Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Prix Fixe

What this country needs (among other things too numerous to mention, even for me) is more and better mid-range dining options. In my area, you can pretty easily score a good meal from one of a number of ethnic cuisines for $15, and there are sufficient options for people who are prepared to spend $60 or more, but we have nothing like what the French have. In Paris, you can't swing a dead cat (they have laws) without hitting a restaurant that will give you a three-course meal, including wine, for under twenty euros, including tax and tip. And that's the capital, people. It is not an inexpensive city by any stretch of the imagination. And the meals you get for that price? Magnifique!

One (or more) of my readers who has more skill, training, or (especially) capital than I have needs to get on this problem tout de suite. What I want to see is an armada of new restaurants where one gets a starter, a main course, a dessert, and a small carafe (let's say 250 ml per person) of the house red or white for $25, including tax and gratuity. (My original proposal was for $20, but I'm not sure it can be done.) That's $20 for the restaurant, $1.00 - 1.50 for the local sales tax, and $3.50 - 4.00 for the server, per diner. And dinner should last for ninety minutes. The French take a lot longer, but I'm making allowances for the fact that we Americans are a people in a hurry, and ninety minutes is already pushing the culinary attention span of many of my compatriots.

I'm sure there's a flaw in my analysis somewhere. Perhaps people who are willing to spend $25 a head for dinner are also willing to spend twice that. Perhaps Americans just don't care that much about good food. Perhaps running a restaurant with good food is inherently more expensive than that, but I doubt it.

Obviously, I know nothing about restaurant management, but at that price, I think what you'd be dealing with would be a starter and a dessert that would require no additional cooking. I'm thinking soups, composed salads, pâtés, and terrines for the starters, and a small selection of desserts. You'd have to plate those courses, and you might have to run a blowtorch across the top of the crême brulée, but a garde manger should be able to handle both of those courses. You'd obviously need a chef and some number of assistants to handle the main courses, but I think that if you offer a limited number (four or five) of main courses based on what's good at that time of the year, you should be able to make it work.

I mean, they do it in France, people! Are we saying the French can do something we can't? Why aren't the Republicans all over this?


Anonymous lindy said...


10:10 AM  
Blogger Sangroncito said...

And to think I feel like I'm being ripped off when I pay $4.00 or $5.00 for a full course meal here....

3:57 PM  

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