Most fancy restaurants around the world offer what’s called a tasting menu: several different, bite-size courses for a fixed price. These usually entail some of the priciest items in the world, and don’t seem like the best deal. But, you’re paying for the gastronome experience, a journey that heightens all of the senses. With the advent of molecular gastronomy cooking, tasting menus have become more intricate and flashy. Nowadays, the presentation is more important than the food, but if the chef does it right, you’ll have a small bite of food that’s both attractive and tasty. Most of these menus don’t have tax and tip added in, which increases the total bill by at least $100. Wine pairings are extra, too and will run as much as $300 per person, so factor that in, as well. For two people to dine at these foodie establishments, you’re looking at a lot of scratch. Time to start saving!
10. The Fat Duck – London – 220 Euros, or $371/person
Listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck whimsical 14-course tasting menu encompasses everything from hot and cold iced tea, to an iPod playing ocean waves, to Alice in Wonderland-inspired mock turtle soup, to snail porridge. Next year will mark the eatery’s 20-year milestone, so to celebrate, the staff’s closing the London restaurant in January for six months, in order to renovate the house it’s situated in. They will then relocate the restaurant to Australia for the duration of the renovations, where they’ll offer the exact same menu.
9. Le Louis XV Monte-Carlo, Monaco – 310 Euros, or $416/person
World-renowned Chef, Alain Ducasse opened the restaurant inside Hôtel de Paris, over 25 years ago. The website states that they create gastronomic and French Riviera cuisine, like sea bass and guinea fowl, which basically translates into really expensive, but really pretty food. The restaurant offers three tasting menus: a lunch menu for €145, $194, a dinner menu called Les Jardins de Provence, for $308 and the six-course Pour les Gourmets, the most expensive. To alleviate the blow to the bank account, a 15 percent tax and tip are already included in the prices.
8. Maison Pic – Valence, France – 320 Euros, or $429
Nestled five hours away from Paris and one hour from Lyon, Valence, France’s Maison-Pic was established in 1889 and won its first Michelin star in the 1930s. Currently, Anne-Sophie Pic runs the family business inside the Pic Hotel, and serves a few different types of tasting menus. The Menu Discovery has five courses (cheese cart is extra) for 160 Euros or $214. The $322 Menu Harmony has eight courses, including a candy called a Berlingot, stuffed with watercress. The priciest menu is the Menu Essential, which includes fancy things like blue lobster and an array of intricate desserts. If you want to exchange an expensive dinner for a mid-range lunch, try the four-course dejeuner tasting menu for a mere $127. Tax and tip are supposedly included.
7. L’Arpège – Paris – 340 Euros, or $456
Alain Passard’s three-star Michelin restaurant has not only been one of the best restaurants in Paris for 30 years, but it’s also ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the universe. The restaurant offers a few tasting menus, all expensive, all made with best-of-the-best ingredients. Their lunch menu, with 11 courses, goes for 140 Euros ($187); the dinner menu is 340 euros ($456); and their specialty veggie menu—which is great for vegetarians and those who don’t even like vegetables—charges 270 euros ($362). They also have an a la carte menu, but even that’s exorbitant. On a lighter note, like many of these European tasting menus, tax and tips are already included.
6. Urasawa – Los Angeles – $350/person
On Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills resides one of the most expensive restaurants in the U.S. Masa NYC Chef, Masayoshi Takaya mentored sushi chef Hiro Urasawa, so his namesake establishment is basically the Masa of the West Coast. Urasawa can only fit about 10 people into the place, who come for the kaiseki, or the Japanese version of a tasting menu. The 30 courses of seafood, like giant clam, abalone steamed in sake and boiled eel, are some of the freshest (and weirdest) seafood you’ll ever eat. If you add in a 15 – 20 percent tip and only drink water, the final tally comes out to over $400/person.
5. Joël Robuchon – Las Vegas – $435/person
Vegas used to be known mainly for strip clubs, Wayne Newton, chain restaurants and endless buffets, but that’s before French chef, Robuchon arrived with a vat butter and caviar, and spiced things up. The three-star Michelin restaurant is the only Robuchon restaurant in the U.S. (he has other restaurants in Tokyo, Hong Kong, London and Macau, to name a few). The restaurant concocts rich, unpronounceable dishes like cuit sur du gros sel aromatisé avec une fricassée de légumes, included in different levels of tasting menus. The sixteen-course Degustation Menu runs the highest at $435, and the prix-fixe three course menu will only set you back $127/person. Also inside the MGM Grand is Robuchon’s slightly more affordable eatery called, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, where tapas priced from $25-$40 are “prepared right before your eyes” to distract you as a garçon steals your wallet.
4. Masa – NYC – $450/person
Japan-native Chef, Masayoshi Takaya opened his sushi restaurant, Masa a decade ago. For a cool $450, patrons can sample what’s called an omakase, or chef selection of 20-25 courses of dishes like wagyu with white truffle, and uni (sea urchin). Masa spun off into two more affordable restaurants called barMASA—one in NYC and another in the Vegas’ Aria hotel—with a la carte sushi, lunch bento boxes and a full dinner menu that won’t set you back quite as much as Masa. The cocktails, on the other hand, remain at least $25 per drink.
3. The Restaurant Meadowood – St. Helena, Calif. – $500/person
Even though Meadowood serves fancy, foraged food, guests are allowed to wear dark denim jeans to dinner. Kids twelve and up are allowed to dine but thankfully, no babies. Napa Valley is known for wine, so no wonder this Napa-based restaurant offers a 140-page wine list, with some vintage bottles costing thousands of dollars. The wine pairings will add another $350/person to the already outrageous Counter Menu, so if you’re a high-roller, this is the place for you. If you’re not very comfortable dishing out all that money for one meal, pick their $225/person nine-course tasting menu, instead. But if you’re on the cheaper side, just buy Chef Christopher Kostow’s New Napa Cuisine cookbook, on sale in October.
2. Guy Savoy – Paris, France – 490 Euros, or $657/person
Until the end of September, this three Michelin star winner is offering five courses with five wines for only €170 or $228.14. This is a bargain considering their 18-course Innovations and Inspirations tasting menu cost 490 Euros or $657/person—and that doesn’t include the vino. The good thing is the acclaimed chef offers tiers of menus: Colors, Textures and Savors for 360 Euros ($482), and for lunch, they have a three-course prix-fixe menu for $147. If jetting off to Paris isn’t your thing but Vegas is, visit Savoy’s U.S. namesake outpost inside Caesars Palace. There, you can feast on a $350/person tasting menu or an a la carte menu, with the cheapest item being a plate of fine cheeses, for $35 and $180 for the priciest item, a whole roasted duck (for two).
1. Sublimotion – Ibiza, Spain – 1,235 Euros, or $2,082/person
The Spanish isle of Ibiza is known for celeb brawls like Bieber vs. Bloom, but also for a tasting menu so expensive, you need to be one of those aforementioned celebs to be able to afford it. Located inside the Hard Rock Hotel on the Mediterranean Sea, Sublimotion’s chef, Paco Roncero, opened the swank restaurant this summer. Every night, 20 employees coddle up to 12 guests and serve them 20 courses, containing ridiculous things like nitrogenized olive oil and a deconstructed Bloody Mary, which is supposedly fantastic. The dinner has been compared to a theater performance, with diners interacting with “the show.” Besides this restaurant, the hotel also has a rooftop lounge, where cocktails probably don’t cost $1,000 each.