One of New York's most high-profile caviar restaurants has cut its prices by up to a third, a rare occurrence for such a luxurious product, but a necessary adjustment in this case. Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side has lowered the cost of its fish roe by up to $40 per serving, a move that brings the prices closer into line with what it charges at the older and more established retail store. Last year, this critic publicly asked whether Russ & Daughters "was charging too much for its caviar," while Pete Wells of the New York Times called the cafe's markups an "unpleasant surprise."
"We realized we could give the cafe a better deal," owner Niki Russ Federman told Eater, explaining that the year-old Cafe on Orchard Street is technically a separate business entity, acting as a wholesale customer of the 101-year-old retail store on Houston. Federman said that she was able to find operational efficiencies to provide the roe at lower prices.
The cafe now charges $140 for 50 grams – about 1.76 ounces – of American (transmontanus) or Siberian (baerri) caviar, down from $175, while the same amount of osetra (gueldenstaedtii) now costs $220, down from $255. The retail store still charges $20 less for each of those selections, where they don't come with unlimited blini and creme fraiche, and where patrons won't feel obliged to tip the standard 20 percent. Prices for the lower-grade hackleback and paddlefish roes have dropped in the cafe as well, to $90 and $70, respectively, as have the prices for the caviar flights, which now include 15 grams of caviar per selection, instead of 10 grams.
Russ & Daughters' cafe prices, over the past year, have been comparable to (or cheaper than) many of its restaurant competitors on a per gram basis; what tips the scales is the fact that the cafe serves 50 gram portions, as opposed to the 30 gram sizes more common elsewhere. So even though Russ & Daughters technically only charges $4.40 per gram for osetra at the entry-level size, compared with ~$6.35 per gram at Le Bernardin, some might find the latter more accessible because the asking price is $180 for an ounce (nearly 29 grams), while Russ & Daughters charges $220 for a tin, which includes about 20 grams more.
Thirty grams is about right for one hungry caviar connoisseur, or two entry-level eaters, while 50 grams is the right size for two experienced caviar consumers. This critic once polished off 50 grams alone at Russ & Daughters without too much trouble, though he experienced a bit of palate fatigue during the final bites.