Eleven Madison Park
Famed Sushi master Naomichi Yasuda may have left this spare raw-fish mecca, but his disciples maintain its status as one of the country's very best places for sushi: They procure pristine seafood and serve it with the simple elegance it requires. You'll drop $200 here at dinner, but at lunch the $22.50 sushi prix fixe scores you five pieces (the rotating selection might include white slivers of rich Spanish mackerel and fresh rainbow trout) and two rolls, such as a delicate wrap of expertly cooked rice paired with tart radish sprouts.
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has long been an advocate for the affordable lunch, offering reasonably priced, three-course prix-fixe menus at each of his restaurants. That's true of his newest high-end spot as well, a fantastic farm-to-table place serving food that is as fresh as it is beautiful. The options at the hyperseasonal ABC Kitchen change daily, but $25 might score you a bowl of bright ruby beets and tangy-sweet house-made yogurt, a wedge of silky slow-cooked arctic char dressed in a piquant carrot sauce flecked with basil, and a salted-caramel ice-cream sundae drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with peanuts and popcorn.
Dinner at chef Daniel Humm's unique fine-dining restaurant is a costly, once-in-a-lifetime eating event. The three-course lunch prix fixe is an investment, but the lavish experience is just a third of the price after sundown. For $56 you can pick your favorites from an illustrated menu of ingredients (foie gras, cod, pear) and let the kitchen take it from there. You may wind up eating a composed foie gras terrine spiked with pickled ramps and pineapple foam; poached halibut with fennel, radish, cucumber and orange; and for dessert, pears prepared four ways with burnt-honey cream and a crumble of ginger shortbread.
The $29 price tag may seem steep for lunch, but for a meal at one of the city's very best upscale Italian restaurants, it's a shocking value. Del Posto's three-course deal might start with the zambone, chef Mark Ladner's succulent disc of stuffed pig's trotter over a bowl of rustic lentils. Diners can then choose between a pasta course (like soft and pillowy gnocchi, dressed with a simple red sauce) or an entre (including lamb shoulder slow-baked with a Puttanesca-like combo of olives, capers, tomatoes and onions). Finish with one of pastry chef Brooks Headley's desserts: a dense, creamy round of chocolate ricotta cake paired with pistachios and a glossy scoop of olive-oil gelato will do nicely.
Few have mastered the Greenmarket-sourced feast like chef Bill Telepan—one of the city's foremost champions of farm-to-table cooking. You can sample his handiwork for $22 (two courses) or $28 (three courses) each Wednesday to Friday from 11:30am to 2:30pm. Start with a silky, Tuscan-style vegetable soup, which comes spiked with Parmesan and spicy olive oil; then move on to the magnificent roast chicken and pasta coated in crme frache and poppy seeds. Dessert won't exactly leave you stepping lightly back to the office, but that's no reason to skip the decadent dark-chocolate bread pudding topped with malty ice cream.