Dining at a restaurant on Christmas or Christmas Eve might sound like a sacrilege to many, but for some New York families it’s become a time-honored tradition. There are many reasons for choosing to leave the cooking chores to someone else. Topping the list is the proximity of Christmas to Thanksgiving, especially for home cooks whose tendency is to pull out all the stops for both holiday dinners. Another frequently cited reason is that the Christmas holidays in general are a time for entertaining. If you do tons of baking and/or meal preparation for guests who drop in around this time, you’re entitled to a night off.
Whatever your reason, here are some possibilities for a memorable meal on Christmas or the night before.
Claudette. This Greenwich Village fixture, now run by the granddaughter of the namesake, churns out reliable renditions of French and North African cuisine. The high points of its $75 Christmas Eve prix fixe menu are a dry-aged strip steak in a truffled bordelaise and a roasted halibut in a bouillabaisse sauce with lobster ravioli. The dishes on the menu may also be ordered à la carte. Claudette, 24 Fifth Avenue, at W. 10th St., 212-868-2424.
Madam Ji. It has become a commonplace among New York’s Jewish community to order-in Chinese food on Christmas Day. This year consider as an alternative dinner from — or at — Madam Ji, a purveyor of classic Indian food. Its winter specials include the whimsically named “Chelsea to Kathmandu,” steamed chicken dumplings in a tomato sesame soup. The earthiness of truffles elevates the creamy cashew sauce in the lamb korma above the norm. Prices for main courses range from $18 to $28. Madam Ji, 154 Bleecker Street, 212-875-1405.
Perry St. When Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry St opened in 2005, then-Times critic Frank Bruni wrote, “Sometimes the loudest statements are the quietest ones.” You can judge for yourself whether that ethic still applies when you dispatch the amuse bouche — a Meyer lemon gelée crowned with Petrossian caviar — that kicks off Perry St’s Christmas Day menu. Steamed black sea bass with chanterelles, a spiced infusion, and finger limes, and a caramelized ribeye with cauliflower gratin and Parmesan jus are among the main course offerings on the $148 prix fixe ($74 for children under 10). Perry St, 176 Perry St, 212-352-1900.
Jungsik. The Christmas menu at this New Korean two-Michelin-starred restaurant is appealing, though you may need to take out a second mortgage to afford it. The base price of the 11-course chef’s tasting menu is $395 a person — $60 more than Eleven Madison Park. Add in $680 for the premium wine pairing (there is also a standard pairing at $260), and you’re spending upward of $1,000 per head before tax and tip are figured in. The menu — which includes a Carabineros prawn with caviar in a smoked prawn-head sauce, and seared Iberico de Bellota served in beltfish jus — is likely transporting. But for most of us, this is the point at which money stuns. Jungsik, 2 Harrison Street, 212-219-0900.
Ai Fiori. You could do worse than put your taste buds in the hands of Chef Michael White, especially if it’s Christmastime. On Christmas Eve, his restaurant Ai Fiori is doing a Feast of Seven Fishes tasting menu. The price is $250 a head, a hefty price you can make heftier still by adding in the optional wine pairing at $205 per person. Prices at Christmas dinner are somewhat gentler at $175 a pop for four courses. Cuttlefish ink-stained trofie, the short pasta twists associated with Liguria, arrive in a crustacean ragù dotted with cuttlefish and scallops. Another option is the pan-seared scallop partnered with butternut squash and pomegranate in a port gastrique. Ai Fiori, 400 Fifth Avenue, at W. 37th St., 212-613-8660.