Tasting menus taken to task

Don’t miss Pete Well’s great piece about the proliferation of tasting menus menus in today’s New York Times.

It’s an interesting subject to someone like myself, who has usually ordered à la carte, but is noticing more and more tasting menus with grand ambitions, including locally – the Peacock Inn has pretty much totally moved to that, as has Elements to a large extent, too.

I don’t mean the 3 courses for a bargain prix fixe that many places offer to fill seats on weeknights.  The ones Mr. Wells is talking about are the high-end places who have a vision of what they want the experience of dining in their restaurant to be, and use the set tasting menu as a tour de force manifestation of that vision. And it also assures a certain cash flow, assuming the seats will be filled.  It gets especially expensive for those who chose the wine pairing version, which can include an array of alcoholic beverages that practically guarantee a hangover.

It’s a lot for a kitchen to live up to, and obviously some places are better at it than others. At its best, it’s one delightful and tasty surprise after another, that somehow, in spite of small servings, leave the diner sated.  But it can also be terribly precious, and that will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Or foam.

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