Thursday, December 11, 2008

On The Cheap

I feel like everytime I go out to dinner with groups of friends these days, my companions always request "someplace cheap". But no one ever wants to go anywhere "dingy", which I guess precludes my uber-cheap go-to Doyer's Vietnamese. The food is excellent but I will admit the basement location in Chinatown leaves something to be desired.

But what ends up happening is that we go somewhere kind-of-cheap-but-not-really-because-I-don't-want-to-waste-a-night-out-on-so-so-food, everyone orders as if they are a damn Rockefeller, and then are annoyed that it ends up costing $80. People, you are in need of an Oprah aha moment, and I am about to give it to you.

It's all about smart ordering. If you do it right, you'll end up feeling like you just ate a luxurious dinner, but your wallet will beg to differ. And I'm telling you, based on a dinner that Zenia and I had there a few months back, Lupa is the best place in New York to indulge intelligently.
There are two key moves: split dishes and don't order ten thousand glasses of wine. Because Lupa has excellent service, you can do both of these things without feeling cheap or cheated. They will split dishes between two plates without you even asking, which makes it feel as if you are actually eating your own, full meal when in fact you are eating half of one. And they serve wine in quartinos, which works out to two smallish glasses, which means you also can share wine, again with your own glass so you do not embarrass yourself with extreme frugality.

So here's what you do. Order two pasta dishes, each to be split two ways. When Zenia and I were there, it was spring so we had the gorgeous asparagus ravioli, and let the waitress pick the other for us. Now it was unfortunate that she suggested the cacio e pepe (why is it that every Italian restaurant feels the need to promote this as the underrated dish that is so great but nobody orders? Hello, it's pepper and pasta! And maybe some parmesan! Nothing earth shattering!) but it was tasty enough so we didn't hold it against her for too long. Zenia was miffed that they took the orecchiete with sausage off the menu, and that we are both still annoyed about, especially since they still haven't put it back. But moving on.
Main course. Get big heavy meat. Split it. Balsamic pork shoulder if they have it. It is far and away the best thing we had that night, and the best thing that any of the diners in our immediate vicinity had that night.
And dessert? Totally up to you (I can't remember what we had), but for the love of god, split it.
On to wine. Have them pick it for you, a different quartino for every course and split the quartino. This way you're essentially getting a wine pairing, but only paying for a fraction of it.
So we enjoyed a four course meal with a wine pairing for $55 per person, including tax and tip at one of the most delicious restaurants in Manhattan. Ridiculous. And I was perfectly sated and pleasantly buzzed, not stuffed and drunk. The Europeans would be proud...or at least that French Women Don't Get Fat woman would be.

2 comments:

wambalus said...

Have you ever eaten at Otto? I've heard about on a few other blogs and wondered how it fared both taste and price-wise in your opinion.

Laura said...

I actually haven't. I think it's cheaper than Lupa and I've heard pretty good things. One thing I will say is that I've heard from many people that Babbo (batali's high-end restaurant) is not too much different in terms of quality of food from Lupa but it is nearly twice the price.

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