Tips

The Secrets to Eating at America's Fanciest Restaurants for Under P2,500

It's possible to try fine dining on a budget.
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The prix fixe omakase menu at Masa, the sushi temple in New York City's Time Warner Center, is $450 excluding drinks, tax, and tip. Insiders know that the sister restaurant next door, Bar Masa, serves sushi à la carte in the $18-48 range. That's one example of how to eat some of the world's fanciest food at relatively inexpensive prices. Scroll down for more.

PER SE, NEW YORK CITY

Insider Tip: Sit in the salon.

It's been called one of the best restaurants in the country, and for its prix fixe menu price of $310 per person excluding drinks and tax, it should be. One of the best-kept secrets in the New York City restaurant scene, however, is Per Se's salon. It's an elegant bar area just outside the main dining room where diners can order dishes from the tasting menu à la carte. On a recent evening (the menu changes daily), Slow Poached Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, which had a $40 supplement on the full tasting menu, was available for that same $40 cost on its own in the salon. One of Chef Thomas Keller's most notable dishes, Butter Poached Lobster, could be had for $40, too.

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Just like the dining room, the salon has this view of Columbus Circle.

And just like in the dining room, every salon experiences starts with Per Se's signature gougere and salmon cornet (below).


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Cornet of Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion & Crème Fraiche.

Another option is to go to Per Se simply for dessert. The salon serves a five-course dessert tasting menu for $70 and à la carte options starting at $14 (the dessert tasting ends with a round of mignardises just like in the dining room). So, this might be the only restaurant in the world where one can experience Michelin three-star service for as little as the cost of a cab ride across town.

DANIEL, NYC

Insider Tip: Go for the cheese course.

The Upper East Side institution helmed by Daniel Boulud serves a four-course prix fixe menu for $135 and a seven-course tasting menu for $225. But penny pinchers would be wise to dine elsewhere and visit the restaurant specifically for its marvelous cheese offering, which is available on its own at a cost of $34 for four selections and $45 for six.

Daniel's head fromager, Pascal Vittu, has been at the restaurant since 1993. An Inside F&B profile pointed out that Vittu "builds upon his extensive knowledge by tasting, traveling, and sometimes even making cheese." He oversees the program of about 25 to 30 cheeses each day, offering selections from both French and American producers.

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Pascal Vittu slices cheese at Daniel.

ELEVEN MADISION PARK AND THE NoMAD, NYC

Insider Tip: Sit at the bar.

Chef Daniel Humm and General Manager Will Guidara run both Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad. According to this year's San Pellegrino list, EMP is the #5 restaurant in the world. Its tasting menu, which consists of 12 to 15 courses, is undoubtedly one of the best culinary experiences in the world. But at $225 and lasting approximated three-and-a-half hour, it's not exactly an everyday option.

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The bar at Eleven Madison Park.

A menu of food available at the bar (below), however, includes noteworthy dishes like Marinated Foie Gras with Peaches and Ginger ($28) and Roasted Duck with Apricots and Fennel ($45). Three desserts, including a dangerously delicious Chocolate Brownie Sundae with Citrus Praline Ice Cream and Bourbon Caramel ($18), are also on offer.

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A few blocks uptown, the NoMad (which is also on the list of the top 100 restaurants in the world and whose cookbook goes on sale today) offers a "snacks" portion of its menu where à la carte dishes range from $9 to $26. In fact, everything is à la carte here, and entrées start at $23. The NoMad Bar, which opened last year, has some of the best dry-aged beef burgers ($18) and bacon-wrapped, black truffle hot dogs ($16, below) around.

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LE BERNARDIN, NYC

Insider Tip: Go for lunch on a weekday and sit in the lounge.

At Eric Ripert's seafood mecca, the lounge offers a way around the dining room's prix fixe menus, which start at $80 for three courses at lunch and $140 for four courses at dinner.

A special three-course City Harvest menu is available exclusively in the lounge for lunch Monday through Friday. The menu changes on a weekly basis and features dishes classic Le Bernardin dishes. Of the $49 price, $5 is donated to City Harvest, a non-profit organization that rescues food and helps feed 1.4 million New Yorkers.

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A few à la carte options on the lounge menu (below) include East and West Coast oysters ($4 each), the restaurant's signature Salmon Rillette with Toast ($22), Lobster Cappuccino ($27), and the ultimate $50 splurge: a Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur with Golden Osetra Caviar.


SAISON, SAN FRANCISCO

Insider Tip: Make a reservation for a lounge table.

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Earlier this year, Eater declared Saison "the most expensive restaurant in California," citing its menu price as $398 (that's Masa territory!). The website now states that "the price of the menu is determined daily by the price of the ingredients," but a phone call to the restaurant revealed that the price generally hovers around that $398 figure.

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But there's a solution for low ballers! An à la carte menu is offered in the restaurant's Salon, and dishes range from $18 to $48. Since it can get crowded, reservations are accepted for salon tables at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. (the tasting menu is served there at the 7:30 p.m. seating).

GARY DANKO, SAN FRANCISCO

Insider Tip: Sit at the bar.


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A prix fixe menu, which starts at $83 for three courses, is the only option in the dining room of this American restaurant near Fisherman's Wharf. But sit at the bar and you can order of the dishes on the menu à la carte.

MEADOWOOD, NAPA VALLEY

Insider Tip: Have snacks in the bar.


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The Michelin three-star Restaurant at Meadowood offers a tasting menu ($225) and counter menu ($500) each night. But for $40, guests can sample snacks created by the restaurant's chef, Christopher Kostow, in the Bar at Meadowood. The puffed kale dish below is one example of a snack, and the menu changes based on the season and product availability. Another current offering is borage sprouts and oyster leaf dressed in turnip juice mignonette with shallot and chive, meant to be eaten in just one bite. Canapés and small bites are also included in the $40 price.


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The Restaurant also offers a three-course bar menu for $90 (wine accompaniment is an additional $65), available exclusively at the bar.

THE MANSION RESTAURANT AT ROSEWOOD MANSION ON TURTLE CREEK, DALLAS

Insider Tip: Order à la carte.


There are tasting menus that range from $85 to $125 at this Dallas fine dining destination, but those are easy to forgo because everything is available à la carte. First courses are in the $13-$32 range, second courses in the $34-$65 range, and desserts cost around $10.

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AQUAVIT, NEW YORK CITY

Insider Tip: Opt for the lounge.


This Scandinavian restaurant, which holds two Michelin stars and three stars from the New York Times, serves prix-fixe menus ranging from $98 to $125 per person. But ask for a seat in the lounge and you'll be offered a bar menu with à la carte dishes from $12. The Swedish meatballs ($26) are a highlight, but if you really want to go all out order the smorgasbord—it's served with a variety of dishes including herring, shrimp skagen, and gravlax, all for $42. Plus, pours of the restaurant's namesake spirit start at $8.

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Additional reporting by Laura Dowdy

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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