When dining out, trying to determine if something is value for money is so hard. It's such a subject thing as one person's criteria for what is value is different to another. I will use two recent dining examples of mine to demonstrate.
The first dining experience is what I would call value for money. Before going to see Wicked, my friend and I dropped by Horoki for dinner. I love that restaurant and have written about it here, here, and here. The price for our dinner was $70, which is $35 each, although to be fair, my friend said she was quite full already and didn't eat one of the dishes. So lets say the meal for just myself would have cost $45.
So what did we get to eat for that price. Well, I got a beer while she got a juice. We then had my favourite daikon sashimi salad that contained beautiful cuts of fish combined with a tangy dressing that enveloped the finely shredded daikon with fish roe bursting at every bite while the seaweed and fried noodle crisps crunched away. We also got a Korean pancake that was cooked to perfection with no hint of floury taste and soft pieces of squid. We also got plump seared scallops with a thin gelatinous rice skin overlapping dressed with oil, capers and diced tomato. We also got a cod roe butter that smoothly covered some noodles with a sprinkling of paprika. Finally, to finish it all off, I got a velvety smooth creme brulee while my friend got an equally smooth panna cotta with berry sauce. Now to me, that meal was utterly delicious and great value for money.
Now fast forward a couple of days and let's contrast it to another meal that some may think is value for money, but for me was utter rubbish. That meal was eaten at Sofias Burwood. The meal cost $40 each when the bill was split with two other friends. Since one friend only had a salad and soup, my meal probably cost near $50. So this is what I got. Again, I got a beer. I got about 5 oysters natural that were not fresh at all and had no flavour. I also got a steak medium rare that was extremely chewy and absolutely flavourless. It was such a huge chunk of steak that I couldn't finish it. Sitting next to the steak was some vegetables that had been boiled to death and was so lifeless. To top it off, there was a mushroom sauce that tasted worse than the packet stuff from the supermarket and it drenched my plate so that everything was swimming in it. Then I got dessert, which I thought they couldn't possibly get wrong. How can you mess up crepes with bananas. Well, I got a huge huge plate (see photo below, my hand is there for aspect) of two crepes, with a tub of cream, bananas soaked in banana syrup and sprinkled with dessicated coconut and half a tub of "vanilla" ice cream. Let me start with the crepes. They tasted like they hadn't been cooked yet and was all stretchy. It tasted foul and I couldn't eat more than a couple of bites. The whipped cream from a can was also foul. The bananas, which you can't go wrong with right, were boiled to a mush and drenched in this awful synthetic flavoured banana syrup. Even the dessicated coconut taseted funny. And finally, that huge chunk of vanilla ice cream had absolutely no flavour. If you didn't tell me it was vanilla ice cream, I would have guessed it was lard.
So as you can see, some people may think the sofia's dinner was value for money. I got three courses which on paper sounded great. But in excution, was atrocious. I looked around at the other tables and the patrons looked quite happy, or at least not upset. Many were even happy to be able to take away a huge container full of pasta that was the remains of their meals. The pasta dishes were so huge I really thought all three of us could eat just one plate. If you think I'm kidding, look at the dessert plate above.
I don't think I'm a food snob, as I like eating things like Hungry Jack's burgers or at my local Chinese Vietnamese restaurants that serve $10 meals and be equally happy. But Sofia's, and other similar restaurants, are not value for money. I have been there three times, not of my choosing, and it has been equally horrendous each time. These types of restaurants should really change their style so that they serve smaller servings of better quality rather than this sloppy fare. Our meals arrived so fast (our steaks arrived in about 5 minutes, desserts in about 8 minutes) that they must all just be pre cooked and sitting there. It's worse than fast food, where even they claim they cook your burger when you order it now.
So to summarise, for me, value for money is eating well food that uses good (doesn't have to be experience) quality ingredients and excuted well. I would rather have the Horoki experience where I ate some exciting dishes and was full enough rather than have so much food at Sofias that I couldn't walk (if I ate it all, which I didn't) for the next three days but was terribly slopped together that even an ingredient like a banana could be ruined. Even if they did nothing with the banana and just sliced it and placed it next the "crepe", it would have tasted good.