Maybe you're one of the lucky two who will be splitting the $355 Mega Millions jackpot. Perhaps you’re in a Mayan state of mind and trying to polish off the old bucket list before the world ceases to exist on December 21, 2012. Could be you're trying to impress a new lady or gent. Or maybe, just maybe, you're just someone who loves to eat good food no matter the price tag.
Whatever your motivation, there are plenty of places for you to drop some serious Benjamins in the name of fine dining.
We’re not declaring these to be the "best" restaurants in all the land (though some of them are), nor the most expensive (ditto). There are plenty of restaurants where you could order a gold-flecked sundae or truffle-laced burger topped with Beluga caviar and easily stack up a bill in the thousands of dollars.
Instead, we’re honing in on notable prix fixe and tasting menu options that will make your taste buds squeal with delight and may your wallet reel in terror - but at least with a set price, you'll know what you're in for.
To the tune of $250 per person (service included), diners choose between two nine-course tasting menus that change daily – either the chef’s tasting, which includes several meat and fish-centric courses, or a tasting of vegetables. No ingredient is repeated throughout the meal and it celebrates the height of seasonality, prepared with French precision and technique. Chef Keller describes it as “American restaurant whose inspiration lies in the countryside of France.”
Per Se – New York City, New York
Same deal as The French Laundry: two nine-course tasting menus, one vegetarian and the other is not. Both change daily but incorporate some of Thomas Keller’s classics like salmon cornets and “Oysters and Pearls” with warm pearl tapioca sabayon, Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar. Per Se also holds the distinguished honor of being awarded three Michelin stars; there are only four other restaurants in New York City with the same distinction.
It’s also in the same building as Masa (see below) should you feel the need to stick around for a $600 omakase afterward.
minibar – Washington, D.C.
So if you are one of the lucky 12 people to nab a coveted reservation at José Andrés' culinary laboratory that night, you can expect 25 to 30 courses separated into "munchies" like cotton candy eel or a tomato crisp with anchovy caviar, "flavors and textures" like smoked oysters with apples or a Wagyu beef cheesesteak, and "sweet endings" like saffron gum drops and frozen yogurt and honey powders.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire - Las Vegas, Nevada
The legendary French chef - and “wizard” according to esteemed food writer Ruth Reichl - makes his United States debut on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental serving classic French food (foie gras terrine, shellfish à la marinière) with an innovative twist (hibiscus gelée, potato chips and marshmallow), hence the name.
Momofuku Ko - New York City, New York
Akin to minibar, chef David Chang’s Ko feeds a small crowd – 12 seats to be exact - and reservations are hard to come by – only available online at 10 a.m. for the next seven days.
Lunch service at Ko has a larger menu than dinner and is offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for $175. For the bargain hunters, dinner is $125 and offered every day. As for the food, it’s a bit of this and that plucked from around the world – homemade pork rinds, frozen grated foie gras flakes, braised pork belly, scallop sashimi. You dine at the chefs’ whim.
Le Bec Fin - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Le Bec Fin is widely accredited for starting the restaurant revolution in the city of Brotherly Love and cheesesteak. It reflects the white linen tablecloths of yore, where anything less than three hours for a meal is unheard of and a water glass never goes half-empty.
Oh, and we should probably mention there’s an all-you-can-eat dessert cart that’s rolled around the restaurant should you feel the need to milk that $185 price tag for all the cakes and tarts it’s worth.
The Herbfarm - Seattle, Washington
It’ll run you anywhere between $179 and $195 per person, plus tax and service. The Herbfarm's kitchen gardens and farm supply most of its produce, so if terroir is what you’re looking for, terroir is what you get.
Urasawa - Los Angeles, California
Omakase, translating roughly to mean “entrusting,” puts you in the chef’s hands as he sends out a twenty-course-plus procession of sushi and sashimi directly flown in from Japan.
Joël Robuchon at the Mansion – Las Vegas, Nevada
For $385 a person, high rollers belly up to a sixteen course tasting menu by the “French Chef of the Century,” according to the Gault Millau restaurant guide.
Worried about getting back to your hotel further down on the Strip? The restaurant provides complimentary limousine service to all its diners.
Alinea - Chicago, Illinois
For $195, diners are taken on a 20-course culinary journey of progressive cuisine, from pillows of lavender to singed oak leaves to a black truffle explosion.
Alinea was recently named the seventh best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine.
Michel Richard Citronelle - Washington, D.C.
Should you be so content and full that you couldn’t bear to travel back home, the restaurant is conveniently located in the Latham Hotel in the D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown.
Masa - New York City, New York