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Is formal dining holding its own?


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QUOTE Perhaps the confusion arises because there are new optionsplaces like Momofuku Ssamwhere you get haute European cooking without most of the trappings. But it's a misconception to suggest that

First, anyplace that forces a male to wear ties is out.   Second, anyplace that feels like a Cathedral and forces hushed tones is out.   Third, anyplace the accepts reservations appears to be on

Just because something is a ten-course New Nordic tasting menu, that doesn't make it fine dining. You still have to see how good the ingredients are and the kitchen work is. It could still be ambitiou

Here's a list of objective characteristics I think "formal" restaurants need to have:

 

1) Comfortable room. This means padded seats with backs, nice sized tables with a good amount of spacing between them (and no communal tables), tablecloths, and some amount of soundproofing. Formal restaurants can be "lively", but they can't be deliberately loud.

2) Fine tableware. You shouldn't be eating off of cheap plates using a steel fork with a bent tine and drinking wine out of a mayonnaise jar.

3) They should have a full bar, serving beer, wine, and spirits.

4) They offer reservations.

5) A high level of service from start to finish - the reservation process should be clear and simple, they should offer a coat check, your table should be ready at your reservation time, stuff should be served in a logical sequence and everyone's stuff should come out at the same time, you shouldn't have to pour your own beverages, all major credit cards should be accepted for payment.

6) You have to commit to a full meal in order to get a table in the dining room. This implies that almost all formal places will have prix fixe menus.

7) It has to have a legitimate dessert menu.

 

 

I don't think a dress code is necessary these days because dress codes are basically dead (at least in NYC).

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8. The restaurant has to offer purse stools to ladies.

 

9. The restaurant has to offer at least 5 pens to sign the check with, at least one of which must be a dip pen, with at least three different choices of ink, including at least one metallic ink that is a precious metal.

 

10. While clothing dress codes are so last generation, a formal restaurant must still require men to wear powdered wigs at all times.

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I never said "no formal restaurant in the world serves a la carte", I said it's the exception. What would happen if you went to L'Ambroisie and ordered coffee and dessert and asked for the bill?

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