Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Gilt


greensNbeans
 Share

Recommended Posts

Frank Bruni's Critic's Notebook column today is about restaurants that find nefarious ways to drive up the final bill. Several restaurants are mentioned, but Bruni has the hooks out for Gilt:

IF you want some red wine with dinner at the opulent new restaurant Gilt in Midtown Manhattan, your options typically rise from a minimum of $20 to a maximum of $1,000, with a median of $55 and an average of $246. That range is about what you would expect, but for this: It's not for red wine by the bottle.

It's for red wine by the glass....You'll find few New York restaurants at which Bacchus is such a bully and a snob.

...and...

At Gilt, an extreme case in point, an advertised fixed price of $92 for two savory courses and dessert turns out to be fiction, even apart from the wine. When I dined there, three of eight appetizer options entailed supplemental charges, and those supplements weren't paltry, ranging from $18 to $28. One of seven entrees had a supplement of $16, while another had a surcharge of $18.

By the way, as a comparison, the three-course prix fixe at Daniel is $96. There are 10 appetizer courses, two of which have supplements ($14 for lobster or $68 for tuna tartar with caviar). There are nine entréees, two of which have supplements ($12 for dover sole, $12 for duo of dry-aged beef). I am not counting the caviar that is offered as a stand-alone appetizer, which is $380 or $650.

Lastly:

Sneaky is a fair word for Gilt (where, it should be noted, wines by the bottle aren't as shockingly expensive as by the glass).... While other fixed-price menus have dishes with supplemental charges, I have not seen another New York menu on which the percentage of those dishes is so high. Or on which the charges seem so odd. There's no supplement for lobster, but there's $16 for lamb and $18 for a portion of Dover sole that, when I sampled it, could be consumed in fewer than 10 bites.

Bruini's review could be weeks or even months away, but unless he is transported (and it sounds like the Dover Sole didn't do it for him), expect three stars.

Edited by oakapple (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bruini's review could be weeks or even months away, but unless he is transported (and it sounds like the Dover Sole didn't do it for him), expect three stars.

Based on the article it could just as easily be two.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I feel like a lot of Bruni's criticisms aren't fair, especially considering the amount of extra courses one currently receives at Gilt, I did feel like the wines by the glass were rather obscenely priced.

I don't know wine that well, but upon looking through the wines by the glass I found all of them to be uncharacteristically expensive. The Cakebread Sauv Blanc that Bruni mentions in his article wasn't that great and seemed over-priced to me, even given the surroundings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wines, definitely on the expensive side.

I would estimate the cost in terms of ingredients, time and labor to make all the canapes and amuse bouches is the reason they are forced to supplement.

Nothing comes free....

In the end, it works for me but I personally think supplements on so many Items are a turn off for most people.

We shall see, right now it is hovering between a two and a 3 star review.

I see it as Brunis shot across the bow saying WTF, get your Shi zzzz together.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read Bruni's article, I was going to stay away if If I hadn't read some of the positive feedback here. But $20 for a glass of wine is rediculous. I would like to go there to see what they did to the space since Le Cirque closed. I was an Pastry intern at Le Cirque 2000 and thought the kitchen space was great....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny that Bruni didn't make comments like these in his article on Del Posto.

I do find excessive supplementation pricing to be a turn-off even if some of them are valid. If greater than a quarter of the menu needs supplementation then the whole thing should be adjusted appropriately. Obscene prices for wines by the glass are a turn-off too, especially in a restaurant in which tastings are very desirable. Bottle wines may be more reasonable, but if part of a small party and having a number of disparate courses it is more fun to have wines paired for specific dishes. This sounds somewhat prohibitive. Does anyone know if they offer wine pairings and what the prices are for them?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would estimate the cost in terms of ingredients, time and labor to make all the canapes and amuse bouches is the reason they are forced to supplemennt.

As I understand it, those canapes and amuses bouches go to all diners, so they should be embedded in the base cost of the prix fixe. Bruni's complaint is that so many of the dishes carry supplements, and at a certain point the "prix fixe" label becomes a joke. Based on a quick sample of available online menus, there are a couple of other offenders (Daniel, La Grenouille), but perhaps Gilt has pressed the point too far. I think he was also offended at the lack of reasonable wines by the glass.

Mind you, there are a number of restaurants in New York where the food is as expensive as Gilt's, or more so. Indeed, Gilt's $92 prix fixe may even be a bargain for cuisine on this level. But I can see merit in a complaint about a "fixed price" menu that isn't fixed.

Edited by oakapple (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny that Bruni didn't make comments like these in his article on Del Posto.

I do find excessive supplementation pricing to be a turn-off even if some of them are valid. If greater than a quarter of the menu needs supplementation then the whole thing should be adjusted appropriately. Obscene prices for wines by the glass are a turn-off too, especially in a restaurant in which tastings are very desirable. Bottle wines may be more reasonable, but if part of a small party and having a number of disparate courses it is more fun to have wines paired for specific dishes. This sounds somewhat prohibitive. Does anyone know if they offer wine pairings and what the prices are for them?

The words: Gilt, gelt and guilt keep popping into my head as I read all this.

A psychiatrist witha sense of humor can probably devise a clever quip.

First--while this is an appropriate subject (restaurant charges) for Bruni I believe that he should avoid comments regarding "major" restaurants he has not yet reviewed (my guess is he is in the process of formulating his review of Gilt).

Second--I always believe that anyone can charge anything they want for goods and services. Flawed as it is--the concept of supply and demand usually works.

Third--as long as the restaurant clearly states their prices there is nothing "nefarious" at play. A large number of supplements on a menu may be annoying but it is not neccesarily a "trick."

Fourth--getting into a debate over what is "fair" or "unfair" as a markup for food or wine rarely gets anywhere. For eg we all know that a plate of simple pasta (no truffles etc) is probably marked up more than a Veal chop. But if I am in the mood for pasta I "suck it up" (the pasta and the realization that I am getting less of a "deal" on my dinner). So too, most wines by the glass are less a "deal" than wine by the bottle as a general rule.

So with all this, my thoughts are:

Gilt seems to believe that enough people will pay their prices (if not they change or go out of business). I suspect that Bruni my be less than thorough in his comments about Gilt and their wine pricing to make his point--others will add to the story (here at eGullet and elsewhere).

A good reporter would certainly ask the restaurant to explain what is going on. We have no perspective in the piece just Bruni's view (again wearing the hats of restaurant critic/reviewer and reporter at the same time requires a big head or more column inches).

Obviously Gilt has a fairly substantial overhead and must meet their monthly nut. Many would say it is "nuts" to pay the prices at Gilt and head over to Uncle Nick's where a glass of retsina is "reasonably" priced (the calamari ain't too bad either).

Gilt has to offer a total experience-- something it is hard to put a price (wholesale or retail) on. I love Le Bernardin even though the portions are small and their wine list is pretty stiffly marked up. I leave a tad hungry but my soul feels satisfied after I eat there! Given that my soul is a bit thin and my stomach way too large--that is a good thing for me.

Anyway--Gilt has set the bar pretty high with their prices and methods and in the end, regardless of reviews, the relatively small number of diners they are going after, will speak with their wallets or their feet.

Edited by JohnL (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

JohnL:

I think Bruni's actual point was simply that Gilt is not quite honest with their listed price.

In other words, they should just charge $125 and do away with most of the supplements and the obscene wine markup (maybe the wines aren't obscenely marked up...maybe they're just not using any cheaper bottles to begin with?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

JohnL:

I think Bruni's actual point was simply that Gilt is not quite honest with their listed price.

In other words, they should just charge $125 and do away with most of the supplements and the obscene wine markup (maybe the wines aren't obscenely marked up...maybe they're just not using any cheaper bottles to begin with?)

I actually liked the story/impetus behind Bruni's piece (a few quibbles aside).

As for the supplement issue--we are quibbling here too.

The point is how many supplements are "allowable?" I agree that a menu can reach a point where one could use the term "dishonest."

I also agree that the wine markup noted by Bruni is "obscene."--a lot of this is personal judgement and perspective.

I wish that Bruni had saved his comments about Gilt for his formal review wherein he could provide more detail about the restaurant.

If he is doing a piece on pricing tactics in restaurants--which he is here--then the piece should have presented a broader scope not the few examples the piece contains. The focus should not, I believe, be so much on one place--Gilt.

I would surmise that Bruni, in the course of preparing his review on Gilt--had a lightbulb go off:

"hey there's a storyline here!"--then he writes the piece we are discussing here.

In the end--that storyline: overcharging and pricing tactics at restaurants etc--gets short shrift.

(this topic should be explored much further).

and--his soon to come review of Gilt similarly gets slighted. he in essence--as with Del Posto--offers up a sort of "pre-review."

This IMOP is not the best journalism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This IMOP is not the best journalism.

That would be true only if the person writing the article is a journalist. Currently at the NY Times, that word should always be used carefully.

For the most part the article rang true, but it should have concentrated more on the practices (especially the water) than on a few specific restaurants. I still think the consumer has the ultimate power to purchase however.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rich:

this is getting off-topic, but Bruni has had a long and credible career as a journalist...his non-culinary credentials can't be fairly impugned.

I wasn't referring to any individual, just the NY Times in general from the food section to the business to the news. They have allowed the "paper of record" to become a shadow of its former self.

That the food section has followed the news department is evidence of a system-wide failure within the editorial halls of the company.

I know the current food critic from his writings (especially in Rome)and articles on other subjects. There is no doubt in my mind that he has worked for the NY Times as a writer for many years.

I believe I complimented the article twice in this thread.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny that Bruni didn't make comments like these in his article on Del Posto.

Del Posto's menu is a la carte (though there are tasting menus, too). It isn't a "prix fixe" with supplements, which was the source of the complaint.

First--while this is an appropriate subject (restaurant charges) for Bruni I believe that he should avoid comments regarding "major" restaurants he has not yet reviewed (my guess is he is in the process of formulating his review of Gilt).

I didn't see a problem with it. Frank Bruni is the Times's restaurant critic; his job is to offer opinions on restaurants. This was an opinion about a restaurant. I don't see who benefits by a "radio silence before the full review appears" policy.

Second--I always believe that anyone can charge anything they want for goods and services. Flawed as it is--the concept of supply and demand usually works.

That is, of course, true. But part of Bruni's job is to impart information, as well as to form an opinion about it. Perhaps consumers will have the same objection that he had; and perhaps they will not. He has, at times, been prescient, but like any critic, he is fallible.

Third--as long as the restaurant clearly states their prices there is nothing "nefarious" at play. A large number of supplements on a menu may be annoying but it is not neccesarily a "trick."

I think his legitimate concern is that people come in with the impression that the menu is $92 prix fixe. Only when they arrive do they find out that, in fact, a significant part of the menu is not available at that price.

If he is doing a piece on pricing tactics in restaurants--which he is here--then the piece should have presented a broader scope not the few examples the piece contains.

This is really a plea for the New York Times to devote more space to these types of articles. We on eGullet, who are more obsessed with food than most, would probably welcome that. But the sports nuts would like to see more on sports, the opera nuts more on opera, and so forth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My point about the canapes and amuse were that even though they are given to everyone, if you removed them from the dinner, the sum total cost of the rest of the actual food (without supplements) you are served barely makes it under a 32% food cost if it does at all. I bet those amuse and canapes require a dedicated person or two in the kitchen, that's $30 to $55k a year in labor.

I would just charge $125 and eliminate the supplements.

We all should not forget the power of two numbers as opposed to three in price attraction but then again, this is NYC, people are buying $1M plus raw space condos.

I am preeeety sure the target base clients dont care...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...maybe they're just not using any cheaper bottles to begin with?)

I'm not justifying the crazy wine btg prices. Just out of curiosity though I priced the 04Cakebread Sauv. I saw a range (retail) from $20-30. Obviously they're buying by the case/bulk/wholesale, etc so I'm guessing around $15-18 a piece. If that's accurate according to industry standard (house should make their money back on a bottle after the first glass) than $20 is not so obscene. Am I way off here?

I agree, too many add ons are annoying. They interupt the experience forcing you to weigh out what is or isn't worth the extra cash. There should only be a couple supplements on any menu.

That wasn't chicken

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not justifying the crazy wine btg prices. Just out of curiosity though I priced the 04Cakebread Sauv. I saw a range (retail) from $20-30. Obviously they're buying by the case/bulk/wholesale, etc so I'm guessing around $15-18 a piece. If that's accurate according to industry standard (house should make their money back on a bottle after the first glass) than $20 is not so obscene. Am I way off here?

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's see. You get six, four ounce servings from a $15 bottle of wine (Cakebread SB is actually $13 per bottle wholesale by the case, but let's round off numbers), that equals $120 for a $15 investment - a markup of 800%

You be the judge - is that obscene?

I thought that the standard was five glasses to a bottle. Let's generously suppose that that is the case, which would make the markup 567%, which is still obscene.

In Rich's scenario, the markup is 700%, not 800%. To calculate markup, you subtract original cost; hence, ($120-$15)/$15 = 700%.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My point about the canapes and amuse were that even though they are given to everyone, if you removed them from the dinner, the sum total cost of the rest of the actual food (without supplements) you are served barely makes it under a 32% food cost if it does at all. I bet those amuse and canapes require a dedicated person or two in the kitchen, that's $30 to $55k a year in labor.

I would just charge $125 and eliminate the supplements.

We all should not forget the power of two numbers as opposed to three in price attraction but then again, this is NYC, people are buying $1M plus raw space condos.

I am preeeety sure the target base clients dont care...

I just had brunch at Jakes in Manayunk (an upscale restaurant in a Philadelphia suburb).

Interestingly the brunch menu listed main items with prices on the right hand side.

prices were a tad on the high side (not ridiculous) from $12.50 for a plain omelet with asparagus to a jumbo lump crabcake with greenbeans and fried yams etc. for $17.50.

On the left side of the manu were a list of items under: "complimentary tasting course" this included: caesar salad, house made granola, house smoked salmon, soup of the day etc. Diners were instructed to select one of these "complimentary" items. 9they were basically what most places would call first courses or appetizers.

Portions of both the courses at Jakes were fair in size/quantity IMOP.

I have never seen this tactic. (at least I can' t recall it).

In essence the main course and price was ok (again a bit on the high side) but add in the "complimentary tasting course" and the brunch becomes quite reasonable pricewise (value).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My rule of thumb has generally been that a glass of wine should be priced at about one fourth the price of a bottle in a restaurant, at least that's what I've generally experienced. In most cases the restaurant gets about five or six glasses to a bottle. Just as I can justify a mark up on a bottle simply becuase a restaurant has costs not incurred by a retailer, (glasses, washing glasses, sommelier, and a dozen other related costs) so I can justify an increase in the cost of wine sold by the glass instead of the bottle. Waste is one of those costs, but there's simply more service involved in selling three or four glasses to a diner than in selling a bottle. Oddly enough, there seems to be a greater concern about the price of a glass than that of a half bottle or wine. Can we accept the simple concept that there's a savings in buying bulk, even if it's a bottle of six, or so, glasses?

For what it's worth, my wife ordered a glass of wine at Lombardi's pizzeria the other night. I forget which reds they had on the list for seven dollars a bottle. When she made her choice, the waiter noted "red." Out of curiosity alone, she ordered another varietal for her second glass. Whatever variety (or blend) it was, she swears both glasses tasted exactly the same. My point here is that the bottles went for $20, or three times the price of the glass and I'd say those glasses could be filled to the brim about eight times from a standard 750ml. bottle. Bottled beer, which I prefer with pizza, was a much better buy at five dollars a bottle, especially if eschewing Bud Light. Then again with bottled beer, they don't incur the cost of stocking or washing glasses. You don't always get what you pay for, but you never get any more.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rich:

this is getting off-topic, but Bruni has had a long and credible career as a journalist...his non-culinary credentials can't be fairly impugned.

He has had a career as a "journalist."

I don't believe that this is the place to debate his (or anyone's journalistic credentials).

Also-I don't think anyone is trying to "impugn" Mr Bruni.

The real issue is more focused on the editors and management at the Times (not individual writers, reporters, journalists etc).

The article in question contains some very pointed criticisms of a restaurant (Gilt) and its pricing strategies for food and wine. If you read the piece you will note that though other places are mentioned the verbage about Gilt are especially critical in tone.

I believe this is because Bruni is in the process of dining at Gilt in preparation for his formal review of the place. He also mentions Telepan a recently opened restaurant.

In essence, the way Bruni mentions Gilt amounts to a "mini-review" or a "pre review" and is very critical in tone.

Hopefully, Bruni will elaborate on the price problem at Gilt when he reviews it fully (this is part of the critic's job).

The Gilt mention (focus really) in the piece in question is void of anything that would "balance" the criticisms about pricing that a formal review would carry, That is atmosphere, amuse bouches, service, and most importantly--the quality of the food. In short-the overall dining experience at this restaurant. (it may be that the prices in Mr Bruni's opinion do not warrant a visit to Gilt, it may also be the case that though Mr Bruni doesn't approve of the price issues he believes that Gilt is worth it).

The point is we do not know any of this, and if all we have to go on is this week's piece--one would believe that Gilt is being "panned" for high and faulty prices. IMOP not fair to Gilt or more importantly, the readers. His comments about Gilt are without context.

So--what to do?

If Mr Bruni is going to use some criticisms of a specific restaurant as the basis of an article (especially an important restaurant that is new and not known to readers) then he could easily wait until he has reviewed the place and then use it in his article.

I also do not believe that Bruni shouldn't comment about a place he has not reviewed fully, in principle, I am just arguing for more context and fairness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For the little it's worth, I think this article presents a different situation than the one about Del Posto.

I was one of the people who disagreed with the Times's permitting their primary restaurant reviewer to write what amounted to a preview of Del Posto. I don't think reviewers should write pre-opening previews of places they're going to review. (This isn't limited to restaurants.)

But I don't see similar objections to Bruni's writing what amounts to a think piece discussing an issue that arose during his pre-review testing of a new restaurant. Sure, it would have been better if the article weren't as focused on Gilt as it was. But it was a very different type of article than the Del Posto one.

(Another difference, although it sort of comes down to the same thing, is that the Gilt piece is based on what Bruni experienced while dining at the restaurant after it opened. The Del Posto piece was basically a pre-opening preview based not on Bruni's experience there but on what the owners were claiming. Looked at that way, the Gilt piece really isn't more objectionable than a "Diner's Journal" pre-review.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My rule of thumb has generally been that a glass of wine should be priced at about one fourth the price of a bottle in a restaurant, at least that's what I've generally experienced. In most cases the restaurant gets about five or six glasses to a bottle. Just as I can justify a mark up on a bottle simply becuase a restaurant has costs not incurred by a retailer, (glasses, washing glasses, sommelier, and a dozen other related costs) so I can justify an increase in the cost of wine sold by the glass instead of the bottle. Waste is one of those costs, but there's simply more service involved in selling three or four glasses to a diner than in selling a bottle. Oddly enough, there seems to be a greater concern about the price of a glass than that of a half bottle or wine. Can we accept the simple concept that there's a savings in buying bulk, even if it's a bottle of six, or so, glasses?

No problem with a reasonable markup Bux, restaurants must make a profit. But if Gilt is charging $80 for a Cakebread SB (based on the 4x scenario you mention above), that becomes outright silly. My rule of thumb is basically 2/2 1/2x what it cost retail, which still gives the restaurant 150-200% markup. The Cakebread SV should sell for $36-45 in a restaurant based on the $13-15 wholesale and $18+ at retail.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...