2006_10_tomcoliccho.jpgThe indicators that the economy is doing well are on Wall Street, but there's another indicator: How much high-end restaurants are willing to charge diners for entrees. The NY Times takes up the $40 entree and what it has wrought and why:

-There are rising rents, costs of interior design, costs of getting the very finest ingredients.
- The $40 entree can also encourage people to order entrees in the mid-$30's.
- It's easier to print up new menus that let restaurateurs experiments with not just dishes but prices.
- The surge of super-expensive restaurants (hello, Per Se; hello, Masa)
- Business expense accounts!
- People think they are getting something amazing when they pay as much

One diner whose own entree price limit is "between $50 and $60" tells the Times' Jodi Kantor, “I blame Tom Colicchio for this." Yes, Colicchio, before he ever Top Chef'd, made everything a la carte, from the meat to the sides, at craft. Hilariously, Colicchio is upset that Laurent Tourondel's ripped off that concept; Tourondel snips that steakhouses did this in the old days. Please, both of you can be to blame!

What do you think of the pricing at higher end restaurants? Are you getting good value? Obviously if you're going out to have a nice really dinner, you're ready to lay down a chunk of change - maybe you share an appetizer and dessert, have one drink, not two, to save a little. Or you go find a less-hyped place that might not be as transporting an experience but a good one nonetheless that's more reasonable.

We bet in a few years there will be quite a few entrees in the $50 range. But if you really want to save some money, buy Colicchio's book, Think Like a Chef and cook at home more.