Many thanks to all the Chowhounds who helped me try to decide between La Folie and Fleur de Lys.
I had decided on the latter, but the Ritz called me at the last minute saying someone had cancelled. Like a responsible diner, I called FDL to cancel my reservation and prepared for the meal of a lifetime at Ron Siegel's palace of fine eats. Numerous reports detailing a play-by-play of the dishes have been posted on Chowhound, so I'll give something that I hope is more like a summary of the mood and experience, and why it's worth going. It's really hard to explain why the restaurant is a worthy destination spot by reading a list of ingredients (caviar, foie gras, fresh wasabi, black truffles...so what?).
I've thought about it and tried to explain the experience to a few friends, so I think I can synthesize a bit. Our bill was $360 for two dinners, one flight of wine, and a 25% tip on the food. Breathtakingly pricey? Certainly. Was it worth it? To me, it was. People pay over $100 to see mediocre singers in concert. Tickets to the Metropolitan Opera start around $200. As a lover of food, I would regret living in the same city as Ron Siegel and never trying his cooking.
To someone who doesn't really know or care about food, this meal might seem like the biggest rip off ever conceived. To me, it was an evening long experience that I'll cherish, and which to me is much more memorable than any trip to the theater has ever been. Every bite, every smell, every plate that came to my table or floated by on its way to someone else, every lengthy description, and every bite was something to be savored.
I think anyone with curiosity about food and a basic knowledge of cooking would be awed and impressed by a meal like this. It's not about dressing up and feeling fancy for a night--there are any number of less expensive restaurants where one could go for a better "see and be seen" experience. The Ritz's focus is on doing everything it can to make the customer live, breath, and understand The Perfect Dining Experience as Ron Siegel envisions it. It's about the wonder inspired by seeing what a chef can do when he's given every culinary resource available to man.
By the middle of the meal, even cheapskate SO eagerly conceded that some things are just worth that much money (once in a blue moon!). I don't think, without going, one can truly appreciate why a meal could and should cost so much. Even as a young person with limited funds who's certainly not used to an extravagant lifestyle, I could see and appreciate where my money was going.
Saying the meal is like magic is cliche but accurate. It's truly something to behold, and people are 100% right when they say it's worth saving up for even if it means putting spare change in a jar for a few years to save up enough pennies.
If you still want a play-by-play with photos, click the link below.