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Can Masa Really Be Worth THAT Much $?


BigboyDan
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This also relates a bit to all the chain-bashing around here I think. Sure, a meal at Friday's is not going to be anywhere near the quality of anything with a couple stars, but you are spending $10 for your experience instead of $20, $30, or $100. To me, that makes it pretty worthwhile.

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I usually always feel that the quality is lacking and that I have been ripped off at the chain places. When you come right down to it chains are not cheap (If you fall into the impulse isles on their overpriced menus). A friend took me out to a Friday's last week. I was not in the mood for an inferior steak or awful chicken dish so we shared nachos. I had a dreadful potato soup served with faux bread and fake butter, a salad with tatseless bluecheese dressing and a softdrink. She had two glasses of wine and some hot wings and a dessert. The bill was very expensive considering what we had. We could have had a great dinner at the local place with better quality, service and atmosphere for alot less money. I'm just sayin....

That's true, the steaks and higher priced entrees generally suck. All I would ever order were the burgers/sandwiches, which even they couldn't fuck up. Also, alcohol anywhere is expensive. Now, don't get me wrong, I like my local diners and ethnic joints as much as the next guy (and these are the only local non-chain restaurants), but sometimes you can get a meal worth the money in a chain, if you think basic, at least IMO.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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That's it, I guess...do you value the restaurant experience enough to pay that much for it? It's not about food per se but the whole dining out experience.

(If I won a couple of million dollars, the first million would be spent on finding an appropriate home for my dream dogs...food would come after that  :laugh: )

I agree with you there, although my first million would be rescuing more German Shepherds! :laugh: (Sorry for going off topic there -- it's a dog person thing!)

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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At $300 per head, I would be expecting a once in a lifetime experience. Not just a good meal, not even an excellent meal, not even a unique meal, but the kind of outstanding experience you look back on and smile with remembered pleasure about some 20 or 25 years in the future. I'm more than willing to make sacrifices and decisions that allow me to spend a goodly amount on these once in a lifetime experiences.

However, from what I've read about these restaurants, I just don't think they're delivering that kind of experience every night. Maybe I'm wrong (I often am).

This is why we no longer go to the one 4 star place out here in the hinterlands. The last two times we were there we both agreed that the experience and food was no longer up to the prices they charge - the food was good, but ever since they remodeled, something is missing, the something that made it sparkle for us, that made it worth the cost. We can get the same level of food and experience for a lot less elsewhere, and so we do.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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One thing you'll find if you read, for example, the reports on Per Se by our members, is that we're not necessarily talking about diminishing returns. Many of those who have posted here about Per Se have not only said that Per Se is worth it but also that it is a great value. And I've got to agree that what Per Se gives you for $150 -- all the premium ingredients, all the great preparations, all that service in those luxurious surroundings, not to mention the generous avalanche of extras before, during and after the main meal -- makes a lot of $85 meals look like total ripoffs. In the parallel above, Per Se isn't the $10,000 system. It's the $2,000 system. But it doesn't cost $2,000. It costs $150. And the most expensive restaurants out there cost around $300. It's just not very much money compared to what people spend on -- as Daddy-A mentioned -- sports tickets, no less on completely worthless luxury items like diamonds.

I guess the quesion is, would you skip 3 $50 meals to go to Per Se once? Or 6 $25 meals? If you look at it that way I think it starts to make sense why some people find value in it. Hell, I would get a better meal at home than most of the $50 meals I've had at restaurants. At least Per Se would be educational.

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I think the initial premise of this thread (which got tacked onto another thread) is that the restaurant was having problems - perhaps due to cost.

Now I don't hold myself out as a sushi/sashimi expert - but I've eaten at high end places before in Hawaii and on the west coast.  And in these places - and presumably Masa too - a large % of the fish is imported from Japan (although there are usually some local delicacies too).  It's expensive stuff - but it's probably more expensive in New York than Hawaii or the west coast because shipping costs are higher.  And because running a restaurant costs more too.

That fish imported from Japan has to be at high cost is a myth. Air Freight on fish is probably $2 a pound and much of it is shipped frozen, so it doesn't require much special handling. Many sushi places in NYC serve at least some imported from Japan fish at far less than Masa prices. Even places that don't boast about fish from Japan are probably serving it. For example, I am pretty sure any piece of toro you will ever see went through the Japanese wholesale market, no matter where it was caught. Also don't forget that for most sushi, the cost of the fish isn't so high. Check out http://catalinaop.com/sushifish.htm. I bet that even at Masa, they are paying $25 or less a pound for most of the fish, and that works out to less than $1 per piece of sushi. In fact, if Masa is using really high grade from Japan rice, the rice in your sushi could cost more than the fish. Even local NYC Japanese stores like JAS Mart sell Japanese rice for $10 a pound, and that isn't the highest grade available. More rice than fish in your sushi...get the picture.

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With respect to $190 a pound fish, I'm not so sure that is really expensive.  That's 16 ounces.  I bet the sushi at a high end place has at most .5 ounce of firsh per piece.  Even with triming, I bet they get 25 pieces of sushi from that $190 pound of fish.  That would make their fish cost less than $10 per piece, and I doubt you get that many pieces of super grade tuna at Masa in that $300 dinner.

If I can find 2-3 other crazy people, we can do dinners at Masa, Kuruma and Sugiyama.  If we stick to cheaper sake, should cost less than $1000 a piece for all three.  Then we can write an article and compare!!!!

At Kuruma in September the master held up a truly magnificent piece of fish and said "$190 per pound". Like i said earlier, he, and probably Masa also, buy on a different level that know one can compete with. that is the difference. for the record my september lunch was $200 per person for a sushi and sashimi omekase and we had 34 pieces of fish. that comes out to just under 6 bucks a piece. with lots of toro and all his other pristine wonders...

You can count me in as one of those "crazy people" for a comparison next time i'm on the east coast :smile:

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[That fish imported from Japan has to be at high cost is a myth.  Air Freight on fish is probably $2 a pound and much of it is shipped frozen, so it doesn't require much special handling.  Many sushi places in NYC serve at least some imported from Japan fish at far less than Masa prices.  Even places that don't boast about fish from Japan are probably serving it.  For example, I am pretty sure any piece of toro you will ever see went through the Japanese wholesale market, no matter where it was caught.  Also don't forget that for most sushi, the cost of the fish isn't so high.  Check out http://catalinaop.com/sushifish.htm.  I bet that even at Masa, they are paying $25 or less a pound for most of the fish, and that works out to less than $1 per piece of sushi.  In fact, if Masa is using really high grade from Japan rice, the rice in your sushi could cost more than the fish.  Even local NYC Japanese stores like JAS  Mart sell Japanese rice for $10 a pound, and that isn't the highest grade available.  More rice than fish in your sushi...get the picture.

this simply does not make sense nor is it true.

nor is it shipped frozen, at least not to the West coast.

A reputable fish purveyor (small, quality oriented above all else, dealing only with japanese restaurants) has all grades of fish but the daily faxes of the best is priced accordingly. I deal with wholesale japanese fish on a daily basis. and decent but not great blue fin true belly toro is $60-80 a pound. a line caught wild fluke, not farm raised, from the sea of japan will cost you $45 a pound, whole fish. Hell, and ikejime tai from Japan that is wild and from cold currents will cost you $19 wholesale whole fish.

you get what you pay for. you can look at websites or call around but in this arena, relationships are made and cultivated, you develop trust, and then, maybe,you get to look in the bottom drawer and see what really is out there.

I can assure you that the high end guys, masa, kuruma, yasuda and urasawa in LA have the best go to them because: a) they have developed the relationships and the trust b) they pay for it, no questions, to maintain that and c) they keep constant vigilance and uncompromising standards for what they expect. They are also reknown for treating these special products with respect.

with ingredients that are commodities there are no bargains. you get what you pay for.

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This is a fascinating topic. I have personally never been to a really high end restaurant (well, Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia was the one time). So when I do go, will I sense anything special? I wonder.

Is one's palette a natural thing you are born with? Or do you develop it?

I was in a music class with a very well known Renaissance music teacher and someone was playing the recorder very badly; he pointed out the flaws. The student couldn't hear what he was trying to explain, but the teacher said "to me it is a wide as the side of a barn".

If our musical ears have to be developed, maybe also our taste buds.

So until I get that education, I think I'll stick to Applebee's :biggrin:

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I've also found the chains extremely expensive for what you get.

I rarely go to four-star restaurants, but I see no problem with it in certain cases. Most sushi and sashimi meals that cost a few hundred sound like they are more or less worth it to me, based on the ingredients and labor.

My main problem with $200-300 meals (assuming for the moment that the expense is not hardship) is that the more expensive a restaurant meal is, the more likely I am to feel disappointed with the food or annoyed with the service. I realize that's not entirely logical, but if something goes wrong I'm more apt to focus on that if it's supposed to be a really top place. If it's a moderately costly meal, and something goes wrong, I can focus on the positive.

Maybe I'm just a control freak, because if I have a large chunk of money to spend on food I'd rather put it into something special to cook at home, or fabulous wine.

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There's no doubt that some of us simply couldn't afford such a meal even once, period, but even many of those of us who are by no means rich could spend $300 on one meal by saving up for it.

This is an excellent point, and it reminds me of what I think is so democratic about eating in restaurants. I've had the pleasure of knowing a number of people who are very wealthy, and many of the things that they can afford to enjoy are beyond the reach of the average person. I, personally, may never have the amount of money it takes to own a million dollar home, a yacht or even some of the very high end cars that exist. But, I can set aside enough money to eat a wonderful meal at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton here in town, and the food will be just as good for me as it is for the millionaire to my right.

Even if one lived in Manhattan, there are ways that those of meager incomes could set aside enough money to have the experience of eating at Per Se. A teenager living with her parents in Queens, working at Burger King, could set aside the money it would take to eat at Per Se. A Mexican immigrant, washing dishes for a living and sharing an apartment with relatives and friends, could set aside enough money to eat at Per Se. It's just a matter of whether they would want to or feel it was worth it.

Personally, dining out is something I do really enjoy, but I don't find room in my budget to dine at such high end restaurants often. I ate at Seeger's once with my boyfriend, and while I felt it was worth the $300 we spent, because I enjoyed it very much, I won't be eating there again any time soon. I'm saving up for something even more special.

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this simply does not make sense nor is it true. 

nor is  it shipped frozen, at least not to the West coast.

A reputable fish purveyor (small, quality oriented above all else, dealing only with japanese restaurants) has all grades of fish but the daily faxes of the best is priced accordingly.  I deal with wholesale japanese fish on a daily basis. and decent but not great blue fin true belly toro is $60-80 a pound.  a line caught wild fluke, not farm raised, from the sea of japan will cost you $45 a pound, whole fish.  Hell, and ikejime tai from Japan that is wild and from cold currents will cost you $19 wholesale whole fish.

you get what you pay for. you can look at websites or call around but in this arena, relationships are made and cultivated, you develop trust, and then, maybe,you get to look in the bottom drawer and see what really is out there. 

I can assure you that the high end guys, masa, kuruma, yasuda and urasawa in LA have the best go to them because: a) they have developed the relationships and the trust b) they pay for it, no questions, to maintain that and c) they keep constant vigilance and uncompromising standards for what they expect. They are also reknown for treating these special products with respect.

with ingredients that are commodities there are no bargains.  you get what you pay for.

Fresh tuna is seasonal. No way anyone, including Masa, can get things like fresh toro year round. Most of the wholesale sushi fish business is frozen. In any case, my point was not that Masa wasn't buying expensive fish, but that just because fish is imported from Japan doesn't mean it has to be expensive. BTW, note that the web page I referenced is from a major uni provider. While their fish may not be Masa grade, I have a feeling that isn't so bad, and it is very cheap. In any case, the market for fish isn't so secret. Take a look at http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm. A number of the wholesalers have English language pages. They all seem to sell frozen tuna......

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Food is mind bogglingly cheap compared to some of the other outward displays of affluence that humans have managed to invent. According to this webpage, the top 10 restaurants in the world commonly only charge between $200 and $300 per diner.

$300 per night, say you dine out 2 times a week, 40 weeks a year. Thats $24,000 a year. The difference in depreciation between, say a Mercedes and a Ford would be about the same in one year.

Yet, somehow, buying a mercedes over a ford is seen as a perfectly normal activity for a upper middle class aspiring towards pretentions of greatness yet eating at some of the worlds absolute best restaurants every freaking weekend nearly every week is seen as mind bogglingly extravagant.

My take on it is that there are certain things which are priced at such a point where you can either not afford to eat the best or you can afford to eat the best with ease but very little middle ground. Once your in the category of people who can afford million dollar houses and exotic holidays, the choice not to constantly eat at 4 star joints isn't economics, its because even truffled foie gras topped with caviar gets repetitive after a while.

PS: I am a guy.

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Typically, chefs in the US don't have access to most of the highest quality toro (from Japan, Long Island, Spain, where ever), because Japanese chefs are willing to pay so much more for it (and can get a lot more for it in Japan). Of course, when you have clientele willing to pay Kuruma's prices, you can compete with Japanese buyers and get premium fish.

As for Masa, he's not serving nearly as much fish for sushi as Yasuda and Kuruma, because of his menu and because of customer volume. Now, caviar, truffles, and fugu seem to be a larger part of his cost.

And Todd36, have you any experience judging frozen tuna against fresh? As I understand it, the high-tech freezing doesn't noticably affect quality, when the freezing and defrosting are done right. So how much does it matter that tuna is frozen? I've seen a sushi chef freeze a giant clam to -83 degrees and bring it back to life by defrosting it!

For fun, from Tsukiji:

gallery_7453_198_1097214670.jpg

Whole tunas, frozen

gallery_7453_198_1097214633.jpg

Blocks of frozen tuna

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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haven't read the whole thread closely so forgive me if i am recycling.

it seems to me the question has to broken out a number of ways. at the least:

*quality and cost of ingredients

*skill, experience of chef and other key staff

*non-food related ambience costs (crockery, glassware)

*rent

*decadence (the desire to eat/own the most expensive anything)

in other words a $300 (or $3000) meal experience involves some proportion of all of the above.

the question for sushi is whether cost/quality of ingredients flattens out at some point. even if that is true the chef's skill comes into play. even if that flattens out (say at some rarefied strata occupied by 7 sushi chefs in the world) there's the criteria after it. so, if you're looking just for numbers 1 and 2 to be hit you may not wish to pay masa's prices (i would like to hold out the utopian possibility here that the best sushi chefs don't automatically move to restaurants at masa's price points). however, if you're looking for the total experience (even if you're not quite decadent) and can afford it then it is a different matter.

of course, none of this applies only to sushi chefs or sushi.

as for fatguy's diamond analogy, while i too find diamonds (and other jewels) to be completely useless the analogy doesn't work. a diamond is not a single use item. food, on the other hand, even for the most anally retentive, passes through you in a day or two at the most.

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A Mexican immigrant, washing dishes for a living and sharing an apartment with relatives and friends, could set aside enough money to eat at Per Se. It's just a matter of whether they would want to or feel it was worth it.

I really believe you're overstating your case. There are people who simply can't save $300 for a mere meal, period, because they're too busy trying to earn enough to not have to choose between food, rent, clothing, utilities, and medical bills.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Yet people of a similar status might easily spend $300 in a month on drugs, or alcohol, or gambling etc. $300 is not much money, As long as your not the poorest of the poor.

Think about it this way, how many people go down to the local deli at lunchtime and order a Sandwich and a drink for $12 or so when they could bring in leftovers for, say $2.

50 weeks a year, 5 days a week thats $2500 or 10 meals at $250 per meal. Throw in the morning cup of $4 coffee at starbucks and thats an extra $1000 or a $291 meal a month.

With a few, relatively trivial lifestyle changes, any middle class person can easily find the spare change to not only dine at some of the best restauarants in the world, but to dine at them regularly.

PS: I am a guy.

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With a few, relatively trivial lifestyle changes, any middle class person can easily find the spare change to not only dine at some of the best restauarants in the world, but to dine at them regularly.

Define "middle class" and "regularly," if you like, but that still leaves a large number of people who by no reasonable definition are "middle class" (let alone rich). And with that, I bow out of the argument that everyone can afford to splurge $300. :raz::wacko:

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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A Mexican immigrant, washing dishes for a living and sharing an apartment with relatives and friends, could set aside enough money to eat at Per Se. It's just a matter of whether they would want to or feel it was worth it.

I really believe you're overstating your case. There are people who simply can't save $300 for a mere meal, period, because they're too busy trying to earn enough to not have to choose between food, rent, clothing, utilities, and medical bills.

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but aside from acknowledging that there are some people who truly are in dire poverty who couldn't possibly save up $300, the comment made by Shalmanese is also true, in that I've seen people in this exact status spend a few hundred dollars on drugs. But I really don't want to devolve into competing diatribes about how the poor spend their money.

The reason I made the observation in the first place was because of a personal experience of mine: For a large part of my life, I didn't feel I could afford to spend a lot of money on high end dining, so I didn't even enter the types of restaurants where one would spend $2-300 for a couple to have dinner. I probably could have afforded one visit if I'd saved, but since it would be a rare visit and I wouldn't know how to act in such places, I avoided them altogether. However, when I became a server in a fine dining establishment, I became aware that a large segment of the population does not think the way that I do.

It turns out that there are lots of people of modest means who do go to upscale restaurants, and it doesn't bother them in the slightest to ask for a blender drink that's featured on the laminated drink menu of a much more casual place. They don't even think twice about asking an accomplished chef to make them fried chicken or an extra-well-done steak with A1 sauce on the side. And they don't hesitate to forego all the expensive items on the menu and just have a $7 plate of calamari and nothing else, with lemons and a sugar caddy so that they can make lemonade with their water.

The fact that I'm in the minority because I was daunted by the white tablecloths, the servers wearing ties, the sommelier and all the accoutrements of fine dining was a real shocker.

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Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but aside from acknowledging that there are some people who truly are in dire poverty who couldn't possibly save up $300, the comment made by Shalmanese is also true, in that I've seen people in this exact status spend a few hundred dollars on drugs. But I really don't want to devolve into competing diatribes about how the poor spend their money.

Good idea. Let's not go there because it's OT not to mention that addiction and the propensity to spend money for consciousness/mood altering substances is hardly confined to the poor. Addiction knows no class or econmoic boundaries - it's truly an equal opportunity curse.

It turns out that there are lots of people of modest means who do go to upscale restaurants, and it doesn't bother them in the slightest to ask for a blender drink that's featured on the laminated drink menu of a much more casual place. They don't even think twice about asking an accomplished chef to make them fried chicken or an extra-well-done steak with A1 sauce on the side. And they don't hesitate to forego all the expensive items on the menu and just have a $7 plate of calamari and nothing else, with lemons and a sugar caddy so that they can make lemonade with their water.

It also turns out that there are lots of people of modest means who save their money, go to upscale restaurants and truly "get it". They understand what is and isn't appropriate and are there for the same experience that the more affluent customer is seeking. The eGullet community is chock full of such people and I doubt that we're in a small minority.

If my financial circumstances were radically altered so as to allow me the luxury of high end fine dining on a regular basis I'd go far more often than I do but not regularly. I'm far too fond of various ethnic cuisines and simple ingredients to be satisfied with eating at luxe places regularly. But I would get a really serious professional kitcven at home and spend more time cooking.

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Compare and contrast these two statements:

"With a few modest lifestyle changes, a middle classed person could easily afford to eat at some of the best restaurants in the world"

"With a few modest lifestyle changes, a middle classed person could easily afford to own some of the best art in the world"

One is absurd, the other isn't. On a scale of luxuries, food is pretty damn accessible. Keep in mind we're not talking good food or even great food here, we're talking about food that consistently is ranked in the top 10 or 20 in the ENTIRE world and, yet, is accesible to ordinary schmucks. If the beer guzzling, NASCAR contingent felt so inclined, they would be able to afford to dine at the French Laundry. I can't think of many other things that we spend money on that such a thing could be said.

PS: I am a guy.

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Well, count me as one middle-class person who would not save her money to spend $300 on a meal, however excellent it might be. (And I do recognize that some "eating experiences" are better than others.) Yes, I can save that $300, and it wouldn't take all that long, either. But this is the dilemma: if I spend that money on such a meal, how will I get the winter coat and boots I happen to need? It's a trade-off, always, and the meal simply cannot take precedence for me. (Do I get kicked off the board for such heresy? :wink: ) I'm unwilling to buy second-hand clothes so that I'll have more money to spend on restaurants. I suppose there are people who would make a different choice.

However, if money weren't an issue (as well as kashrut :rolleyes: ), I know I'd be in those restaurants for at least two reasons: (1) the food; (2) the learning. In fact, #2 would really be #1.

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It also turns out that there are lots of people of modest means who save their money, go to upscale restaurants and truly "get it". They understand what is and isn't appropriate and are there for the same experience that the more affluent customer is seeking. The eGullet community is chock full of such people and I doubt that we're in a small minority.

Well, I'm one of those people, too, but in my area of the country, we do seem to be the minority. After watching table after table come in and just order a small green salad, to split, I thought to myself, "I could do that too. I could go and eat in the nicest restaurants and leave with a tab of $8, including tax and tip, and I'd be cheating the system!" But no, it becomes obvious that you're not cheating the system. You can have a green salad for nearly nothing at home, and you can pour yourself water with lemon, and even mix a little sugar in it, so why go to someplace really nice and do that?

But they do. There are actually huge numbers of people that go to an upscale place just to say they've been there, and they can make a reservation for 13 people, with a total tab that ends up to be less than $300, tip around 10%, and that tip will be split amongst a 3-person team, minus tipout to the bar and others. Think about that the next time you are deciding between a restaurant that mandates that everyone get the full, 5-course tasting, or a place that lets everyone order a la carte. And then think about what that means in terms of service in various areas of the country. How do you hire serious professionals to wait on your tables if you cannot guarantee them that they will make a decent amount of money? How do you keep good people on your team? And if people come in and order the cheapest item on the menu regularly, how large of a section do you allow your servers to take, so they can make money, without sacrificing standards of service?

If my financial circumstances were radically altered so as to allow me the luxury of high end fine dining on a regular basis I'd go far more often than I do but not regularly. I'm far too fond of various ethnic cuisines and simple ingredients to be satisfied with eating at luxe places regularly.  But I would get a really serious professional kitcven at home and spend more time cooking.

I feel exactly the same way. I love to eat in restaurants, but I don't feel bad at all that I can't eat at Seeger's once a month. I will eat in upscale establishments when it suits me, and other times I'll travel the ethnic areas of my city and find hidden treasures at very low prices. As Shalmanese states, it's a wonderful time to live in many areas of the U.S., because there are lots of great places to find terrific cuisine.

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FoodTutor - I'm not terribly familiar with Atlanta culture or food, having been there only a handful of times and always on short business trips (but I did have a memorable and inexpensive meal at a Persian place near Perimeter center on my last visit.

I'm really surprised to hear of the phenomenon you describe. Syracuse NY, where I currently reside, is a smallish city in the center of the state and traditionally a blue collar culture. We have had a fair number of more upscale and slightly more inventive restaurants appear in the community in the past 4 - 5 years. I've eaten at the majority of them and never noticed diners here behaving as you describe.

Atlanta would appear, at least to the outsider like me, to be a reasonably upscale metro area with far more discretionary income than people in this area enjoy. Do you have a theory for what might be the cause of the phenomenon you describe?

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I'm really surprised to hear of the phenomenon you describe. Syracuse NY, where I currently reside, is a smallish city in the center of the state and traditionally a blue collar culture.  We have had a fair number of more upscale and slightly more inventive restaurants appear in the community in the past 4 - 5 years.  I've eaten at the majority of them and never noticed diners here behaving as you describe.

Atlanta would appear, at least to the outsider like me, to be a reasonably upscale metro area with far more discretionary income than people in this area enjoy. Do you have a theory for what might be the cause of the phenomenon you describe?

Your location in Syracuse would explain having a similar mindset to my own. There is absolutely nothing wrong with blue collar towns, and the people who live in them tend to be polite and friendly. Atlanta, on the other hand, has a lot of nouveau-riche going on. It's kind of hard to describe what it's like.

Atlanta is generally perceived by its denizens to be a city where you come here for a few years, make lots of money and go somewhere more family-friendly to settle down. People do not care much about improving the quality of the city, keeping good relations with those around them, or pretty much anything long-term, since they don't plan on staying.

What's really ironic is that most people aren't saving the money they make, which defeats the purpose of coming here for a few years and getting the heck out. The people here seem to react to a sudden increase in income by living to the full extent of their means, and sometimes living a good bit beyond their means. Bankruptcies are astronomical right now. Homes and cars are being lost everywhere. Many households structured their bills so that the minimum payments each month could be made only if both spouses work full time, so now that the economy has turned down a bit, one layoff means huge loss for the couple.

Except for me, of course. I live well within my means and have no debt, even though I'm just a waitress. Realtors and mortgage lenders practically had a heart attack over me when I bought property recently, because good credit is so hard to come by in these parts lately.

To complement this situation, we have way, way too many restaurants for an economy in this condition. And so we have plenty of upscale, white tablecloth establishments where people come in and ask for 5 baskets of bread before they'll order anything. Which reminds me that I was thinking of starting a topic about bread service in restaurants. At any rate, I've found it to be true in my personal life that I make more money working in upscale-casual than in fine dining, so that's why I work where I work. Hopefully, since my business is picking up, I can just chuck the whole waiting tables bit soon.

So I'm not sure a place like Per Se would even go over well here. I'm just not sure there are enough people here who'd spend the $300 per person to have really good food. After all, there are quite a few very good restaurants here right now that are mostly empty many nights of the week.

Glad you had a good meal here. Did you go to Shiraz? Or Persepolis? I love Persian food, and we have a few good choices for it around that area.

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