Dec 21, '10

The Menu Code


An excellent WSJ article by Amy Ma about the trend at contemporary restaurants to give their dishes nondescript names. El Bulli famously does that, Bo Innoovation so as many other modern restaurants. While I agree with the Hong Kong blogger Peter Chang that such menus are ” really annoying”, what I find most annoying is “carte blanche” menus – when you don’t get any menu at all (and they would just ask you before the meal if you have any allergies or products you don’t like). Many highly rated restaurants around the world exclusively propose such menus. L’Astrance, Passage 53, Yam’tcha in Paris, Momofuku Ko in NY or Quintessence in Tokyo to name a few.

I have two problems with this trend. Firstly, most of the times you don’t get to eat exactly what you would like. Part of the fun of eating out is not only that you can enjoy the food you wouldn’t know how to cook at home, but also the fact that you can choose exactly what you like to eat and to pay for. With “carte blanche” you cannot do that.

The second problem is fixed menus without any à la carte choice in general. Maybe it works at sushi bars or kaiseki restaurants in Japan ( Where I guess this practice comes from and where a chef would serve many tiny morsels of fish, vegetables, etc…), it doesn’t really work with Western products which are usually heavier than Japanese ones. You end up eating too much and your meal takes too long. While I understand why chefs would prefer fixed menus (  time and cost-effective), it is not always what a consumer wants. Despite my love for the art of gastronomy, I do believe that we should eat when we are hungry. Do you really want your dessert after eating 5, 6 or even more “salty”  dishes? No, thank you.

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