Ask the Critics: What's a Good Prix-Fixe?

Cathy S. Asks: I'm looking to have a really nice prix-fixe lunch or dinner in a comfortable setting. Can you suggest some options? Thanks.

Dear Cathy: The nice thing about prix fixe is that you know what you're getting yourself into. Often dinner prices can skyrocket when you order drinks, appetizers, entrées, dessert, and after-dinner drinks, so prix fixes can be a good way to dine smartly. Here are several suggestions for a full belly and wallet. Well, half-full wallet.

Although it's not cheap at $79, Ai Fiori ranks as one of the best prix fixes around. At this Michael White newcomer, you get four courses -- appetizer, pasta, entrée, and dessert -- and you can choose from whatever you like on the main menu. My ideal meal would be the butter-poached oysters with caviar, the trofie nero with shellfish, the hunkering veal chop with truffle sauce, and the baba au rhum. I mean, oysters, caviar, and truffles, all for $79 -- you can't beat that (and it's about $50 cheaper than ordering all that off the main menu).

Another suggestion would be the Jean Georges prix-fixe lunch. You can feast on two courses for $28, and add on additional ones on the cheap(ish) if you'd like. This is a steal when it comes to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's food. The ambiance is nicer than at Ai Fiori, which is a little sterile, and it's such a classic restaurant that you won't go wrong.

And then finally, if you're willing to spend a little more, I'd suggest the $90 tasting at Aldea, George Mendes's innovative and modern Portuguese restaurant. The dishes vary, but the five-course meal clearly shows off the chef's skills. And he does have skills -- he was just named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs.

Have a tip or restaurant-related news? Send it to fork@villagevoice.com.

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