With $2,000 Tab, Meadowood Grabs Bragging Rights in California

Napa Valley’s Restaurant at Meadowood, when it reopens from renovations in late March, will serve what probably will be California’s most expensive tasting menu at $500 per person.

The state’s priciest dinner is currently served at Urasawa in Beverly Hills, where a sushi meal runs about $483 after tax and tip. What’s another $17 for Hollywood moguls, Silicon Valley billionaires and Sean Parker?

After Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, Meadowood is the only other California restaurant to hold three Michelin stars.

Meadowood’s new 15-20-course “counter menu” will include tax and gratuities in the $500 price. Wine is extra.

Optional beverage pairings will start around $350 per person, which can bring the cost of a dinner for two to nearly $2,000 per couple. The “curated” oenophilic extravagance will involve rare wines from Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, whose owners are also partners at Meadowood.

“I don’t want this to be seen as merely an uber-expensive, ‘why the hell not’ offering created with the hope of appealing to the vanity of a few,” Chef Christopher Kostow wrote in an e-mail. He said he expects 5-10 percent of guests to order the $500 menu, which will be available in the dining room or at a new kitchen counter that seats four.

“The increased length allows for a more rhythmic meal; more space for textural, temperature, flavor interplays and juxtapositions; more time for conversation between us and the guest,” wrote Kostow.

Cheaper Tasting

The restaurant will continue to offer its 8-9-course chef’s menu at $225 per person.

The $125 four-course option is being eliminated.

Guests will choose either of the two menus during the booking process. To eliminate the transactional experience of dining, Kostow said he’s looking into ways to have diners pay in full before visiting Meadowood.

There won’t be extra fees for high-end ingredients like caviar, truffles or foie gras. “At this price point the idea of putting supplement charges on the menu is ghastly. I hate it,” said Kostow.

The $500 price tag has been difficult for diners to swallow in post-recession America.

Masa Takayama opened the $500-per-person Shaboo in Las Vegas in late 2009; that price didn’t include tax or gratuity.

Cut to $300

Less than a year later, he lowered the entry-level price to $300. The exorbitant eatery, where diners themselves cook Kobe beef and foie gras in Japanese hot-pots, is now serving dinner only two nights a week. This reporter was the only diner at Shaboo during an evening meal in early 2010.

Culinary message boards have also reported light crowds at Masa, Chef Takayama’s $450-per-person sushi temple in New York’s Time Warner Center.

Mario Batali’s Del Posto in New York stopped serving its $500 “collection menu” last summer, which involved chef Mark Ladner cooking tableside for his guests.

Saison in San Francisco charges $498 for a beverage-paired tasting, inclusive of tax and tip; reservations are easily attainable virtually any day of the week.

Kostow is aware of the risks. “This will be much harder for us. Period.”