Once upon a time, New York restaurants were a fairy tale world of conspicuous consumption. Investment banks had funny names like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. And hedge funders feasted at fancy pants spots like Veritas, where bottles of Screaming Eagle and Lafite Rothschild commanded more money than tuition at SUNY Binghamton. Then, in 2008, the financial crisis hit. Veritas shuttered in 2013 and became Élan in June, selling affordable duck burgers and confining the majority of its wine list to bottles under $105. The place is packed every night. The end.
The lesson is this: six-and-seven-digit wine buying — at restaurants at least — is now largely a thing of the past. Cru, another haven of oenophilic extravagance during the gilded aughts, closed in 2010; that space is now Claudette, a Provencal joint for $13 ratatouille tarts and $10 rose sangria. And while no one can predict what kind of over-the-top opulence might reappear in our city's hospitality industry now that new skyscrapers (with their $90 million penthouses) are rising along Central Park South again, I like to hope that Élan and other honest, everyday places will be around for longer than restaurants where oligarchs drink $19,000 bottles of Petrus.