Food delivery and takeout may historically be relegated to the world of more casual foods, but with the mandated shutdown of dine-in restaurants in light of COVID-19’s spread, famously luxurious and expensive restaurants are getting into the game this week — bringing items like high-grade sushi and imported uni to homes.
Starting Tuesday night, Major Food Group is launching delivery for its famed, swanky Italian-American spot Carbone on Caviar, though its more casual restaurant Parm is already available delivery. It’s also offering catering options and at-home meals in NYC (or the Hamptons) for Carbone, as well as from the menus of their restaurants like acclaimed, throwback chophouse the Grill and Jewish appetizing brunch hit Sadelle’s.
Rare and luxury food purveyor Regalis — known for supplying truffles and caviar to the city’s high-end restaurants — is offering a 25 percent discount on home deliveries for products like Japanese Hokkaido uni ($100 a tray) and black morels ($38 a pound). Suzuki is selling omakase boxes starting at $50, created by its Michelin-starred omakase Satsuki.
And those looking for sushi from a team that’s received a three-star New York Times review can call Shoji at 69 Leonard, where an omakase typically costs up to $252. Owner Idan Elkon tells Eater that chef Derek Wilcox is doing several boxes starting at $50 (wild bluefin tuna over sushi rice) and going up to $150 (12-piece nigiri plus tekka maki), with freshly grated wasabi.
People can order at any time of the day by calling the restaurant, and pick-up starts at 5:30 p.m., though lunch takeout will eventually be available and the restaurant can deliver depending on distance and order size.
A sushi set for $150 is on the higher end of takeout costs, and Elkon acknowledged that “it’s not affordable to everyone.” But it’s far less than what they typically charge for their wild, imported sushi menu, and he primarily made the move to keep a few employees employed, he says. With just ten seats and a highly focused menu, the restaurant needs to balance volume and precision, he says.
“Quite frankly, unless this ramps up, it’s going to cost me more money to keep running it,” he says. “A restaurant of our size, we don’t have a lot of reserves.”
The much bigger group Major Food Group — which owns more than a dozen restaurants in multiple cities — is staying open and doing delivery for their more high-end restaurants in order to keep some revenues coming in. It’s only a small solution to counteract the much larger blows to the dine-in business, and Major Food Group’s Jeff Zalaznick tells Eater that, even with delivery, “we have had to lay off and furlough a number of staff members as we operate during these difficult times.”
Restaurants across the city have been adding delivery and takeout options after a government-mandated shutdown of public dining rooms, a measure in hopes of slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Monday, the state agreed to let restaurants sell cocktails and wine for takeout as well.
Still, even with extra measures, many say that restaurants won’t be able to survive the closing mandates without a government bailout. Most are taking business day by day, waiting to see how demand and support shake out over the coming week.
Shoji is still working through its existing fish inventory, Elkon says, and if people buy the boxes, the restaurant could eventually scale up and hire more people, or offer more options at lower prices. All that, though, is unknown, he says.
“We have to see how long it sustains,” he says. “My main goal is to keep the entity going.”