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Pricey (and Affordable) Menu Changes Come to The Modern, Atera, Eleven Madison Park

Eater's restaurant critic runs down major menu changes at three fine dining restaurants

Prices at New York restaurants will rise throughout the fall and the new year. This reality is as certain as a line at Shack Shake or spaghetti with wagyu meatballs on the menu at Lavo. Pushing up the cost of running a food service establishment are mandatory health care, paid-sick leave, federal regulations that make more workers eligible for overtime, and, at the end of 2016, a two dollar hike in the city minimum wage to $11 per hour.

I’ll continue to report on these developments as they occur, but for now, here’s how three of the city’s priciest and most celebrated establishments are adding more expensive – and more affordable – offerings to their menus this autumn.


The Modern

Danny Meyer’s most highly-trafficked restaurant reopens today following an extensive renovation. Starting in October, this will be the latest culinary establishment to offer a kitchen table menu, an option that will be priced at nearly $100 above the restaurant’s most expensive offering. Chef Abram Bissell, the holder of two Michelin stars, will offer a single seating of up to four guests at the table, which has banquette-style seating, and offers views of the cooking area and the pass. The menu, which is inclusive of service, will cost $298.

How many courses will the kitchen table include? That depends. Bissell says it’s a bespoke experience curated around conversations between the guest and the maitre d’ while booking. He recommends a minimum of five courses plus amuses, pre-desserts, and petits fours, but adds that he’d be happy to accommodate family style meals, pre-theater meals, or even an extended menu of bites more common at counter-style tasting restaurants. "The more high-end a restaurant is," Bissell explains, the "more dialogue" there should be between the guest and the diner. "The time to be told how to eat and what you should love, I think that time is over," he says.

The formal dining room, which overlooks, The Modern’s sculpture garden, will continue to offer its $158 four-course menu, while the longer eight-course menu will rise by $10 to $208, a price that’s also service-included, or as Meyer calls it, "hospitality included." Lunch will retain its three course option for $118, but the second menu, previously a four-course meal at $128, is now a six-course tasting at $158.

Bar Room prices, which Bissell says The Modern "pushed a little bit too high" in the early days of eliminating tipping, will drop a bit, with plates costing $11 to $34.

Atera

The price of dinner at Jodi Richard’s Atera has remained stable since Ronny Emborg joined in 2015 and started serving his forage-y, tweezer-y, Nordic-inspired 18-course tasting. But as of September, dinner is now $40 more expensive at $275, service-included.

The new price is a "more accurate reflection of what it costs us to produce and serve our tasting menu," maitre d’ Matthew Abbick writes via email, adding that, "after connecting with a few new farmers, we are currently spending three to four times more for vegetables than we were a year ago."

A U-shaped wooden table with dark wood furniture and hanging light fixtures. Daniel Krieger/Eater

[Atera by Krieger]

The wine pairing has dropped by $20 to $175, as a possible "incentive [to] guests who were wavering" between that option and the booze-free option. Accordingly, the non-alcoholic tasting, which this critic praised in a review earlier this year, has risen by $20 to $105 per person, a move that should help with the "sustainability of the restaurant."

What precisely does Abbick mean by sustainability? "There was a time in the history of Atera when the words budget, profit, and sustainability were as meaningful as jabberwocky," he writes. Here's more from Abbick on the changes:

That prior life of no financial accountability ended when we closed in March of 2015. Along with a new chef, naturally came a new menu, some new faces, and new rules. Ronny also brought in a new set of goals. One of them was the previously foreign concept of not losing money. In the six weeks prior to the reopening of the restaurant that May, all I heard in my sleep was Emborg's voice repeating "the budget...the budget." As we were planning out the details of our reinvention, we wanted to be as approachable as possible with our menu price and still make the budget. We figured wine to play a big part in that.

He goes on:

We knew of course that there would be guests who would have only the menu and nothing in addition. And we were good with that. We had also envisioned more guests choosing our temperance pairing as a supplement to a wine pairing or a bottle and not only as a standalone option. As some time went on, we realized we had not quite anticipated just how many of our guests would opt for no beverages. And month after month, we saw that wine sales were the only thing bringing us within reach of a break-even point. It was a sad reality, that if every guest of Atera ordered the tasting menu and a temperance pairing, we would close. The change in menu prices this September was necessary if we wanted to keep Atera open without relying on the greater portion of our patrons to imbibe. We are always happy to welcome all guests to our dining room, regardless of whether they order a glass of wine, a bottle of DRC, or prefer to stay with sparkling water. We just decided that keeping Atera in business should not be a burden falling on the shoulders of wine drinkers.

Eleven Madison Park

[The bar at Eleven Madison Park by Nick Solares]

Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s $295 per person Eleven Madison Park, which switched to a service-included system earlier this year, has introduced a more accessible way to dine at the restaurant: a shorter set menu at the bar tables for $145. The five course tasting "give guests an experience that is similar in spirit to what they would receive in the dining room, but more accessible in terms of time and money. There will be choices in most of the courses," per a spokesperson for the restaurant. The debut menu will begin with caviar Benedict, while the main course will include a choice of either 150-day dry-aged beef, smoked trout, or the restaurant’s signature lavender-glazed duck. Pro tip: Get the duck. A beverage pairing costs $85 per person.

Dinner for two at the bar will run $501 with wine pairings. That’s about half the price of dinner plus pairings in the dining room, which run $1,023.

Top photo: The stools at Atera by Nick Solares

The Modern

9 West 53rd Street, Manhattan, NY 10019 (212) 333-1220 Visit Website

atera

77 Worth Street, Manhattan, NY 10013 (212) 226-1444 Visit Website

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10010 (212) 889-0905 Visit Website

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