Masa has just raised it’s prices, so you will soon be paying $1000 per person. Shock, horror and outrage on my Facebook page. I have always wondered about the strange disconnect between wine and food costs. Romanee Conti starts at $15k a bottle, and I don’t think people on this board want to be reminded what has happened to Burgundy prices in the last year.
The best things I have ever tasted was a waygu steak in Japan, a three year old Comte, a Marcolini chocolate truffle with a butter fondant filling and a Jaboulet La Chapelle 1961.
Not too far behind are the likes of 1955 La Mission, Dover Sole at Le Bernardin and a great Flannery steak. The cost of the food items are a tiny fraction of the wine. Masa, arguably the most expensive restaurant in America still cost around 10% of the most expensive bottle of wine. Seems strange.
I think there is a good argument that big $$ is better spent on an amazing meal vs. an amazing bottle of wine.
So, would you rather have an amazing meal and a decent bottle of wine (say $100-$200 or whatever that amount is) or a decent meal and an amazing bottle of wine (see, e.g., Miles with a 1961 Cheval Blanc and a burger, albeit a very extreme example)?
I think it makes sense considering one is an experience and the other is a physical, collectible item that usually holds its value and often appreciates. If wine wasn’t bottled and the only way to ever enjoy it was poured from a barrel at restaurants, I imagine they would be priced much closer.
I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s long been my view that top-tier restaurants were one of the world’s great bargains, at least relative to similar experiences. At [name your chef-driven ***] restaurant, you get hours of personalized cooking and service from famous chefs in a lovely atmosphere. Often you can get out for less than $1,000 a couple, although obviously more at some places. That’s a lot less than a lot of other analogous top-tier, personalized experiences (e.g., great tix to concerts, sporting events etc.) And it’s certainly an awful lot less expensive than fine wine. Top sushi spots in Japan are probably the prime example of this, where you’re literally getting served by and interacting with the absolute titans of their craft. The reason for the public’s severely allergic reaction, as referenced above, is the delta between Masa-type prices and the pricing of everyday food or even normal nice-ish restaurants with which people are familiar. Romanee Conti doesn’t inspire the same shock and awe because it’s so far off of regular folks’ radar screen that it may as well not exist.
There is also the odd dynamic with wine that, if you spend $1,000 on a bottle of wine, if you drink it with other wine guys, that $1,000 bottle may actually get you tastes of 8 different $1,000 bottles. Doesn’t change much for me since I drink most wine at home or in small groups, but it does affect the economics to some degree depending on how one looks at it.
A dining experience requires more commitment by the guest. You have to get yourself there and be open typically to the whims of the chef at some of these higher end spots… some may have a person minimum to grab a Chef’s Table. If you wanted a high end wine and were willing to pay any amount I’m sure you could get it relatively quickly. I’d like to think restaurants have some backbone to keep to their reservation list no matter how much someone is willing to throw at them to squeeze in an impromptu visit w/o a reservation. You also pay with your time since many omakase’s I’ve been to which are easily multiple hours. You have to dress appropriately and behave within reason.
A fancy bottle of wine you could open up in your underwear while eating McDonalds and the whole experience could be done in <30 minutes.
In both instances you’re paying more for then the raw ingredient’s worth. It’s more conceivable that an amazing dining experience could be replicated than producing more vintage DRC (unless you’re Rudy).
But for the most part, I enjoy good wine with good food, although wine is more important. However, the “better” the food gets, the less important and actually more difficult to pair the wines become. I prefer having my most coveted bottles with a “very good” meal, in a restaurant that would be in the $100-150 range per person. Once it becomes a $300+ multi-course tasting menu, I often find that wine distracts from the food or vice versa. In those settings, I’d rather have a a versatile, high quality wine rather than a ultra high end collectible bottle…