Gilt City is charging $350 for a class where Nobu 57 chefs teach you how to make sushi at home. It’s a BAD DEAL because you shouldn’t make sushi at home (as we’ve previously reported). But at least you get to pick up some great knife skills, right? Wrong. The terms of the deal state that the ”Sushi chef is the only one allowed to cut; members will not be allowed to handle any knives.”
So they’re teaching you how to make sushi, using really sharp knives. But you can’t touch the knives. It’s sort of like teaching you how to fly a helicopter, but without letting you fly the helicopter, and then telling you to go home and fly the helicopter. With no supervision. While your friends watch.
Which is another way of saying people might get hurt.
Alright Bad Dealers. Time to break out your No.2 pencils and pay close attention. This Gilt City offer for The Dutch in Miami is pretty much your paradigm for a GOOD DEAL. In fact, there are six distinct reasons why Andrew Carmellini’s restaurant gets it right:
Gilt City is again offering a wedding deal at Mario Batali’s Del Posto. The $35,000 price is almost-all-inclusive: you get dancing, drinks, dinner, flowers, cake and a five-piece jazz ensemble. This is probably, sadly, definitely a decent enough DEAL for New York City.
Still, lets’ take a closer look: The Del Posto offer includes a standing wedding reception, a 4-course meal and a five-hour premium open bar, all for up to 120 people. That comes out to $292 per person, though Del Posto charges an extra $250 per person for up to 30 more guests, which can bring the cost to $42,500 for 150 people. That’s still well below the average Manhattan wedding cost of $66,000, if you believe the latest survey data from The Knot and The Wedding Channel.
It’s not even Christmas and the daily deal sites are already re-gifting. So it goes that Gilt City is offering At Vermilion’s $95 `Salman Rushdie’ menu. It’s the same exact deal that Groupon offered last week. Gilt City recommends calculating your gratuity on the “original” price of $130, which brings your real cost for two after tax & tip to $259. That’s more than you’ll spend on dinner for two at fancier venues like Michael White’s Ai Fiori or Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern.
What’s more, there’s no evidence that At Vermilion was ever offering this meal at the “original” $130 price point, which puts the 26% discount into dispute. Even at the $95 price point, Vermilion’s menu is more expensive and contains fewer luxury ingredients than the tasting menus at the more accomplished, Michelin-starred Junoon & Tulsi. As such, we’re calling this one a BAD DEAL. Read our previous criticism of the Groupon offer for more details.
We at The Bad Deal don’t believe in brunch. It’s not a meal. Yes we’re in the minority on that particular viewpoint, but we like to think here’s a broader consensus about the following maxim, so much so that we’re willing bet it’s closer to a scientific law:
Bad Deal Rule #12: Brunch Shouldn’t Cost More Than Dinner.
Gilt City is the violator in question. Of course they are. The New York-based daily deal company is selling a $200 champagne brunch for two, which includes two courses each, plus a bottle of Moet & Chandon (retail: $35-$40), at Brasserie Beaumarchais in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. So after tax & tip on the original $350 MSRP (!!!), your brunch will come to $280. How do we know that’s pricier than dinner? Because low-and-behold Gilt City is selling dinner for two at the same restaurant for $70, or $115 with wine pairings.
Bad Deal Rule #12.5: Brunch should not cost $280 when it includes a $38 bottle of champers available at just about any store, distributor or wholesaler in the country. Incidentally, the restricted Gilt City brunch menu only includes nine items (burger, gnocchi, foie gras, salad, eggs). So yes, given the multiple infractions, we’ll call this one a BAD DEAL.
Welcome to our newest feature: “Gilt City Versus The Bad Deal,” a he-said, she-said-style column where we dispute various statements made by Gilt City, a New York-based daily-deal company. Future editions will likely include UrbanDaddy as well. Today’s questionable offer involves Pranna, a Pan-Asian restaurant in Manhattan’s NoMad district that can seat close to 500 people. So that all said, let’s compare Gilt City’s statements with reality:
Gilt City Says: Members enjoy a “family-style tasting menu for two.”
The Bad Deal Says: It’s a three course menu. One appetizer per person, one entree per person, plus a dessert sampler, and one cocktail each. That’s not a tasting menu. That’s dinner. And expect to spend more on alcohol.
Gilt City Says: The $96 offer is valued at $160, saving you 40%.
The Bad Deal Says: The retail value of the dinner, based on current menu prices and Gilt’s offerings, will come out to around $97-$110. So pretty much you’re getting a free cocktail at best. You’re not saving 40%.
Gilt City Says: The family-style tasting menu is “exclusive.”
The Bad Deal Says: Every single dish on the Gilt City menu is on the regular dinner menu — except for the amuse. So no exclusivity yet, and if you think an amuse is exclusive, you probably also think Ninja is a great place to eat and Nello is a three-Michelin starred restaurant. What IS exclusive is that Gilt City members are confined to choosing their meal from a small portion of the much larger menu. We’ll give Gilt that, their restrictive choices are exclusive.
Gilt City Says: The offer includes a “Pranna VIP Member Card” which offers a “a 15% discount, priority reservations, and other benefits.”
The Bad Deal Says: The reservation books at Pranna are almost always wide open. No need for VIP access. According to OpenTable.com, Pranna can accommodate a party of two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve during the prime time hours this coming Friday. Also, we’d suggest not making a habit of eating at this behemoth of a restaurant. Try Laut or Kin Shop instead.
L’Espalier, the critically-acclaimed “New England-French” restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay, serves six-course tasting menus for $105, or $190 with wine pairings. So after tax & 18% tip, that comes to $236. Sound like a good deal? Yeah, sounds like a great deal.
Keep the above number in mind, because Gilt City is selling a deal that includes virtually the same menu and similar wine, for $259 (tax and tip included). This isn’t too bad of a deal, is it? Yep, it sure is; you could lose the full value of your meal if you don’t show up to the one-night-only affair on October 10th. What’s more, you’re locking yourself and your dining companion into expensive wine pairings, optional for everyone else. What do you get in return by ordering through Gilt City? Just some produce and a farm tour that takes place at 3pm on a Monday, when you’re probably at work. See below for the full risk vs reward breakdown:
Mr. Chow, one of the most poorly reviewed Manhattan restaurants, sold out of its $82 Gilt City deal within hours of its debut (valid for both Midtown & Tribeca locations). Here’s what Gilt wrote about Mr. Chow:
To show how outside the mainstream Gilt’s opinion is on this issue, here’s what the rest of the rational culinary community has written about Mr. Chow. The relevant question is this: Would anyone have purchased this deal after reading the reviews?
Our advice: Trust the critics, not the person selling you the $82 deal.
Gilt City once deigned to call a three-course menu a tasting menu. That’s right. An appetizer an entree and a dessert. We criticized Gilt City for the infraction, and we haven’t seen the feat repeated since. But now Groupon, the bottom feeder of the daily deal industry, has set the bar one notch lower by advertising a “two course seasonal tasting menu.” For reals.
The offer is for Sprig restaurant in Midtown. And to be completely accurate, it’s not even a true two-course
tasting menu. It’s a 1.5 course menu. The first course is a shared dish between you and your dining companion. The second course is a choice of entree per person. It costs $36. Is it worth it? Who knows. But we sure as sh!t know it’s not a tasting menu. An appetizer + entree isn’t a tasting menu. It’s dinner — not a complete dinner, which includes dessert, just dinner.
The term “tasting menu” used to be reserved for high end restaurants like Per Se, Daniel and Le Bernardin. Now, the daily deal industry has turned tasting menus into a commodity ad absurdum, a fradulent tool used to increase sales and to impart a false sense of luxury. That policy appears to be working. Groupon has sold almost $40,000 worth of Sprig deals. We fully expect the Chicago-based leader of the deal industry to start selling potato chips and dip at a local dive bar and call it a working man’s extended omakase before their initial public offering.
During lunch at The Four Seasons, you sit in the Grille Room. At dinner, you sit in the Pool Room. That’s the rule. So if you aspire to be a person of note among the older class of financiers and the divorcees who court them at The Four Seasons, you’ll follow that rule.
That brings us, as always, to Gilt City, a daily deal site that purports to be in the know. Gilt is offering a deal restricting guests to dinner in the Grille Room and lunch in the Pool Room — the exact opposite of what civilized society requires, the equivalent of dancing alone in a church while everyone else is cocktailing at the wedding reception back home in Greenwich, Connecticut, or wherever else your grandmother’s estate is.
Never mind what dishes the Gilt City deal includes. Food is secondary here. Never mind the potential savings. If you’re going to The Four Seasons to save money — most entrees are over $50 — you’re in the wrong part of town, my friend. But if this is how you roll (and if you are under 40 or work for an internet startup, this is definitely not how you roll) Gilt City is sending you to the wrong part of the restaurant. That’s a BAD DEAL.
When you call up a nightclub and order a bottle of Grey Goose for $300, you’re not just paying for alcohol, you’re paying for exclusivity and experience. You’re paying for guaranteed entry past a tight door, a guaranteed table and wait service. Then you pay tax and 20% tip. Yes, the whole racket is an awesomely BAD DEAL, but it’s the way things are.
Occasionally, things get uglier. Gilt City wants to make the bottle-service experience cheaper by selling you cheap champagne that’s not really champagne. The daily deal site is hawking a bottle of Korbel for $210, a discount off Marquee’s $350 regular price. Gilt City’s discount is still a 1,515% markup over Korbel’s retail price of $13, while Marquee’s $350 MSRP is a 2,592% markup. Guests also have the option of Skyy Vodka, which sells for $18 at Astor Wines (Gilt’s price also includes line-skipping entry + table service).
We won’t get too righteous in criticizing because, well, this is an intuitively BAD DEAL. But a few observations:
Mas La Grillade, a week after offering a $125 preview menu deal to UrbanDaddy, is now selling a similar $114.32 deal to Gilt City patrons ($105 before tax). The price, which comes to $230 for a party for two, is a fair one, and we’re excited about Chef Galen Zamarra’s long-awaited sequel to Mas Farmhouse. The tasting menu event (wine pairings included), will take place on September 23rd.
Is this a BAD DEAL? No. But it’s not quite a GOOD DEAL either. As with UrbanDaddy, we ask whether you’d really want to spend $230 on meal tickets, valid for one night only, for one seating only, for a wine-paired tasting menu only, at a restaurant that has not yet opened to the public, and which has not yet published its regular prices. Consider the following points (many of which have been adapted/lifted from our UrbanDaddy critique):
Our advice: Let Le Grillade open up, wait until some respected critics & blogs have reviewed the joint, then check it out. We suspect it’ll be awesome when it gets up and running, so no need to risk your money. Aside from saving a few bucks there is almost ZERO UPSIDE and $230 worth of DOWNSIDE to this deal. Skip it.