Nine Tasting Menus You Can Actually Afford
Babu Ji in New York City
What it is: A new modern Indian spot in Alphabet City by way of Melbourne.
The price: $50 chef’s tasting (Note: the whole table must spring for it)
The menu: Chef’s choice of appetizers, curries, naan, rice, and kulfi (ice cream). That can mean anything from goat curry to Punjabi khadi (cauliflower-chickpea fritters) to tandoori-charred rainbow trout.
The Progress in San Francisco
What it is: Family-style meal from the State Bird Provisions team. The whole table has to agree on what to order (except for dessert).
The price: Six courses for $65.
The menu: Dishes run the gamut of cultures: everything from Thai basil curry oil-marinated raw albacore to “everything” roti with smoked soubise, vinegared squash and summer herbs to grilled cauliflower with smoked prune romanesco.
Trestle in San Francisco
What it is: A tiny, new Jackson Square spot from Hi Neighbor restaurant group (Stones Throw; Fat Angel).
The price: Three course for $35 (not too good to be true).
The menu: Simple yet inspired dishes like a falafel salad (with crispy lavash, cucumber, tzatziki, and mint) and sausage-stuffed roast quail, which comes with grilled peaches, Red Russion kale, farro, and quail jus.
Mina Test Kitchen in San Francisco
What it is: A special Middle'terranea menu—the first in a pop-up dinner series—at Michael Mina’s restaurant. It’s running through the fall.
The price: Family-style meal for $45 (tickets available online).
The menu: Consider this an introduction to eastern Mediterranean cuisine, showcasing the flavors of Israel, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon.
AL's Place in San Francisco
What it is: A Mission District hotspot from chef Aaron London (hence the “AL”).
The price: Family-style meal for $60.
The menu: You’ll get options from the “cold/cool” section (shelling beans, eggplant mayo, blackberry vinegar, and green fig), “warm/hot” (campanelle with heirloom tomato, goat’s milk gouda, and basil), and sides like pork belly with galangal soda, bok choi, and roe.
Aster in San Francisco
What it is: Casual and creative California cuisine from chef Brett Cooper and local favorite Daniel Patterson.
The price: Four courses for $59 (includes tip).
The menu: Dishes like potato-black pepper dumplings with maitake mushrooms, peas, and yogurt, and local halibut with radish, sunflower seeds, nectarine, and basil are refined yet approachable.
Sbraga in Philadelphia
What it is: Seasonal modern American run by a Top Chef star.
The price: Four courses for $55.
The menu: Current dishes include beer tartare with toast, cherry peppers, and sharp provolone; spaghetti with king crab, tomato butter, and calabrian chili; and octopus with potato, olive tapenade, and piri piri. For dessert: Caramel bavarian with blueberry, hibiscus, and oat crumb; or olive oil cake with strawberries, fromage blanc, and sorbet.
Pubbelly in Miami
What it is: Asian-inspired gastropub in Miami Beach.
The price: Seven courses for $39.
The menu: Diners select dishes from separate sections, including “flour + water” (think duck confit ravioli and short-rib gyozas) and “pig out” (pork cheeks with potato foam and steak frites).
G by Mike Isabella in Washington, D.C.
What it is: A sandwich shop that transforms into a modern-day Italian spot at night.
The price: Four courses for $40.
The menu: Classics get a 21st-century twist: lasagna Bolognese is punched up with lemon-basil ricotta, while the squid-ink pasta comes with clams and smoky bacon breadcrumbs.