Most of his tips are about local NYC establishments, but here’s a section that applies to diners everywhere:
IS THERE ANY BEST, SAFEST WAY TO NAVIGATE A MENU?
Scratch off the appetizers and entrees that are most like dishes you’ve seen in many other restaurants, because they represent this one at its most dutiful, conservative and profit-minded. The chef’s heart isn’t in them.
Scratch off the dishes that look the most aggressively fanciful. The chef’s vanity – possibly too much of it – spawned these.
Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil.
Choose among the remaining dishes.
Bruni also points out that if you want the best value—not necessarily the cheapest—meal, you should seriously consider high end, high quality restaurants:
Value doesn’t mean a low price: it means you’re getting a lot for what you’re paying.
At Eleven Madison Park, for example, the $88 prix fixe includes five one-bite amuse-bouches per person, terrific gougères, unlimited bread with both goat’s milk and cow’s milk butter, an appetizer, an entree, a dessert amuse-bouche, dessert and petit fours. Plus you’re sitting in comfort in one of the city’s most beautiful dining rooms, with many polished servers attending to you.