia (we put that in the Asia-Pacific group). Enough bona fides to demonstrate that I know asian food is varied and covers a huge geographic region? I say Asian because that the term broadly used. I know that people often think of it including the basic 3 plus may be a few others but its shorthand. Its like continental cuisine. Define that in 3 words.

                                                                    You wrote "For my part, I don't think Steve has said, as a blanket all-embracing comment, that any restaurant on such a list is Euro-focused. "

                                                                    Here's what Steve said.

                                                                    "The theme of most 'Best Restaurant' lists is expensive with Euro standards of elegance. Or, to put it another way, are you familiar with top-rated restaurants where wine is not served?

                                                                    Ok he didn't say all but certainly made a blanket statement especially in regards to wine.

                                                                    And why isn't Ssam an Asian restaurant with a western twist? How many times have you been to the 3 Chang places? I think I'm familiar enough with the menu to say that I would characterize it more as Asian with major western influences rather than the other way. Why the hostility to asian cuisines being influenced by others?True purity and authenticity of all "original" foods would have prevented the food that we love so much from ever being created. All cuisines have outside influences. What's wrong with that?

                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                      Coming soon from San Pellegrino - Asia's 50 Best Restaurants:

                                                                      http://www.theworlds50best.com/asia/

                                                                      The article notes which countries are included, together with a brief note about how the definition of "best" is a matter for those judging. It seems to cover the bases that you'd expect to be covered.

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        This is what the website says:
                                                                        "The World's 50 Best Restaurants list is recognised around the world as the most credible indicator of the best places to eat on Earth. It is the trusted arbiter of what matters in global cuisine."
                                                                        ...meaning that the 6 (Westernized) places in Asia on the "World's 50 Best Restaurants list" is indeed the only 6 in Asia that matter on Earth. Again, one questions the basis for such a pronouncement. See the comments in the links I posted above for examples on those 6 places from local folks, folks who have traveled and eaten extensively themselves.

                                                                        Then the website goes on to say:
                                                                        "Our new list of Asia's 50 Best restaurants, as voted for by The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy, will shine a spotlight on the best restaurants in Asia and uncover hidden gems discovered by our experts."
                                                                        ...meaning that this new list will be a consolation prize for all those places which, in their judgement, weren't worthy of being on their Eurocentric Top List. Hidden gems discovered by their experts? Who are these experts? Even if they will be "local" folks I think these "hidden gems" have been long known to local folks who know their food.

                                                                        Here's what you said a year ago:
                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7794...
                                                                        Does that comment still stand?

                                                                        here's one comment I made a year ago, which I think I still stand by:
                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7794... .
                                                                        I made various comments in the same vein in that thread and also elsewhere.

                                                                        Here's another CH thread, on the 2012 SP list:
                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847132

                                                                        ...and a thread from last year on aspects of how the "judging"/voting gets skewed:
                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/813108

                                                                        Oh well. Let's see what they come up with for this "Asia" list.

                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                          "Who are these experts?"

                                                                          Dunno. SP rightly keeps the names of the main judging confidential so that, erm, undue influence isnt brought to bear. Of the several hundred, I only know one name, that of the Chair of the panel in my home region.
                                                                          As for my comment that you link to, of course I stand by it. I doubt whether anyone would seriously disagree with it. Surely, the SP judges like anyone else, you and me included, express their personal preferances. In their case, they are confined by the SP rules as to how they may cast their votes (as I have said in another post, once you appreciate the geographical constraints, you appreciate why some places get on the list and others don't - and why rankings differ so much year on year). For example, La Colombe in Cape Town was 38 in 2009, 12 in 2010, 83 (approx) in 2011 and dropped from the list in 2012 - and I'm sure nothing will have altered in the cooking, it will be a simple matter of how the voting works.

                                                                          You and I may express our own preferences without constraint. As I've mentioned in another post, my Chowhound profile lists my 5 favourite restaurants for last year and for this year (so far). They are my favourite restaurants and the "best" meals I had in that period. They are on the list because I enjoyed the food there and not because I felt I must include an asian restaurant, or a pizza place to appease anyone's sensibilities. I like to eat the sort of food that I like to eat.

                                                                          By the by, where have been your five "best" meals this year? How much did you pay for them? Have you eaten at any of the restaurants in the SP 100 Best? Did you enjoy them? If not, why not? Where would they be in your list of "best" places you've eaten this year? I'd also be interested to read your response to the OP - it might give me a sense of how you actually view restaurant food.

                                                                          Or, how about playing the San Pellegrino "best" game - give us your four "best" restaurants in your home region (I see from your profile that's America) and your three "best" from elsewhere in the world. The rules say you have to eaten there in the last 12 months. Fun game, eh?

                                                                          (EDIT: A correction. SP now do publish voting names - http://www.theworlds50best.com/the-ac...)

                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            Sorry Harters, but I decline to play that SP game. Or a "ranking game". Because of the defects of this game. And yes, I've eaten in various pretty high-end places too, including places on the SP list; as well as excellent non-European-centric places unlikely to make such lists as the SP Top 50/100 list.

                                                                            I will say that one of the expensive and insufficient-value-for-money meals I had was at Next restaurant in Chicago, where I paid about US$330 for a meal (for two concatenated into a meal for one) that was not wholly successful to me and which had defects in seasoning and substance for me and belied the hype that had been heaped on it.

                                                                        2. re: Harters

                                                                          Can't wait to see what's on the list. I love their description of the list. It reinforces what I've been saying

                                                                          The World's 50 Best Restaurants list is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts. What constitutes "best" is left to the judgment of these trusted and well-travelled gourmets. There is no pre-determined checklist of criteria; for example an interesting experience in a simple establishment, where exceptional innovation was discovered, could be judged better than a more opulent meal from a widely feted restaurant team.

                                                                          The results are a simple computation of votes. Given that this well-constructed list is based on personal experiences it can never be definitive, but we believe it is a honourable survey of current tastes and a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the globe.

                                                                          A list of best places to eat is an "indicator." Doesn't claim to be anything more than that.

                                                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                                                            "The World's 50 Best Restaurants list is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts."

                                                                            "The results are a simple computation of votes."

                                                                            In my judgement, these two statements are the starting point to understanding the weakness of this list and similar lists. Here's why.

                                                                            With respect to the first quote, the 800 experts clearly (one can go through the list provided in Harters link) are for the most part Euro/western-oriented and, equally or more importantly, mostly live in Europe and other western areas. This means they naturally tend to relate more to euro/western styles of cooking, and also that they naturally tend to eat more in restaurants located in euro/western areas, which are generally closer at hand to them. Further, the restaurants they choose to patronize surely will tend to be places others like them (including others on the list, directly and indirectly) have already patronized, leading to a tendency toward the herd effect. One can argue whether their cultural and career orientation in and of itself leads to any bias. But even if it doesn't, there is no doubt that restaurants they patronize will be predominantly high-end, western style places, if due only to locational effects. These are busy people who have only limited time available, and realistically don't spend unlimited time traveling to the far corners, and don't patronize little-known places when they do. This leads us to the second quote.

                                                                            Due to the impacts cited above, most of the restaurants sampled and voted upon by the chosen judges tend to be in a distinct subset of all good restaurants in the world (high-end western-style). Therefore, a simple computation of votes is bound to find mostly "winners" that are already in this subset -- sample bias. While it is possible to do surveys and compilations that correct for such bias, it is highly unlikely that is being done here, and I see no incentive for SP to do so.

                                                                            Consider how often local newspaper "best" lists find that according to their readers' poll McDonalds has the best local hamburgers. Nobody serious believes that is true. So why does it happen? Suppose there is a local joint or two with truly great burgers. There are 20-30 McDonalds locations, and many more BK etc. etc. Most of the readers who answer the poll likely have never been to the good places anyway, and in their experience McDonalds may be their preferred burger. So McDonalds gets more votes than anyone else and "wins." Few newspapers even attempt to do statistical corrections for this sort of effect.

                                                                            So something like this is what is happening with this SP list. While I'm not saying the places on it aren't good, the way it is carried out brings in all sorts of statistical problems that lead to false outcomes. The best one could say is that rather than a list of the 50 best restaurants in the world, it is a (probably rough) list of the 50 best restaurants in the subset of restaurants typically patronized by the 800 people doing the reviewing. That subset tends not to include Asian and other non-western cuisines, and tends not to include medium and low end places (dirt floor?) where the food may be existential but the smart set isn't likely to show up. I think this is where Steve was coming from in his remarks that started all this discussion.

                                                                            So take the SP list FWIW, perhaps useful but certainly limited.

                                                                            1. re: johnb

                                                                              John

                                                                              You're absolutely correct in your eminently sensible analysis of the SP award process. The "judges" each have seven votes. Four are cast for places in their own region and three have to be outside their own region (and they have to have eaten there in the previous 18 months). I suspect there would be something of a commonality of view about restaurants in their own region amongst judges. And with regard to other regions, they are likely to be constrained to which they may travel and, when there, are likely to want to eat at the "buzz" places they've heard of. In that respect, they are no different from any other tourist. A look at any Chowhound board will show you that tourists tend to enquire only about a limited number of restaurants - not necessarily the ones that locals would regard as "good". Upthread, huiray linked to a post of mine last year where I called into question how "good" some of the UK places on the SP list were. I particularly had in mind a restaurant often enquired about on the Chowhound UK/Ireland board by American tourists visiting London but which wouldnt be particularly near the top of my London list and, certainly, wouldnt be anywhere near the top of my UK list. But I'm sure it made the SP list because it gets a lot of international buzz and foreigners, particularly foreign foodies, would want to experience it.
                                                                              The fact that it is little different from many other UK restaurants is immaterial. As for the general usefullness of the SP list, I suspect it has some use to the restaurants. Although I suspect that they would be more interested in Michelin stars or their rating in a country's "best restaurants" guide. It may have some use to travellers, as you suggest (accepting it for what it is). For example, Cape Town's Colombe upthread. It was a restaurant that interested me as we were travelling to Cape Town last and it seemed an opportunity to eat at what was then claimed to be the country's best restaurant (when we were planning the trip, it was rated 12th). Although in the end, we didnt eat there when we were in the city for a few days, as we simply didnt fancy the menu.

                                                                            2. re: Bkeats

                                                                              A Tale of Two Restaurants:

                                                                              Locally famous 'European' chef opens a downtown DC restaurant featuring a seven course tasting menu of Lao food. Pretty reasonably priced at $45. Specialty cocktails are paired with the food for more money. Food is very good, and most foodies have never tried this cuisine before so are very impressed. No reservations, and it becomes something of a sensation. A small place and it's hard to get into because of the demand.

                                                                              Meanwhile a Lao woman cooks at a place in the suburbs, about 20 minutes outside of DC. Fantastic widespread menu with many selection, replete with an array of a generous raw vegetables, charred peppers, and leafy greens that are an important component of the meal. To eat there is truly a window into another world cuisine. Two people could really have an amazing feast there for much less than the DC place. The food will cover a tremendous range, and you'll have a choice of what to eat. She does very well for herself, but despite critical acclaim from the local food writers, doesn't really garner the foodie buzz of the downtown place.

                                                                              Visitors want to go to the DC place, and if it takes off well enough, maybe someday will be considered to make various Best lists. The place in the suburbs doesn't really stand a chance.

                                                                              Take this on the world scale, and you will see just how limited that list is. It claims to be the Best, but it is all buzz and hype, even if the places mentioned serve great food. So much else doesn't even come under consideration, and the world traveler will still not understand what it's like to eat locally after visiting these places.

                                                                              That's why Chowhound exists, to blow away the media buzz and see what's really out there. The idea of a 'Best' list is a sham, and people will claim to have eaten at the World's Best Restaurants. There is no such thing. Leave it for the sheep.

                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                in an ideal world yes. there will always be sifting and filtering involved. I use the 'Best' lists to start crossing those (ok usu. those) off the list. so they ARE helpful that way.

                                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                                    Steve
                                                                                    Let me start by saying I completely get your point. I would try both restaurants in your example. Which would I end up visiting more often would depend on which was closer to where I lived to be honest.

                                                                                    The thing that your point of view doesn’t recognize enough is the bias of the audience/readers. Yes, the judges for each of these lists have their personal biases and points of reference. That’s also true of the readers of the lists. The lists we’re pointing out as examples are written in English directed at a largely English speaking audience. What else do you expect other than it to be biased in the euro direction? But my guess is that a list in published in another place written in the local language directed at the audience that understands that language will have its own biases.

                                                                                    Many people are most comfortable with cuisines that have touchstones to their own food. It’s not that people are sheep. Familiarity is very important. One of my buddies that grew up in the mid-west is very vary of even chinese-american food. He’s a real meat and potatoes kind of guy. Similarly, I have Asian-american friends whose parents refuse to eat most American food because it seems weird to them. Wariness of other cultures food is not a euro only trait.

                                                                                    There was a recent article in the NYT that went over the curious fact that some of the most successful “ethnic” restaurants are run by people who are not ethnic. I think these places are successful because they can translate the cuisine so that it appeals to a larger audience. They’re business people after all. Sure it’s not “authentic” and won’t appeal as much to the CH crowd. So what? People go and eat there and are happy. You can rail against the injustice of it all and why won’t the sheep go to the place that’s serving real food from wherever. That’s just the way things are.

                                                                                    I get where you are coming from. I live in NYC. When the first Olive Garden opened up here, I said who in the world would go there with all the great Italian options we have in the city? Well now there are multiple branches and they are all packed. It seems for many people, Italian food means something swamped in alfredo sauce and endless salad bar. You couldn’t get these people to touch carpaccio. So I shrug and move on and not let it bother me that these people choose OG when there are so many other options. Means that I’m not fighting them for a seat in my favorite places.

                                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                      I fully understand how they get the results they do and why they do it. It's the hype and the nonsense that follows I object to. Imagine a 'foodie' traveling around the world, ignoring all kinds of disparate experiences only to eat at yet another European-approved trope.

                                                                              2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                Glad to hear of your experiences and eating forays. I commend you on using the term "Asian" in the pan-continent sense, as opposed to the much narrower blinkered view you alluded to.

                                                                                I guess we will disagree about Ssam.

                                                                                As for cuisines having outside influences, *of course* that is true, and nothing I have said denies that. Nor do I have this "hostility" to all such influences as you suggest I do. The issue here is that no "traditional" or "classic", if you will, cuisines from non-European locales - or restaurants which are not "Westernized" in significant ways - appear to make it onto such "best of" lists such as this San Pellegrino Top 50 list, at least lists published by Western-based organizations with Western biases.

                                                                                Perhaps you might also look at the comments I made in response to Harters' post above.

                                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                  "True purity and authenticity of all "original" foods would have prevented the food that we love so much from ever being created. All cuisines have outside influences. What's wrong with that?"

                                                                                  in a way I get what you're saying Bk, if one stopped and tried to parse what regions (whether by trade or politics) Imperial China influenced and how in turn it was influenced, one would end up as confused as Oedipa Maas in 'The Crying of Lot 49'

                                                                                  life's just a 2-way street.

                                                                          2. re: Bkeats

                                                                            One of the worst restaurant meals of my life was at the three-star Lameloise in Burgundy. The service was insufferable, and the food inedible (literally -- chunks of tendon-fillled, unchewable lamb). We were living in the Black Forest and eating in France every Saturday. Most of our meals, from simple places to three-stars were wonderful. Lameloise was a total bust, and the most expensive meal of all. Sometimes you don't get what you pay for.

                                                      2. A James Beard dinner at the American in Kansas City. Chefs from all over the country including Celine Tio, Rick Tramanto, John Besh, Barbra Lynch, and more. Robert Mondavi's daughter did wine pairing for the 10 courses. $250 and worth every penny.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: tseptember

                                                            I'm from Kansas but now living in Lexington, KY.

                                                            The American is in KCMO.

                                                            1. re: chileheadmike

                                                              Welcome to Lexington, and sorry about that whole National Championship thing. It's just what we do here.

                                                        1. Are you equating expensive with good? When I read your post my mind went to a very expensive dinner we had in Brussels and now I can't even remember what we ate---I remember the street and the restaurant but, the food???? But the most delicious thing I ever ate anywhere in the world, which I will never forget, was a thick spicy brown bean soup at a dive in Amsterdam.

                                                          1. In the mid-1990s, I ate some dim sum in a hotel in Guangzhou, China. It cost about $40 USD for only six small plates. While not an enormous sum for an American back then, that amount was about 70% of the average *monthly* wage for a Chinese worker. Tasty, but not worth it.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: raytamsgv

                                                              I'll bet you could have stepped outside and gotten pretty much the same thing, only better, for about $4, or maybe less.

                                                              1. re: johnb

                                                                I know, but I had to entertain an old family friend at a prestigious location.

                                                            2. When I'm dining with my parents in the group, or when I was with my ex-husband, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the total, since they're picking it up. Probably the most expensive was at NOLA in New Orleans with my now-ex-husband in 2005. I don't even remember what we ate, and I don't remember the total after all these years, but the service was jaw-droppingly great compared to anywhere I'd been before.

                                                              1. 1. Per Se, NYC, hands down the best meal I've ever had the pleasure of eating... the entire experience was memorable and everything from the service to the view and china, stemware, etc. was top notch. $1200 for 2 people at lunch. 3.5 hrs. Half of the cost was wine.

                                                                2. Alinea, Chicago. Worth it? Yes, but a little bit too over-the-top for me personally. All the theatrics were somewhat distracting.

                                                                3. Agape Substance, Paris. Amazing! It was ALL about the food here and that made for a truly delicious experience. Added bonus - I was in Paris. :)

                                                                1. On my first trip to Paris, in August 1995, my premier dinner was at Laurent off the Champs-Elysees. The most I'd ever spent for a meal, around $150, but very well worth it. I had a superb main course of lamb rack with tapenade, and a fabulous bottle of 1989 St. Emiion. Don't remember the starter or the desert.

                                                                  Another spendy meal was a few years later in Vienna at Korso. Chef's tasting menu with Austrian wines. A real experience. Likely around $125.

                                                                  I have a friend who has the same birthday and we regularly would go out for "lavish" birthday meals. One year we dined at the Windsor Court in New Orleans and I think the tab, with tip and wine, came to $400. We never topped that!

                                                                  1. Just under $700 for two (including tax and tip) for the tasting menu at Atelier Crenn in
                                                                    San Francisco. Worth every damn penny, and then some. Incredible meal.

                                                                    1. Probably the full tasting at Guy Savoy, LV, that ran about US 1,400 with the wines for two. Worth it? Yes, at least to us.

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        Did it at lunch with the internet special, thus the full menu, plus 3 bottles of wine ran 710 euros, which at that time equates to $ 980

                                                                      2. Dh & I hired the retired butler of Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick http://www.millicentfenwick.com/
                                                                        to provide a five course meal in our home for our anniversary. At the end of Walter's service to Millicent he retired into a semi-catering operation, in full butler attire, to provide brunch or dinner menus to private clients. Walter arrived on time, with two charming baskets in his arms of what became our meal, prepared entirely in our home kitchen. Joined us for an after dinner cocktail, shared some hilarious stories and off into the night sky he went. Read a few years later that he had passed away. Walter's meal and service has never come close to being duplicated by any fine restaurant we've ever had the pleasure to know. PRICELESS.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. Urasawa, 2 ppl + 1 bottle of wine ~1100
                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/801540

                                                                          For me - absolutely. For someone less into traditional kaiseki type meals, even the average sushi enthusiast..maybe not.

                                                                          Though everything I ate at Urasawa was the absolute best version I've ever had. The discrepancy in quality between just a piece of maguro there vs. another very good spot would not warrant the price difference.

                                                                          You're also paying for presentation - gold flake, hand carved ice sculptures, and probably more caviar than should ever be put on a spoon.

                                                                          I wouldn't trade it for the world, but it's not for everyone.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Rodzilla

                                                                            Ha. My reaction to your caviar comment: Shut your mouth! But I was taught that greediness in caviar eating was a good thing. =)

                                                                          2. Last February at Per Se, the 5.5 hours extended lunch l had with one bottle of wine cost me as a single $ 665. l tried to convince the others at the table to do credit card roulette but to no avail. Most expensive meal for two, a couple, was at Alinea in 2010, that one with two full tastings, two cheap (ha) wine pairings, coffee for one, tax and tip was $ 1070.
                                                                            Urasawa early in 2013 hopefully.

                                                                            1. La Pergola atop the Cavilieri Hilton

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                a toss up the first and probably most expensive - not sure of the exact cost was when mom first maid the million dollar sales goal in real estate she said I am buying so I get to pick so we had dinner for 5 at Inn at Little Washington - virgina all I know about the price was Dad said never again my picking up the tab would be Che Francais Great Falls - I think at that time it was 55 for the flat rate dinner plus a glass of wine - without wine - lunch at taberna del albacedro (sp) dc bought the 45 d ollar seafood paella

                                                                              2. Man, I hate this economy. I miss hideously expensive meals in Europe. We have many meals that were more than 500 euros or 350 pounds.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                  We had dinner at La Pergola in Rome and lunch at Le Cinq in Paris. Without a doubt, Le Cinq was the most special meal we've ever shared. I believe it turned out to be around $700 for the two of us. The food,service, and setting (those floral displays! ) made it worth every cent. We still talk about that lunch and remember the staff so fondly.

                                                                                  La Pergola was about the same amount. Although there were lovely components of the evening...like the bread service, lovely views, and Grand Dessert...I didn't think it held a candle to Le Cinq and wasn't really worth the price.

                                                                                  Le Cinq is the place that I tell everyone they must experience once in their lifetime.

                                                                                2. We ate once at The Edge in Rodney Bay St Lucia, which is a lovely open air restaurant right on the bay. I got eaten alive by mosquitos, but while they were dining on me, I had one of the best meals of my life. I don't remember what we ate, but the combination of flavors, presentation, company and ambiance made it worth every penny.

                                                                                  1. A few years back at Masa in NYC- with Masa himself right in front of us serving us everything and anything plus champagne etc. $1601 for two. Been to Alinea for the 24 courses and Per Se for dinner before a la carte and somehow didn't get close to this.