At Vermilion in Midtown Manhattan is making a move into the literary scene, which makes sense, as its Indian-Latin fusion efforts haven’t exactly worked out. So it goes the bi-level restaurant sold at least $25,000 worth of deals via Groupon this past weekend, including a $95 tasting menu that “celebrates the life and work of Sir Salman Rushdie.” The Rushdie repast was listed at a 27% discount off the “original value” of $130.
Some BAD DEAL MATH will tell us what’s wrong. Let’s start with the original $130 valuation, a suspicious number because there’s no indication this menu was ever offered at that higher price. How can there be a discount if the only real price is $95? After all, a receptionist at At Vermilion [sic] said the Rusdhie dinner is only offered through Groupon, which is to say it’s not available for purchase at $130.
Let’s consider food costs. If Vermilion’s menu were offered at $130, it would be $5 more expensive than a foie gras and lobster-studded tasting menu at the three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park. Doesn’t seem quite right, considering At Vermilion’s Rushdie menu includes chicken kebab, corn soup (curious choice for December), street chaat, quail, a riff on pao bhaji (a traditional curried potato dish), ice cream and your choice (!!!) of an autographed Salman Rushdie novel. It’s like your free toy in a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
And At Vermilion’s more accomplished competitors all charge less the than the $95 Rushdie repast. The Michelin-starred Junoon serves a tasting menu with more luxurious ingredients: langoustines, lamb and venison. Cost: $85. The critically-acclaimed Devi also serves a $85 tasting menu. The Michelin-starred Tulsi serves a longer tasting menu with pumpkin soup, squid, boar chops (or goat), chicken curry and fish casserole. Cost: $65.
To be fair, those other restaurant don’t give away autographed copies of Salman Rushdie novels. But we here like to believe that people visit restaurants for food, not for literature. So we’ll call this one a BAD DEAL.