Gastronomy may be one of humankind's greatest and purest pleasures. Dilettantes the world over delight in having their palates tickled by exotic spices and unexpected flavors, and as the economy shows signs of recovery more of us are venturing outside our own kitchens to sample culinary delights.
According to FacetheFactsUSA.org, Americans spent as much on eating out in 2011 as they did during the halcyon days of the pre-recession era in 2008. Restaurants that survived the economic crunch - and some that emerged, despite the odds, during those years - are cheerfully accommodating diners who are eager to indulge after a belt-tightening couple of years.
Although we're more enthusiastic about dining out lately, you’d likely be hard-pressed to find a group of pals willing to split the bill on any of the menu items topping this list. These American establishments are offering their wealthiest guests and patrons mouthwatering delicacies at heart-stopping prices. But how expensive is expensive?
A $75 “gourmet burger" could certainly be considered frivolous but the burgers topping our list are at least five times that price. Rare and famously expensive ingredients coupled with edible "bling" make these 20 restaurant dishes the most indulgently-priced in the United States. Shameless badges of honor for a decadent lifestyle, or delectable examples of the art of gastronomy? Have a look at the list and decide for yourself.
20 20. Masa Toro with Caviar: $240 at Bar Masa, New York
Toro sushi is arguably the most sought-after sushi in the world. It's the fatty part of a blue fin tuna, located on its collar bone. The meat itself looks like a marbled steak. For $240, Bar Masa will give you an eight-piece Toro roll topped with caviar and served with a crispy brioche.
19 Le Burger Extravagant: $293 at Serendipity 3, New York
This is the first of three expensive food entries courtesy of the infamous Serendipity 3 in New York. Le Burger Extravagant is made of a Wagyu beef patty that’s infused with 10 herbs and white truffle butter, subtly seasoned with Alderwood smoked Pacific sea salt. It's topped with black truffles, a fried quail egg and cheese. The buns are truffle-buttered Campagna rolls. Holding this extravagant burger together is a gold encrusted, diamond studded toothpick. The burger is served with a blini, crème fraiche and Kaluga golden caviar.
18 A5 Kobe Steak: $350 at Old Homestead Steak House, New York
After the US Department of Agriculture lifted the ban on Japanese meat, the Old Homestead Steak House began offering the A5 Kobe Stripped Steak - a 12-ounce portion of Kobe beef, NY Strip-style. Kobe beef comes from the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. In order to be classified as Kobe beef, the meat has to pass the strict standards of the Kobe Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. For a chance to taste the A5 Kobe Steak, guests have to call in 48 hours ahead to give the restaurant time to purchase and prepare the beef.
17 “Douche Burger”: $666 at 666 Burger, New York City
Almost nobody will expect a $600 burger to hail from a food truck, but that’s exactly where the Douche Burger calls home. 666 Burger of New York constructed this burger consisting of a decadent Kobe beef patty drenched in gold leaf and seasoned with Himalayan rock salt, slices of fois gras, lobster and truffles. The whole stack is topped with caviar and aged gruyere cheese melted using the steam of boiled champagne. The most expensive part of the burger might be its wrapper – three $100 bills.
16 Decadence D’Or cupcake: $750 at Sweet Surrender, Las Vegas
Possibly the most expensive cupcake in the world, the Decadence D’Or is the creation of Chef Olivier Dubreuil for Sweet Surrender at Las Vegas’ Palazzo. It's made from rare Palmira Single Estate chocolate with a Charentes-Poitou AOC butter and Tahitian Gold Vanilla Caviar frosting topped with gold flakes. The cupcake also has a dash of Louis XIII de Remy Martin and is served with a hand blown sugar fleur-de-lis. Unsurprisingly, there are no stale Decadence cupcakes left over at the end of the day - guests have to order this cupcake at least 48 hours in advance.
15 Kentucky Derby Mint Julep: $1,000 at the Kentucky Derby
The original version of this cocktail is offered only during the Kentucky Derby and guests can bring home a souvenir after downing this expensive cocktail. The drink comes in a Tiffany & Co. glass and the cocktail is made from Woodford Reserve bourbon sweetened with Turbinado sugar. It's spiced with locally sourced mint leaves chilled by Alaskan glacier ice.
14 Lobster and Caviar Pizza: $1,000 at Niño’s Bellissima, New York City
One of the most expensive 12-inch pizzas in the world, Niño’s Bellissima in New York started serving this decadent pizza in 2007 and apparently, people actually order it! What makes this pizza worth the thousand dollar price tag? It's topped with four kinds of expensive caviar - worth $820 - and Maine lobster tail meat. Order your pizza at least 24 hours ahead to give the restaurant enough time to gather the caviar.
13 Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata: $1,000 at Norma’s, New York City
Lest we forget, a frittata is essentially an omelet. When you dine at Norma’s, however, that humble omelet is worth $1,000. The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata sits on a bed of baked potatoes and is topped with a pound of lobster meat and a whopping 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar. It's the most expensive omelet in the world, according to the trusty Guinness Book of World Records. Despite the eye-watering price, Norma’s sell 10 to 12 of these dishes per year. If you’re on a tight budget, you can enjoy a 'lite' version for $100 but you'll have to make do with just an ounce of caviar.
12 Grand Opulence Ice Cream Sundae: $1,000 at Serendipity 3, New York
This very special sundae involves five scoops of Tahitian vanilla ice cream infused with vanilla beans from Madagascar and covered in 23 carat gold leaf. The chocolate syrup drizzle is made with the expensive Amedei Porceleana, and it's sprinkled with chunks of rare Venezuelan Chuao chocolate. The sundae is then littered with Parisian candied fruits, gold dragnets, Marzipan cherries and truffles all topped by a small glass bowl filled with Grand Passion Caviar. The sundae is eaten using an 18 caret gold spoon and you'll have a mother of pearl spoon for scooping up the caviar.
11 City of Lights cocktail: $1,500 at Light Nightclub, Las Vegas
Served exclusively at Cirque du Soleil’s Vegas nightclub, the City of Lights is the type of cocktail that high rollers would splurge on. The drink consists of Hennessy Paradis Imperial, Bulleit Rye whiskey, Cocchi Barolo Chinato wine and Benedictine liqueur. It also has notes of Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters served on the rocks or “diamond ice” and garnished with an orange peel.
10 Wagyu Hotdog: $2,300 at 230 Fifth’s, New York City
230 Fifth’s is an upscale, rooftop Manhattan bar that serves the world’s most expensive foot-long hot dog. It's made with 60-day dry-aged Wagyu beef topped with Dom Perignon-caramelized Vidalia onions and sauerkraut braised in Cristal champagne. The condiments include mustard imported from France, saffron ketchup and white truffle butter. Of course, there's also caviar and some gold leaf sprinkled on top for good measure.
9 2013 Lobster Pasta: $2,013 at BiCE, New York
This limited edition pasta dish will only be available until the gold leaf, Versace-designed and autographed plates run out. To date, there are only 45 of BiCE’s 800 precious plates left. The Lobster Pasta consists of tagliolini made from scratch, sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes, an ounce of black truffle and two ounces of Maine lobster meat. After the meal, guests can request for their Versace plate to be washed and dried before they take it home.
8 Chocopologie: $2,600/pound at Knipschildt Chocolatier, Conneticut
One for the chocolate lovers, Chocopologie Café gives diners a sneak peek into traditional, old-timey techniques for prepping and creating handmade chocolate treats. Upon request, the chocolatiers will carefully prepare a dark chocolate truffle with a French black truffle filling made of 70% Valrhona cacao infused with truffle oil. The truffle is finished off with a dusting of cocoa powder. A single truffle is worth $250.
7 FleurBurger 5000: $5,000 at Fleur’s, Las Vegas
Though gourmet burgers are starting to become a national trend, none can wear the title of 'gourmet' as proudly as the FleurBurger. This $5,000 burger is made from 100% Kobe beef topped with seared foie gras and truffles served on a brioche truffle bun. A big part of the price is the accompanying bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus and the two Ichendorf Brunello stemware glasses that diners can keep as a badge of honor. The burger is served with a side of fries and some black truffle shavings.
6 Diamond is Forever Martini: $10,000 at Uncorked, New York
The first of two expensive martinis on our list is Uncorked’s “Diamond is Forever” vodka martini. This US version of the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton cocktail is created with Chopin vodka and a twist of line. Here’s where the expensive part comes in: the martini comes with a custom-designed diamond engagement ring. A 72-hour advance order is required to allow for enough brainstorming time with Andy Goetz, the jewelry designer who also happens to be a co-owner of Uncorked. After dropping 10k on the ring, you'll be grateful for a cocktail to calm the nerves.
5 The Ono cocktail: $10,000 at XS Nightclub, Las Vegas
The Ono is a signature champagne cocktail made with Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie 1981, the rare Louis XIII de Remy Martin Black Pearl cognac, Sence Rose Nectar, freshly squeezed orange juice and apricot puree. It is served in a gold-rimmed Baccarat champagne flute. Guests also receive an 18 carat gold necklace with a black pearl and diamond, and Mont Blanc cuff links as souvenirs.
4 Frrrrrozen Haute Chocolate: $25,000 at Serendipity 3, New York City
Serendipity’s Frrrrrrozen Haute Chocolate is a top contender on the “most expensive non-alcoholic” beverage list and is also its last entry on this list. The beverage uses a powdered chocolate mix made from 14 “rare and secret” cocoas which hail from Africa and South America. It's blended with milk, whipped cream, ice and shavings from La Madeline au Truffle – the world’s most expensive truffle. This frozen treat is topped with five grams of edible gold and served on a baccarat crystal goblet rimmed with more edible gold.
3 The World’s Most Expensive Banana Split: $3,333.33 at Three Twins Ice Cream, multiple locations
Three Twins is an organic ice cream manufacturer with scoop shops in Northern California. The company was established in 2005 and their ice cream is also available in over 1,000 supermarkets all over the country. Three Twins offers the World’s Most Expensive Banana Split with three scoops of Three Twins’ ice cream, a banana, cherries and whipped cream. What makes it so expensive? The dessert is drizzled with syrups made from three rare dessert wines: A 1960s vintage port, a Chateau D'Yquem and a German Trockenbeerenausiese. Guests get to eat the sundae with an antique ice cream scoop from the mid-1800s, and they're serenaded by a cellist as they eat.
This is indulgence with a conscience - one third of the price of your sundae is donated to a local land trust. Customers have to request this banana split ahead of time by calling a scoop shop or ordering online. Three Twins will get in touch with the customer to let them know the time and location where they can enjoy the sundae.
2 Ruby Rose Cocktail: $40,000 at The White Barn Inn, Maine
This exclusive Ruby Rose Cocktail was created to celebrate the White Barn’s 40th anniversary so it's only available this year. So far, two orders of the cocktail have been served up. Included in the cocktail is vodka, St. Germain Liqueur, fresh grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice a little rose water. Don’t drink the cocktail too fast, though, because there’s a 4 carat red ruby swimming at the bottom of the glass.
1 Strawberries Arnaud: $3.95 million at Arnaud’s, New Orleans
This infamous dessert used to sell for $1.4 million but apparently, the price didn’t do the dessert justice. The now $3.95 million Strawberries Arnaud is accompanied by a 7.09 carat pink diamond engagement ring supplied by MS Rau Antique. The dessert itself is made with fresh strawberries served in a port, red wine, spices and citrus marinade topped with a scoop of Brocato’s French vanilla ice cream.
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