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At what point does the price of a meal overcome value?

Just wondering how important the quality of a meal is compared to the cost. For me, I ALWAYS go for quality and originality first. Where do you stand?

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  1. first, i need to know whether this meal will be paid for by an expense account or will I, personally, be paying for it.

    secondly, does the meal have a secondary purpose? close a deal? make time with a new romantic interest? celebration with a large party?

    the most "pure" meals are those that i go to alone, pay for myself, with the sole purpose of having wonderful food (my taste ONLY counts).

    1. Great meals need not be really expensive. But cheap meals are rarely great. Tasty, sure...but not great.

      The company has a lot to do with the wonderfulness of the meal.

      1. I have an obsession about where foods are sourced from and how fresh they actually are. I have to have quality and I am willing to pay for it. To me a great chef is one who can preserve the integrity of the foods he works with by serving them in as close to their natural state as possible. As unadulterated as possible. Allow the food to speak for itself.

        21 Replies
        1. re: MamasCooking

          I literally could not care less about cost. For me a meal is about expectations. A great meal is a meal that far surpasses my expectation. I've been pleasantly surprised by 4 or 5 restaurants in the area, usually because of a few basic details. Proper seasoning which seems rare now-a-days, presentation, and cooking to proper temp especially fish.

          Here is one aspect of dining that confuses me. Why is value (in my area) directly tied to portion size? For me, I despise microwaved food. Additionally, if I can't finish my food, I've clearly been given to much. Why should I have to over serve my guests to give perceived value?

          1. re: Mattromine

            I am in N California right on the northern tip of the growing belt (San Joaquin Valley)near Lodi which is wine country. I have enough disposable income that I can pay for what I want or need but other food lovers may not have that privilege and so equate large portions sizes with high quality. Who knows? I am usually so preoccupied with sleuthing out the details about my own foods I rarely pay attention to what others are doing:)If you are in the Great Lakes area I assume you must have access to a lot of local fish then? Fresh fish I can only dream of out here:)

            1. re: MamasCooking

              Actually, you'd be surprised! The only access I have to lake fish is spotty right now and is basically limited to lake trout, ruby trout, perch, walleye and whitefish. It really depends on the day if those varieties are available. Right now we utilize a locally farmed rainbow trout (4 miles from restaurant) and we bring it in live which is amazing! You can't even catch and eat fish this fresh unless you eat it on the boat :-) currently I am working with the health dept and local agencies to allow us to use many foraged plants and wild edibles, but it seems to be problematic in my area.

              All these add to the value I place in my food.

              1. re: Mattromine

                I agree on foraging. My late FIL foraged everything. I forage wild blackberries. The fish situation is very fortunate and having any access to fresh lake fish is wonderful. Good for the body and great for the soul to eat like that! Decades ago when I was a kid in the late 60's we had access to so much good natural food here in California. Now I have to *hunt* it down:) Do you cook also? I just discovered Hank Shaw's blog online and plan to order some of his books about :hunter/angler/forager/gardener and cook!!!!

            2. re: Mattromine

              "I literally could not care less about cost."

              So a thousand dollar dinner for two would be fine? How nice for you.

              1. re: c oliver

                Yeah, I was wondering where the OP lives. I don't have the luxury to not care at all about cost.

                1. re: LeoLioness

                  actually with that statement, you may be surprised to hear that I live in Imlay City, MI, a small town of approx 5000, most of which are low to middle class. I certainly do not have an excess of money. I am a chef, so when i eat out, cost is not an issue. actually c oliver, I ate at alinea in chicago in september, which was over $500 per person. wine pairings alone were over $200 per person. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Service like you can't even imagine. Mind boggling dishes like duck 5-ways served with a platter 60 garnishes.... all of which are made "molecularly" and which is a sole persons only job to create. I certainly appreciate and can relate with the sheer number of hours and precision required to create that dish. In addition, i had a meal at AOC in copenhagen while i was a stagier at NOMA, which was over $250 and was equally amazing.

                  The key is that when i dine, I DINE. I only do it on occasion and i look for insane quality and originality.

                   
                   
                   
                   
                  1. re: Mattromine

                    Please believe me when I say good for you. Sincerely. I just can't get my brain around that kind of money. And more power to you if that's what floats your boat :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      obviously that type of meal is not for the casual diner. But the service is UNBELIEVABLE. Honestly, it is like a choreographed dance. To serve 15-20+ courses, minutes apart and with the precision they have is incredible. most often, the restaurant with incredibly high prices actually lose money because of the sheer amount of man power required to produce the dishes. El Bulli, if you are unfamiliar, was the worlds best restaurant many times, are single handedly responsible for "modernist" cuisine, and LOST money for something like 8 straight years.

                      as you said, whatever floats your boat

                      1. re: Mattromine

                        Our splurge in Barcelona last year was Tickets Bar, the first of the new Adria places. "Only" 150 Euros (that's a lot for us) and worth every dime. So, yeah, I get it; I just can't bring myself to do it :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          it can be nerve-racking :) but i love it!! just out of curiosity.... what did you have at tickets??

                          heres a photo of myself and twin brother with Ferran Adria in the kitchen of NOMA. It was crazy to meet him. He is a kitchen god :)

                           
                          1. re: Mattromine

                            Here ya go!

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/878068

                            Somewhere I have a picture of us with Albert, who was there that night.

                        2. re: Mattromine

                          Is Alinea a tasting-menu-only restaurant? It sounds like it from your description...

                          If so my honest opinion has always been that the service you might get at a tasting-menu-only restaurant isn't particularly impressive, because by virtue of the fact that every part of the meal can be planned and rehearsed ad nauseam by the staff, they can probably repeat it with fairly high precision. When you're doing exactly the same thing, again and again, you can get very accurate at it - and it also eliminates many of the variables and unknowns that can affect less-structured meals. Service at such places may be very polished, but at least for me it would be hard for it to reach the level of the unbelievable.

                          I think it's a LOT more impressive when the staff can deliver a first-rate experience in a completely a la carte environment, or one that offers a mix of that and fixed-menu options, where what different diners may be asking for, when, could be wildly variable.

                          If we take the "dinner as theatre" example that was given (although to be honest the idea of going to dinner as theatre to me sounds like a strange concept), then one might say the former (fixed-menu) might be the equivalent of a virtuoso Shakespeare performance. The latter might then be the equivalent of delivering a Shakespeare-quality play - as an *improv* performance. The first I'd think of as merely being professional. The second I'd think of as unmitigated genius.

                          1. re: AlexRast

                            If the service is perfect, how can it be more perfect? If it takes more effort on the part of the staff, so what? I don't get what you're saying.

                            1. re: AlexRast

                              When I think of the concept of dinner as "theatre", I am not just thinking of staff performance (although that contributes), I am thinking more of the environment of the restaurant, getting dressed up, having an interactive experience with the staff and not simply being "served". The "flow" over several hours. How much improv vs rehearsed performance of the staff is nothing I have ever considered, if it goes well.

                              1. re: AlexRast

                                You're getting a little carried away with the analogy. The theater comes from the chef's vision and presentation. There may be a theme that ties several dishes together or added sensory elements that may set the mood that aren't necessarily going to be part of a meal in a different type of restaurant. Some elements are fanciful, others provide a real enhancement.

                                The way the service figures in has a little to do with rehearsal/training but is still based in the common elements that all good service reflects, although attentiveness is the key. When you have so many courses , you really need to be on top of your game because each table works at its own pace. You don't want to rush anyone but you also don't want there to be too great a lag between courses, so you need to communicate effectively with the chefs.

                                Case in point, I attended a meal at a tasting menu restaurant with about ten people. A waiter came out to confirm everyone's dietary restrictions (about 3 or 4 variations among the 10 diners) as well as the level of spicing for certain dishes. There were about 4 servers attending to our table and they never rushed any course, and delivered each (visually indistinguishable) dish to the right diner flawlessly. That only happens when you're dealing with people who know what they're doing, fixed menu or not.

                                1. re: ferret

                                  I realise that the analogy to theatre isn't intended to be exact. I apologise also if by then casting a further analogy to theatre people were confused. I have an INCREDIBLY difficult time giving examples because, fundamentally, I don't work by example, and don't understand illustration by example. It seems therefore that every time I attempt to give an example to others (recognising that a lot of people DO work by example), they're either misunderstood by being applied too specifically, or misunderstood by being applied too generally - even though I never seem to be able to see how they're different in any way from examples other people give - which nobody ever seems to confuse with respect to the degree of specificity being illustrated therein. Any pointers, anyone?

                                  Back to the question of service at a tasting-menu-only place. My experience is that such forms of highly structured service, where the courses come out in exact, pre-set sequence, offer little or no opportunity for the staff to be able to display initiative or the ability to adapt to unexpected situations, special requests, and other cases when things are more variable. That to me is a test that is required in order to be able to think of the service as great.

                                  The other thing, which I'll admit is personal, is that my experience is that service in such places inevitably ends up slightly generic and mechanical, from the simple fact that the staff are repeating the same thing over and over. They may be quite *personable*, that's not what I mean, it's just that the steps and actions are so clearly rehearsed that you feel like you're being dealt with by a troupe of actors rather than real people. Don't misunderstand, I personally don't expect that people treat me as a long-lost friend or close family member - I'm not. There's always going to be a certain level of impersonality in that sense. The point is rather, that I'm not likely to commend the staff particularly strongly, on the basis of service, at an establishment where the type of service you're going to get has (probably) been intricately choreographed in advance.

                                  1. re: AlexRast

                                    I don't know where you have been, but most of the tasting menu places I've been to know how to cater to differences among the diners. As ferret pointed out, there are places that will ask each diner their preferences. Dishes will be tailored to those parameters. If some thing is off, the staff will notice it and inquire as to whether something is wrong. If it is, they will swiftly act to correct it if possible. We've actually had conversations with these supposed human like automatons. Didn't get canned responses from them either.

                                    I remember one evening at EMP where I had a great conversation with the wine somm. Based on what we talked about, she said that she wanted me to try a wine that she said might be risky but she thought we would like it. She was wrong. We didn't like it, we loved it. Great service in a temple of dining theater.

                                    I've actually moved away from tasting menus as I am finding it less enjoyable to spend 3-4 hours on a meal. But to think that such a professionally trained staff can't react to something out of the script? Really? As though your local no name spot will be more likely to do a better job when your server shows up and says with a big grin "what's up guys?"

                                    Its ok not to like the whole tasting menu milieu, but to damn it because the service is not capable of dealing with individual diners' needs seems odd to me.

                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                      You've ignored the remainder of my post. You presume the process to be mechanical because the courses are decided in advance. The timing of these courses is controlled by the diners, not the servers, and many require immediate presentation (they're not sitting in a warming drawer waiting for the server to lazily meander to the kitchen). And there is also frequently the requirement that some elements do not conform to certain tastes/dietary restrictions. It's incumbent on the server to ensure that these requirements are met and the service of each dish is timed to the diner's pace. If it appears mechanical it's because someone (or rather a team of people) is working well and in synch.

                            2. re: Mattromine

                              I guess that answers my question to you about do you also cook:)? And BTW picture #3 looks like museum art!
                              How fun and amazing that all looks. Good for you.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            Reminds me of a suggestion I once heard - when asking for restaurant suggestions, be sure to question if they are being made from someone speaking from a business expense vs. personal payment basis. Many (most?) times, business expense dining doesn't match up to quality.

                      2. The cost doesn't matter to me much when I choose a place or order the food. It comes into play as to how I feel about going back. If I don't think I got a good value (regardless of price) then I won't go back. The same applies to a 200 dollar meal or a dollar taco. Value is a very subjective thing.

                        1. I can give you a firm answer to this question. No single serving meal is worth more than about $20 to me. Most of my all time favorite things to eat won't break $5. A bowl of Chinese sesame noodles. A taco al pastor from the stand down the street. A perfectly griddled onion burger at a good diner. A meal that costs $20 better be 10x as good as that $2 taco al pastor or it's a waste in my opinion.

                          29 Replies
                            1. re: RealMenJulienne

                              I totally respect this position, but totally disagree with it at the same time.

                              "Value" to "cost" ratio for any commodity is never a linear. If you expect a $20 meal to be 10x better than a $2 taco, you will always be disappointed. I cannot get a plate of pasta cooked correctly for $2 anywhere. I can get brilliant al pastor for $2 in a number of places. It also brings up the issue of location. Food in Mexico is cheaper than in the US. And certainly al pastor is better in Mexico. So how do we reconcile the increased US price for an often inferior taco? Is the US $2 al pastor taco a waste if the MX $1 al pastor taco is actually better? Hmmm.

                              But like I said, I love you point of view on this topic.

                              1. re: cacio e pepe

                                Good point, and it's true that we all have different points of diminishing returns. For me the point where incremental return is no longer worth it is in theory around $20 and in practice usually around $10. It's very rare that I've had a $20 meal which I consider to be worth the cost.

                                By the way, I regularly enjoy $2 plates of perfectly cooked pasta by making it myself at home. All the price mark-ups that restaurants tack on for rent, service, atmosphere, etc. are non-value adds for me.

                                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                  So you must always eat at home. Because those numbers are insane in today's food market.

                                  1. re: Mattromine

                                    For example, in my restaurant we serve a hamburger for $12. That hamburger is completely handmade. We dry age the beef, grind the beef, make the bun from scratch using sourdough and wild yeast, make the ketchup make the mayonnaise make the steak sauce, hand cut the fries, make the pickle and use all local produce. We literally make no money on this burger. Not to mention the 3 year aged local cheddar at $16 per pound wholesale cost

                                    1. re: Mattromine

                                      For me, I cook that way at home- grassfed meats, handmade condiments, etc. I wouldn't go out and buy it. I tend to go out for very high end or very low end. I tend to skip the middle.
                                      High end when traveling for fun, low end around my town, middle at home.

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        I do understand that and also agree for the most part. I don't really intentionally go to "middle of the road" places unless of course I am invited by others. My choice is the occasional super fine restaurant

                                        1. re: Mattromine

                                          Then I don't understand your comment about your burger.

                                          What I am saying, your burger might not be worth it to me, but a 2 dollar taco might be. That it has quality ingredients or that the restaurant loses money on it, is not of consequence to me and my perception of value.

                                          BTW, interesting topic :)

                                        2. re: sedimental

                                          A burger is usually the one reasonable priced item on a entree dish for cost of food to price asked.

                                          That burger sounds good! Made me hungry lol

                                      2. re: Mattromine

                                        Sounds like he eats more "street food" out and cooks more expensive food at home. I do that a lot as well.

                                        I tend to eat high end when on trips. I also go to "food cities" for weekends frequently-Vegas, Portland, Napa area, San Fran, and closer to my home -Vancouver BC and Seattle. I spend much, much more then -and I value it more than when I am just grabbing a bite because I am too tired or too late to cook.

                                        It's not just about the food, sometimes it is the situation, your mood or environment that affects perceived value.

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          Sedimental, I think "high-end" is a bit nebulous, though. What is high-end versus mid-range? I think of myself as a big fan of mid-range restaurants, but would others consider them high-end, low-end, etc., based on the price point? Probably.

                                          1. re: cacio e pepe

                                            I guess I mean a restaurant where almost everyone would agree it was "high end". Prix fixe, tasting menus, wine pairings on offer, small plates, multiple courses, etc. not simply or *only*price point. At a high end place, you are getting value in the experience, service, atmosphere, presentation, in addition to the rest.

                                        2. re: Mattromine

                                          "All the price mark-ups that restaurants tack on for rent, service, atmosphere, etc. are non-value adds for me."

                                          Let me repeat my earlier statement in response to your inquiry, Mattromine.

                                          If i eat out, 9 times out of 10 it's to fulfill social obligations. Otherwise I'd much rather cook and eat at home.

                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                            I'm with you on the 9 out of ten. I like my food enough that restaurants don't entice me much

                                        3. re: RealMenJulienne

                                          Sure, pasta is one of the things that I can cook well. Depending on the dish, I can get the price down to $2 a plate, easy. But it is absolutely worth it to me to pay $20 for a pasta dish that is prepared beautifully with excellent ingredients. That's where we differ, though. I find that restaurants *can* offer value add-ons.

                                          Now when I pay $20 for a dish that I know very well that I could prepare better with ease and much more cheaply, then I certainly feel ripped off.

                                          1. re: cacio e pepe

                                            Yes, that is where cooking skills really come into play. For some, there are not many mid range american restaurants that can compete with our home kitchen, so the value is rarely there.

                                            1. re: sedimental

                                              Just tacking this on here and not really directing it you, s :)

                                              Below is a link to a favorite restaurant. They make almost everything from scratch, source a ton locally, etc. I consider the menu "mid range" but wonder if others do. I'll also say that we don't order things like steak when we go out (like our own) so that keeps us from the very top of their prices. But I'd like to know if others think this menu (in Reno not NYC or SF) is high end or mid range?

                                              http://camporeno.com/menus/

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Mid range for what I can see, but it is a nice touch that they offer an inexpensive tasting menu.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  I think mid range also and the quality of the food and the preparation and the service are top notch. So you don't have to spend a ton of money to get really superb food. But it's alright to :)

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Yes, I agree. I don't think I have seen anyone on this thread suggest you have to spend much money to get great food.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      And for me, I probably wouldn't go to that restaurant much. It wouldn't have value for me. I can make many of those things on the menu at home and most of the menu is not unique enough. That is NOT to suggest that the food isn't great.

                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                        While I CAN and DO make pasta, I don't make it all that often and I NEVER make charcuterie (even though I have a book!) ............................... I just went back to their menu and realize that I make very little of what they make :) So that must be part of the reason. Their VPN pizza oven is reason enough!

                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                    I consider that mid-range and I'm happy to eat at places like that often. I would most likely gravitate towards dishes that are time consuming since I'd be less likely to make them. For instance, I'd opt for the wild boar ragu rather than the spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil. One I can make, but requires a significant amount of time and energy to source the ingredients and prepare. The other I could probably make well while drunk.

                                                    1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                      And I probably have :) 'Course they do make ALL their pastas inhouse. I'm having trouble expressing myself in the context of this thread. I guess there are just too many factors so price and quality are two but other things come into play. Interesting thread.

                                                  3. re: sedimental

                                                    "Yes, that is where cooking skills really come into play."

                                                    Very much agree, combined with time available at hand and who you are eating with, the value fluctuates daily, well, even during a meal.

                                                    1. re: Kurtis

                                                      I'd agree mid range. Standard for any Italian restaurant that is shooting for any modern twist. I spent time in a restaurant with a nearly identical menu in Birmingham mi. Not to knock it in any way.

                                                      Btw everyone, just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for all of the great comments. All valid in their own rights

                                            2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                              My (entree) price point is also about $20. Beyond that, it's a sign the portions will be so large as to make me ill. (I'll never understand paying a premium for reheated left overs.)

                                              1. re: Clams047

                                                Clam: You may be right in some cases but in my experience like out here in Malibu you need a wheelbarrow of cash to pay for your meal and a magnifying glass to see it.

                                            3. I don't judge food by the cost. Like most people, the more expensive it is, the less likely I am to consume it. So if someone gives me a tip on something delicious and cheap, that is more valuable to me than a rec for an upscale, pricey meal.

                                              Cheap, humble food can make the most rewarding meal on the planet.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Sure, cheap humble food can be extremely satisfying, but there are lots of new experiences out there. You can live your whole life eating peasant foods (as most peasants did) but every now and then exploring other options can be rewarding too. A $200 meal is clearly not an everyday thing, or even an every month thing, but sometimes those meals are a "value" in the sense that it's an experience that can't be replicated anywhere else.

                                                I'll have a $5 shawarma sandwich for a regular weeknight meal, a nicer meal on the weekend with the wife and every once in a while we'll splurge on a special event. Each of those experiences gives me value in context.

                                                1. re: ferret

                                                  Are you responding to me? Because I did not put down the $200 experience nor do I claim it is not a value.

                                                2. You ask two different questions.

                                                  Your first question -- from the title of your post -- asks "at what point does the price of a meal overcome value". The answer for me, is that the price of a meal overcomes its value when I have to ask that very question. To paraphrase a very famous philosopher ... "If I doubt, then I'm probably overspending."

                                                  Your second question -- from the body of your post -- asks what is it I prefer more, quality or originality. While I think the two attributes are often interrelated, if I have to choose one over the other, it would be quality. There are, of course, exceptions if you take that answer to the extreme.

                                                  There you go.

                                                  32 Replies
                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Definitely quality over originality. No contest.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      Really? "No contest"?

                                                      Consider a quality ingredient such as A5 Wagyu Beef versus Prime Beef.

                                                      So you say you always ("no contest" always) want quality over originality? Then in your world you would take a dish of the A5 Wagyu Beef boiled and served as is over a dish of the Prime Beef prepared as tartare with a splash of ponzu and diced Fuji apples.

                                                      Maybe in your world. Not mine.

                                                      No contest.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        To quote you:

                                                        " There are, of course, exceptions if you take that answer to the extreme."

                                                        Glad you agree with me. Again.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          It's good that you listen to me. For once.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Oh, sheesh, and all this time I thought you were the one who generally listens to me :)

                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                          I'll go for quality every time, like c oliver. Originality is welcome when I find it but it's neither necessary, nor in my opinion, does it increase the upper limit on what quality is obtainable. I think quality and originality are completely orthogonal as characteristics, that is that they are *entirely* un-interrelated. A plain, completely traditional dish can be every bit as good as something extremely original and creative. In the *market* however, there is a relationship - because at least with respect to the restaurant trade, the types of places that have the market position to be able to get the ingredients and staffing to prepare the best quality tend to come with a customer expectation of originality as well.

                                                          BUT, it must be understood what quality actually *means*. Quality isn't just about the intrinsic quality of the raw ingredients, it's also about sensitivity of preparation. You can ruin great ingredients with poor preparation just as easily as you can elevate average ingredients with inspired preparation.

                                                          In your scenario, in fact, it rather depends upon what part of the cow the A5 Wagyu was from. It also must be said that an "ordinary" (I assume you mean USDA) Prime beef could have just as high of an absolute quality, if it had been raised by a farmer who put every effort into flavour, so that it was just bursting with beefiness. Meanwhile if the A5 Wagyu in this case was a rib or sirloin, it would be a poor preparation choice to boil it in the first place - they'd be much better as a steak or roast.

                                                          But all that aside. your hypothetical A5 Wagyu boiled could indeed be noble indeed, if it were from a part of the animal like the chuck. "Boiling" in this context would be understood as at a gentle simmer, possibly in stock, rather than thrown into a pot at a rolling boil, which would just be a silly waste and an example of insensitive preparation. And in the case of a gentle boiling of a chuck, then yes, I've no doubt which I'd choose, if we take your proposition that this A5 Wagyu is *in this case* better than its opposing Prime beef as true.

                                                          However back to the original subject. The point where the price of the meal overcomes value is quite simple - and it's not a fixed number - it's simply when for you it costs more that how much you think it's actually worth (how much it's worth is NOT the same as your estimation of what the supplier's or restauranteur's cost was, by the way, but how much value it gives to you). That may sound very tautological but this is how it's supposed to work. People price things as they see fit, others may buy or buy at their discretion, with the assumption built in that the price they pay is equal to or lower than the value they receive.

                                                          There certainly are some things that I do think are priced for me out of any proportion to the value received. Top-end wines are the most notable example. In a restaurant context, I find that somewhere about the £150/€180/$250 range is where I would absolutely hit the limit. I did a cost computation from the point of view of a restauranteur and arrived at the result that £100 is about the limit on what a restaurant meal could be expected to cost per person, not including wine, in order to make enough profit to stay in business, if it took an obsessive hard line on quality and went for the ultimate in everything they do. Which is, not coincidentally, more or less exactly what you end up with for the very best restaurants in London. Another way of saying, by and large, you're getting what you're paying for - very few restaurants at least at the high end are genuinely ripping people off. It's actually more likely in the midrange, particularly in tourist cities, where there are a plethora of restaurants offering very mediocre at prices which, from an absolute standpoint, might actually seem reasonably affordable but from a point of view of value received you quickly realise that you're paying dearly for something dismal.

                                                          1. re: AlexRast

                                                            That is quite the thorough response! I agree 100%.

                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Wagyu beef is no better a quality ingredient than tongue.

                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                              It's all subjective. As he stated a product that is generally refered to as sub-par (tongue), treated w care, can outshine products that are superior grade (wagyu). In this case however you're comparing apples to oranges. If you said tongue is no better than spleen or kidney I may agree.

                                                              1. re: Mattromine

                                                                People may not like tongue, just like people might not like foie gras or truffles, but there is no basis for anyone to think it's sub-par.

                                                              2. re: Steve

                                                                But Tongue? What? It's already been in somebody's mouth...

                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                  Haha! It is great though! When done properly it is so tender and flavorful!

                                                                  For some reason many of us are cultured to believe that offal are weird; bits we shouldn't eat. There certainly is nothing wrong with them. They are some of my favorite parts. One thing I don't understand.... Why are we so quick to waste them? Lots of hungry people out there

                                                                  1. re: Mattromine

                                                                    I have eaten a lot of offal growing up traveling and living in the Middle East. I don't like most of it in general. I do like tongue and liver pate. Otherwise, most has a texture I don't care for and the flavor is stronger and has an off flavor to me. Poor Americans have the same opinion of offal as the wealthy. Maybe if it was made into pate, it would be popular in the food banks. Seriously, it wouldn't be that hard to do!

                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                      I disagree. If treated properly I believe liver is the most off putting by far. It's the one organ that gives the rest a bad rap. As a whole, offal is certainly stronger in flavor and is sometimes texturally challenging. In the hands of a skilled chef however some of the best bites. In my opinion anyway. Every single day at my restaurant we break down barriers of food with people. Be it pigs brain or trout kidneys, they are DELICIOUS if prepared w care

                                                                      1. re: Mattromine

                                                                        They are delicious to YOU. Please don't be offended if some people don't care for the taste or texture of some foods. Sometimes it has nothing to do with being prepared with care, it is about individual taste preferences.

                                                                        Nothing is more obnoxious in a chef than insistence that everyone must like everything they serve if it is " prepared with care ".

                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                          Of course, it is mostly a question of conditioning. Most folks who don't like offal are conditioned that way, just like a meat-and-potatoes eater is conditioned to find seafood nauseating. And a lifelong vegetarian might find the taste or smell of meat* nauseating.

                                                                          *Bacon excluded, of course.

                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                            I really do think that a lot of the offal avoidance is due to conditioning. And since there are a lot of different textures, it can't just be that. But I like goose and duck liver but not chicken liver. And I've tried and tried.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              Absolutely! As with most odd food, cultural and mental barriers are the most difficult barriers to overcome. For example, insects disgust me but after being urged to try bee larvae, fermented grasshoppers and live ants I found them to be delicious, sustainable and nutritious. Now live ants still gross me out but it's because I have been trained to not eat ants. Flavor was great though

                                                                          2. re: sedimental

                                                                            That was never said, but I guarantee that I treat each product with far more care and attention than most and that is my point. Honestly though, care is a huge piece of the quality of your meal and most people cooking professionally do not care. They only want a paycheck.

                                                                            I find your persistent argumentative attitude to be obnoxious actually. It seems that your objective here is simply to argue.

                                                                            1. re: Mattromine

                                                                              hmmm... Then I think you've missed sedimental's point altogether. I'll use my own likes and dislikes as an example. I simply abhor tripe and brains. A bad childhood experience and concern over mad cow disease are the basis. There is no amount of care or flawlessly executed preparation put forth by any master chef on this planet that can induce me to put either brains or tripe into my mouth! So there are times when great cooking ability and loving/caring preparation just don't now and will never be factors, no matter how hard a chef may try. I suspect this is an inflexible fact across the board and has nothing to do with anyone being argumentative. Agreed? I mean, there are some things in cooking that you just don't do. You just don't invite devout Moslems or Jews to dinner and serve roast pork. Nor do you invite devout Hindus for prime rib. And if you want to make points, you do not invite me to dinner and serve tripe OR brains! '-)

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                I believe that one point Mattromine is making is that our dislikes, and likes also for that matter, may be rational or irrational. And there's nothing wrong with that. I've never eaten balut or durian and am really turned off by the thought of eating either one. But that's the irrational part of me speaking. It seems that lumping tripe and brains in the same pot :) is the irrational part. Their taste and texture are completely different. I think bringing religious dietary rules into the conversation muddies the discussion unnecessaryly. IMO of course.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  Food likes and dislikes can be "all of the above". My point, is that it is obnoxious for others to insist that a customer would like it if it was "prepared with care". I do not believe that statement is true. YMMV of course.

                                                                                  For me, I have had much care in offal preparation for me. I grew up in Turkey, Persian chefs can prepare things with care. I don't care for it. I can't speak for others, but I think it is okay to have a difference in taste and it not be "mental" or "irrational". I am not arguing, I am just stating my opinion and experiences.

                                                                                  1. re: sedimental

                                                                                    I just pulled out my copy of Odd Bits which includes a fair amount of offal. A partial list is bone marrow, heart, kidney, liver, spleen, testicles, tripe, blood (not sure if that's offal or not), brains, gizzards, stomach, intestines, sweetbreads, lungs. IMO, to say "I don't care for it" is gonna include all the above. And the taste AND texture are all over the place. So if someone says and means that, then I think it's got to be somewhat and in some cases a mental thing. I've eaten most of the things I listed. Some I loved, some I liked and some I disliked. And I'm just stating my experiences.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      I see what you mean. It is doubtful that most Americans have tried most of those items, but they may only like blander tasting muscle meat to begin with. Some people only like white meat (for example). I think that is legit. Some people don't like the taste of "meat" at all. I also think that is legit. Same with people that eschew shellfish, etc. those are all different flavors and textures, but they can certainly be grouped together .
                                                                                      This sub thread might be getting too OT..... I think there are other threads on offal, tastes, perceptions, etc.

                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                        Agreed. But, let's face it, if (and, yes, I believe it also) most "Americans" haven't tried them then it's got to be a "mental" thing. I defy anyone to not like the sweetbreads I cooked a while back :)

                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                          Yes, I think so too ....but I would never presume to know these things about a customer.

                                                                              2. re: Mattromine

                                                                                I am not arguing anything. I was responding to your disagreement to my post about me (personally) not caring for most offal. I explained why I didn't care for it, taste and texture. I grew up eating it and I am very happy not to have to eat much of it now. Nothing to argue here.

                                                                                I am not sure why you would post on a public forum, ask for different opinions about a subject, then get upset when people offer opinions different from your own?

                                                                            2. re: Mattromine

                                                                              Our favorite restaurant, in Reno of all places, has been bringing their diners along slowly for a couple of years since they opened. They break down whole pigs and half sides of beef and always have something "esoteric" on the menu. Always something called "pig parts" :) We've been on board since the beginning. I noticed yesterday on FB that their pig parts for that day was some Italian term I wasn't familiar. (They do a lot of Italian things.) When I looked it up, I laughed to see it was head cheese. Again, something, when done right that I really like. But I'm betting hardly anyone would order it had they called it that.

                                                                          3. re: Mattromine

                                                                            Love most offal though a CH friend warned me away from spleen :)

                                                                        2. re: Steve

                                                                          Wagyu beef is no better a quality ingredient than tongue.
                                                                          ______________

                                                                          Ok. But that wasn't my point. Or comparison.

                                                                  2. You seem to be saying "price is no object." Few people can eat that way, and I certainly can't. There are certain local restaurants I have no interest whatsoever in, regardless of their reputation for quality and originality, largely for that reason.

                                                                    But on a small scale, it's different. I have discovered that for a homemade hamburger, it's worth it to get the special grass-fed chuck. I'm also spending more for better chicken than I used to buy. Also better eggs — years ago I discovered that cheap eggs are no bargain when you end up throwing them out. Small splurges are doable — extravagances are not.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                                      Your second paragraph is right on. Thanks.

                                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                                        Of course I am not saying for every meal. That'd be rediculous. I'm talking about going out. For me going out in general is irregular so in my case, money really never is an object because it's rare. I should've clarified.

                                                                        1. re: Mattromine

                                                                          OK. At five-year intervals we have been going to a nice French restaurant (but never French Laundry). At other times we want good food at a modest price, except for special occasions.

                                                                        2. re: GH1618

                                                                          And for the record, I recently opened my own restaurant and often don't get a paycheck so don't think as if I am this filthy rich character eating truffles and caviar on a daily basis. I am far to poor to regularly spend that kind of money. However, even on a budget I still only eat for quality just not extravagance

                                                                        3. Cost is becoming more of an issue for me. As my cooking skills have improved, I find it tough to pay in the $30-$40+ range for an entree that I could make for much, much less.
                                                                          So, dining at higher end places is becoming less frequent and more of a special occasion "event".
                                                                          I have to look at is as the entire experience, like theater, or else I just think about the 2 weeks of groceries I could buy, instead of shooting the whole was on one dinner.

                                                                          36 Replies
                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                            Yes, food entertainment/theater value. True.

                                                                            Or, if they have such unique and hard to source ingredients. That can be a great value. I once imported a whole pig leg from Spain and it was hugely expensive. I don't remember the details, but I couldn't just get it in a normal portion size. We couldn't eat it fast enough so I had to freeze some of it :(
                                                                            Not a great "value".....

                                                                            There is value to me in getting to try something unique that I would have a difficult time obtaining at home. I never feel ripped off about it, even if I didn't like it, it is valuable to try it.

                                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                                              I agree with unique ingredients, especially ones that I don't have a lot of experience with. These days, I'm more apt to pay for fish/seafood in a restaurant that excels at these dishes than I am for most other things.

                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                100% on the same page with you monavanao

                                                                            2. re: monavano

                                                                              There was for me an interesting discussion related to this a while back, referring to the trend for tasting menus ONLY at the poshest places, a trend I didn't really fully understand and don't really think is a good idea. But this idea of restaurant eating as "theatre" came up. That for me at least put the trend into perspective, even though again I can't really relate to that sort of reason for going to a restaurant.

                                                                              Needless to say, as you get better at cooking it becomes easier and easier to get great results, and in fact, in the limit, there's no real way even the best chef can ever match your own cooking, because of the direct feedback of you know what you like and exactly how you would make something in order to achieve that. When you dine out, you're opening yourself to the interpretation of someone else.

                                                                              But I still think the experience can be mostly about the flavour of the food more than the entertainment value of the occasion - and in fact that's the test of a truly *great* chef - one who can consistently create things that are so unmistakeably delicious on that visceral level that you don't have any problem paying what price they choose to set. I also like to see how one person's interpretation of a dish can be different from what I would have done, yet at the same time still lovely, and when that happens it opens up the mind to additional possibilities and interpretations that expand the scope of what you think of as being good.

                                                                              And just every now and then, you get that particularly special moment when someone presents you with something that you might even have had, elsewhere or at home, and thought you'd understood what the ultimate would be, only to find that someone has exceeded the limits of deliciousness that you even thought possible for the dish in question. I suppose for moments like that almost any price in my mind would be justifiable.

                                                                              GH1618 comments on "price is no object". Here I think there needs to be a distinction between "price is no object" and *high* price IS part of the object. Too often people mean the latter in speaking of the former. The true concept of price being no object would be that considerations of cost were immaterial, whether they were high or low - you were looking for the best, whatever that meant. As an example two different sets of chips I got in London, one at the Golden Hind chippy, the other at Heston Blumenthal's Dinner, make an interesting comparison. The Dinner ones were in every respect up to the standard of excellence that you'd expect of a restaurant in its category. They were beautifully crisp outside, fluffy inside, nice potato flavour. BUT, if price were truly no object, there can be no question whatsoever that it would be the Golden Hind I'd go for for chips. Because much though Dinner's were great, those at the Golden Hind were definitive. Perfection in a chip.

                                                                              Still, most of the time you get what you pay for; quality doesn't come cheap. It does seem to me, though, that unless you're flirting with the poverty an occasional splurge is within the range of most people. Is it worth splurging on food? Sort of depends what other alternatives exist. But food is, in relative terms, an affordable splurge. I'd love to splurge on a new Gulfstream G550, but that's not coming into the realm of possibility any time soon unless something spectacular happens...

                                                                              1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                Alex what is a *chippy*? Some of us don't know the UK words.

                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                  French fries :-)

                                                                                  This is the catch 22 of cooking professionally. Taste flavor and value (all necessary to have any guests... Obviously) are subjective! There is no Right or wrong way. Every guest is in fact a food critic. To gain an understanding of value perception is quite literally impossible in terms of an entire population.

                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                    Usually, a fish and chip shop. More generally, the sort of place that specialises in fried food takeaway.

                                                                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                      Thanks Alex:) Some of the UK phrases are a mystery to Americans.

                                                                                  2. re: AlexRast

                                                                                    "there's no real way even the best chef can ever match your own cooking"

                                                                                    Oh I know home cooking can be wonderful, however......

                                                                                    Let's not forget that restaurants have the BTUs, the equipment, the variety of techniques (deep frying, smoking, woks, clay oven, pizza deck, etc) and the expertise to use them. So like me you can probably do some things really well at home, but I can name so many great dishes I have no hope to replicate chez moi. I can't stir fry baby bok choy to sizzling hot like they can at a good restaurant.

                                                                                    "Quality doesn't come cheap" Except that today I had a terrific bedamjan served over tahdig for $10 at a Persian restaurant, and I could think of about twenty other places near me that serve superb food for that money.

                                                                                      1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                        Even something as simple as a puréed soup. Chances are that unless you have the luxury of a vita-mix or other superior blender, choinois or superbags etc, your texture will not be as velvety as mine. It goes to many many levels. I do think restaurant food is usually superior as far as technical details but I certainly do cook restaurant quality food at home. Often I cheat and start things in the restaurant

                                                                                        1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                          I don't think this is true anymore for the foodie that likes to cook. Just take a peek at the cookware board here! Visit a restaurant supply store, mine has more home cooks than restaurant folks in it.

                                                                                          Chowhounds are not average, but they are not the only ones buying this stuff! They are also not the only ones to take an interest in various esoteric techniques that used to be only in the realm of professional chefs. YouTube is filled with amazing videos that are not just about how to use a crock pot. Check out the number of views on these videos.

                                                                                          Maybe 20 years ago vita mix was mostly in a restaurant kitchen, not now... neither are smokers, pizza ovens, pro mixers, sous vide immersion circulators, torches, mandolines, microplanes, meat grinders, etc.

                                                                                          The average "foodie" diner that would appreciate really great food, and cooks at home, would likely have some professional equipment at home. Chances are pretty good that they understand and use professional techniques as well.

                                                                                          In a well "outfitted" kitchen combined with an interest in learning techniques, a home cook can easily make restaurant quality food nightly. I think that is why so many restaurants really have to " up their game" on food. Things have changed.

                                                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                                                            Ok so maybe It's relatively common here, however using restaurant quality equipment at home is not an American norm. Are you kidding? Do think the person unwilling to spend 20+ on dinner is using $500 blender? Unlikely. It's a simple statement. and I believe Steve is right in stating that on average, most people don't have all of the special equipment. As I said in a separate thread.... Every comment here is true in its own way

                                                                                            1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                              It is very common here. That is why you are getting posts from people saying "I can cook that at home". They really CAN.

                                                                                              It is not an American norm...yet. The popularity of food shows is changing that. There has been a cultural shift. What was once considered esoteric and eccentric (like owning a "French" Dutch oven, or an espresso machine) is now common.

                                                                                              There will always be people that don't care what they eat at home or at a restaurant. But, we are not talking about them, are we? We are talking about people interested in food, and they are very sophisticated these days...not impressed with creamy soup from a vita mix.

                                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                It's just an example and not to be impressive but to say that technical details are not always the same at home. But obviously you don't agree also why even keep commenting to you? Your obviously the Rene redzepi of home cooks. Why don't you teach us something groundbreaking today rene

                                                                                                1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                  I thought you wanted some discussion. My mistake.

                                                                                            2. re: sedimental

                                                                                              You cannot put broccoli or baby bok choy in a wok at home and get the same results as a professional kitchen. You can make some other version of broccoli that is tasty, but you can't replicate the results at home. Even the most dismal carryout will do better than the home cook.

                                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                                Steve, of course. I thought we were talking about all professional kitchen equipment, not just a commercial burner for a wok.

                                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                  You're obviously missing the big picture. It's a detail like texture or proper char/sear that while not impossible at home, is not as easily achieved.

                                                                                                  1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                    I want a salamander!!!! But that's not going to happen :)

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      My wish list is never ending and a total pipe dream hahaha I'd have anti griddles, blast chillers/freezers, commercial quality vacuum sealers etc. a million+ dollar home kitchen. Maybe some day

                                                                                                      1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                        Oh and a free schedule to spend cooking all day :-)

                                                                                                        1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                          There's a current thread (by someone who has a couple of thousand cookbooks!) about if you had all weekend to cook from just one book, what would it be? Fun idea.

                                                                                                        2. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                          A blast chiller would be really great!!!

                                                                                                          Most restaurants don't have all that stuff. I almost bought a restaurant years ago. They put out consistently good food. The kitchen was sooooo outdated. I was shocked. It was a testament to the chef there because even the oven door was being held shut by a bungee cord and everything was on it's last legs.
                                                                                                          I didn't buy it as I would have had to put too much money in the kitchen alone.

                                                                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                            That hits close to home for me. The restaurant I just opened is being executed only with essential equipment. We renovated the building and kitchen for about 150k and as you know, that is insane! However we do all sorts of cool stuff like aging meat, handmade sausages and other charcuterie, lots of fermentation, Etc. you have to start somewhere I guess. For us, it's a very humble kitchen.

                                                                                                            1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                              All a *real* cook needs is a good knife.....a pan...great ingredients and fire baby!!!!!!:):):)

                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                Heck yeah! I just got a new deba, Japanese aogami super steel. It is AMAZING!!

                                                                                                      2. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                        I agree with you. It is not easily achieved. But in considering mid range restaurant food, the "foodie" home cooks (that would appreciate that style of food) are very sophisticated these days. My point was, they often have professional equipment at home..with some skills to boot. It would be unwise for a mid range restaurant to underestimate their consumer.

                                                                                                        This was not the case 20 years ago.

                                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                          Absolutely. Underestimating the guests is a great way to fail. When we cook, we cook as if were for a fellow chef.

                                                                                            3. re: Steve

                                                                                              It's not just exotic equipment. Most home kitchens won't have the sheer number of pans to achieve a fancy European style restaurant dish. The kind of dish that will have two proteins, cooked separately, a sauce started from scratch, then reduced in another pot, with assorted couli's and garnishes, each cooked separately. A restaurant kitchen has a big stockpile of battered aluminum saucepans and fry pans and e dishwasher staff to keep them all clean.

                                                                                              A very small number of home cooks have the space, money, and inclination to cook that way every night. I don't so go to a restaurant for that kind of a dish.

                                                                                              I don't see how steak houses stay in business - you can cook that stuff at home!

                                                                                              1. re: 512window

                                                                                                for sure! it is a real pain to cook like that at home. my wife gets really angry bc I use all of the dishes in the house and she cleans them up haha love her. at the end of the day, there are several reasons to leave all of that craziness to the pros even though they may get really similar results at home.

                                                                                                as far as the steak house comment- i don't understand either, unless you are talking about the extreme high end of steak houses where you are being served all prime grade/wagyu/kobe at astronomical prices. As far as the typical sides in that environment (mashed pots, baked pots, twice baked, asparagus, etc) they are far too boring for me. I NEVER order that in a restaurant.

                                                                                              2. re: Steve

                                                                                                But, could that bademjan have been better? My guess is that if the price had been higher, they could possibly have sourced higher-quality aubergines, and better lamb (the lamb is certainly going to be a high-cost item). And the rice might have been of a higher standard - really top-grade Basmati (which isn't to say, by the way, that they didn't use good Basmati at all - but rather that with a higher price comes the possibility of obsessing over even better). And there might have been the possibility of getting one of the great Persian chefs, who might have been able to do better still with the same ingredients, to say nothing of what he or she might have been able to do with the best that could be obtained.

                                                                                                The point here is, yes, sometimes you can get something very cheaply that's still very good, but as a general rule where you're prepared to pay more, the possibility of getting better expands. There's no hard and fast deterministic association between price and quallity: a more expensive thing isn't *necessarily* better than a cheaper thing. But the lower the price cutoff, the smaller and less varied your options are going to tend to be.

                                                                                                1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                  I've paid more for eggplant or basmati, but I've never had better. In fact, I'd say I've paid more for many other meals and have yet to eat better.

                                                                                                  "where you're prepared to pay more, the possibility of getting better expands."

                                                                                                  When you're willing to pay less, the possibility expands as well. Seeking out and appreciating delicious cheap things is every bit as rewarding as seeking out the expensive.

                                                                                                  By spending more, it is possible to get wonderful things that are rarer. Experiences as well as ingredients. I do see more value in having a great $100 meal than two OK $50 meals, as I can already get great food for about $10. Having the rarity does have value to me.

                                                                                                  As a rule, when you pay more for something it is because of its rarity. Take a case of exquisite wine, smash 11 of the bottles and the remaining bottle will skyrocket in value. That's what you are paying for in an expensive meal: the rarity. Every once in a while, it's worth it to me. But does it give me more pleasure or is it better? Certainly not.

                                                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                                                    I would almost take it as a given that any person would "be willing to pay less." Yes, there are people for whom as I mentioned in another post, price *is* an object - in that they're specifically looking for a HIGH price. But when I think "price is no object" it means that whether the price is high or low is immaterial. What I'm saying is that imposing some sort of price ceiling for reasons other than the strictly budgetary (i.e. you actually can't afford it!) is limiting options.

                                                                                                    Keep in mind that when I say "pay more for something" I mean pay more for a *specific instance* of a particular something in comparison to the average price of that something not considering its quality. So that e.g. a good steak is likely to cost more than an average steak.

                                                                                                    However, although rarity is sometimes an important factor in determining price, it's not the dominant factor in most cases. Usually the dominant factor is its intrinsic value. To take extremes, a house is generally more expensive than a toothbrush because a house has more value; you can do more with it and it's more necessary for your day-to-day existence. But houses aren't rare by any means.

                                                                                                    What rarity *can* do is push the price for a specific instance of an item up to amounts that are disproportionately higher than the average price for more ordinary or common versions of the same item. Whether that represents value or not rather depends upon the item in question - and to who's making the assessment. *Why* the price goes up that much is because if the purpose of price is to try to allocate items according to how people value goods, a rare item by virtue of its small quantity must necessarily go to the obsessive types who place unusual value on it. That's reflecting the fact that there is a small group of people prepared to pay whatever it takes - and who presumably value it enough to pay that price (I'm not going to speculate on why they value it at whatever price they do, that's not material here).

                                                                                                    Note also that in your example of bottles of wine, the remaining bottle will NOT skyrocket in *value*, it will skyrocket in *price*. There's a big difference between the two. It will go up in price because of the need to allocate it to that person who places the maximal value upon it. But that person *already did* place that value on it before - in other words, had it been that price before the others got smashed, he would still have paid it. That before they did, he could have bought it for a lot less would have been to him a good bargain. But in no sense does smashing the other bottles alter the value of the one remaining. It merely destroys the value of the other 11.

                                                                                                    But again, these are exceptions, not the general rule. The broad rule is that the price of items correlates with their value/quality fairly well.

                                                                                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                      "I would almost take it as a given that any person would be willing to pay less."

                                                                                                      No, a lot people closely associate paying more with getting better, so they are happy to pay more. Just like when you talked about sourcing better aubergines, aka eggplant.

                                                                                              3. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                "When you dine out, you're opening yourself to the interpretation of someone else."

                                                                                                Your negative is the rest of the world's positive. A chef to you may be just a cook, but a skilled chef adds an element to a dish that isn't easily replicated by a home cook. That "interpretation" is the result of training, an understanding of how flavors and textures interact and the ability to execute.

                                                                                                So, no, you won't get a dish just like you make at home, but if that was the standard for dining out then very few people would do it.

                                                                                            4. To me (and I think to most of us), value represents a ratio between the product received and the price paid. With regard to dining out, it's pretty simple: was the dining experience, (food, service and ambiance) worth the price paid? I have personally felt ripped off after eating a $10 fast food lunch, and also have felt that I received good value paying as much as ~$300pp for a very special occasion, very special dinner. Nevertheless, to me, no meal is worth much more than perhaps $300 or so. Of course at some high end restaurants one can easily exceed this amount...with fine wines, caviar, black truffles, cognacs, etc. These meals might represent good value to some (and indeed might objectively be so for specific wines, caviar, etc.), but not to me.

                                                                                              1. Because I run a restaurant, I love to read diner reviews on Urbanspoon etc. it gives me an insight into what diners enjoy/don't like in the industry. Although most of the issues are no-brainers ( waiting time, poor service, shit food) there are certain reviewers that always comment about value and $$$

                                                                                                I guess the economy and peoples budgets determine largely their satisfaction with a meal.
                                                                                                I'm very much in the mind that you sort of know what price point you are up for when you book a restaurant. The trend for large plates with small portions seems to be fading, although I notice degustations are often singled out for poor value.

                                                                                                YMMV

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: cronker

                                                                                                  this is exactly one reason why i asked the question. i just opened a restaurant about 6 weeks ago. I will say that my value perception is far far different than the average person; especially the average person in my area. I am slowly finding out that the average guest from my area really isn't as frugal as mosts locals warned and even with the significantly higher ticket average we still are getting rave reviews. it really is very interesting to watch. we offer a completely different product than most other restaurants in the state, let alone within close driving distance and the skeptics didn't know if the concept would catch on. we haven't even had a grand opening yet, do NO advertising except FB, and have fully booked weekends. the results can speak for themselves.

                                                                                                  This was a great forum to ask about value perception. clearly i am getting a lot of input from many sides of the equation

                                                                                                  1. re: Mattromine

                                                                                                    Outstanding! I have the sense that you've taken your own dining experiences and brought that expertise to your own place. And it seems to be working. Good for you. And CHs certainly have no problem speaking up, do we???

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      Haha no problem at all. Which is well accepted on my end, even if they do seem combative at times :-) sometimes we learn the most groundbreaking things from those we least expect it from. (Not to say I shouldn't expect it here, but to keep the mind open)

                                                                                                2. First, I set a price I'm planning on spending for the meal. If it's above that, it doesn't matter what the quality is because I'm not even considering eating there.

                                                                                                  Then I look at the combination of quality and convenience that is available - I will generally choose a good restaurant that's 20 minutes away over a great one that involves a three hour round trip.

                                                                                                  The whole $200 a plate dining experience is a closed book to me - I've never had the budget to support that, and it's unlikely I ever will.

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                                                                                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                                    I've found that I can happily eat at some places for a lot less than "typical" or "average" $$$. Bob and I have always shared and never had a problem in a restaurant doing that. I wouldn't do it just everywhere but still remember a meal at Babbo a few years ago where, including a bottle of wine, we came in at around $150 before tax and tip. And that's a big tab for us :)

                                                                                                  2. When I had an hourly job (and was even a worse cook than I am now) I would estimate my take-home part of an hour's work and ask myself, "Is this food worth trading an hour of my life for?" By today's minimum wage an hour's take-home would be around $5, maybe a bit more. Any kind of decent meal would cost two or three hours today--a quarter or third of a workday. It's a large percentage of your 40 hours to hand over for one meal.

                                                                                                    A buffet I could justify sometimes because of quantity and variety. But something that sounds like a good deal, say a $5 Subway sandwich, isn't great when you figure how many sandwiches you can make for $5 of materials even now.

                                                                                                    However when it comes to nice food, stuff I can't necessarily make myself and preferably with family or friends, the cost is whatever it is. It's a treat, a night out, and it's best to enjoy for what it is and try not to get your money damp with tears while forking it over.

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                                                                                                    1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                      this is certainly an eye opening way to approach it. in that case, eating at alinea cost me about 50 hours of work haha. WORTH IT!

                                                                                                    2. This one time we hit up a local Thai restaurant that was supposed to be famous for it's grilled chicken dinner. We decided to try it, they were $14 a piece. I kid you not when I say, that it was literally just one boneless skinless chicken thigh (loaded with spices) over some steamed rice, with a side of sauce. That's it. I could have made that at home for like $1.50, literally, and they're charging me $14?!

                                                                                                      The other thing I generally refuse to pay a premium for are pasta dishes. Those are so inexpensive for restaurants to make that it's a waste of money to order them when dining out. Not to mention, depending on the joint and how much pasta they sell, a lot of them pre-cook and portion the pasta then just warm it in a microwave and drown it in sauce.

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                                                                                                      1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                        But housemade pasta is a treat for me. Yeah, I make it but not as often as I want it!

                                                                                                      2. For me, there is only one point at which the price of a meal -- any meal -- exceeds the meal's value, and that is when the cook/chef/nurturer does not perform well. I've had more than my share of these experiences. Always a BIG disappointment, but it seems to be an inescapable part of life. And it's a lot easier to handle when I'm the culprit in my own kitchen, but when a chef is the culprit in his/her celebrated kitchen... well, that just ticks me off! <sigh> It is a major reason behind why I prefer to entertain at home. If you doubt me, read my "Best Meal" comments on my profile page! Not all of life's lemons can be easily turned into lemonade, but it turns out that the disasters DO outlive the magnificent successes in our long-term memory. But overall, I do prefer great food to great horror stories... '-)

                                                                                                        1. This thread seems to equate "cost" with "money." That's not the only cost I take into consideration before committing to a meal. There's also location: there might be a better quality version of a dish an hour's drive away, but I'm not likely to go there. I'll settle for something good enough but closer in. Is that meal located in a neighborhood that's difficult to get to? Or where traffic is horrible? If that's the case, I might go there when crowds are thinner or business is slower. So convenience is another factor. And a chef might be cooking amazing, high-quality meals, but if I have to scream in order to be heard over the noise/music, it's not worth it to me.

                                                                                                          Price wise, I've had disappointing $180 tasting meals and fantastic $7 carryout meals. Both had everything to do with my level of expectation.