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The Way We Eat Now

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How many people actually like to share what they order, though? You might let someone try a bite, but that's not sharing.

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One of the dishes featured a single canneloni (cannelono?), which had to be carefully divided to avoid a fight. :D

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Did you have to go home and wash off the beta particles produced from splitting up those plates?

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The problem is that, in their heart of hearts, they don't believe that people aren't going to share.

 

And in most cases now, they're right.

In this case, they weren't "share plates." In other words, it would be a mistake to order three dishes and have two people share them. That wouldn't be nearly enough food.

This is the sin: asking people to share plates that are not meant to be shared. It's also a 200 year old tradition to serve shared dishes - there are hundreds (thousands?) of restaurants in France and Italy where you can order dishes that are dropped in the center of the table with two spoons. In Thailand and Vietnam and China, the baseline is shared dishes. The problem is when they drop one spherified olive to split among three people.

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A share plate at Hot Kitchen:

8649708290_aa0e31c6c1_z.jpg

 

A share plate at Estela:

20130823-264047-estela-cod-matzoh.jpg

 

Price is probably about the same. :D

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Very common in small plates rooms in Paris today. Hate it. I go out to order things my husband doesn't like. So we each order what we want and are happy. In small plate venues (Gare au Gorille, BAT, A Noste), we order what sounds like enough plates, then he finds that what I ordered is really, really good, chows into it. Not nice; not happy.

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The problem is that, in their heart of hearts, they don't believe that people aren't going to share.

 

And in most cases now, they're right.

In this case, they weren't "share plates." In other words, it would be a mistake to order three dishes and have two people share them. That wouldn't be nearly enough food.

This is the sin: asking people to share plates that are not meant to be shared. It's also a 200 year old tradition to serve shared dishes - there are hundreds (thousands?) of restaurants in France and Italy where you can order dishes that are dropped in the center of the table with two spoons. In Thailand and Vietnam and China, the baseline is shared dishes. The problem is when they drop one spherified olive to split among three people.

Yes, yes. This is the willfully quirky hybrid where you serve plates for one person, but can't bring two of them to the table at the same time. It is a small place. Review coming (food was good).

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Are three course restaurant meals dead? asks Sneakeater on the Hearth thread.

 

The immediate context: Colicchio and Canora saying they'd rather order several apps when they go out; hence their small plate menus.

 

There's the other discussion we've had about the economic motivation for small plates. But what about the aesthetics of multiple small course meals v. app/main/dessert.

 

My initial contribution is historical: the three course meal (let's assume restaurant) hasn't always been the norm. Go back to pre-50s NYC, and there were set menus at all levels with more courses. More like what you still find in France and Spain, not least in cheaper places.

 

(All this crap about Hitler making the trains run on time: what about Franco actually legislating that restaurants had to offer a multi course menu del dia? Still the case, all over Spain, you can sit down for appetizer, paella or some other rice or noodle dish, meat or fish, dessert for a cheap lunch.)

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There's a BIG difference between the prix fixe multicourse menus of yore and today's "let me explain how the menu works" "small plates meant for sharing" "stuff will come out when it's ready" menus where some items are priced close enough to mains and you don't always know what you're getting or how much to order.

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What the difference between paying x for a five course meal and x/5 for five small plates?

The difference is huge. Let's take a standard old-school French dinner format, which might look like this:

 

1) Appetizer

2) Fish

3) Meat

4) Salad

5) Dessert

 

The format is a logical progression. Each person sitting at the table gets a similar sequence, so you're not expected/encouraged to pick off of other people's plates. And everything doesn't come out at the same time or in random order. You know you're not going to get your meat course before your appetizer. And bread is almost certainly included. :D

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You can actually do that at most small plates places if you don't order all at once.

 

Look man. If you don't pay for bread the dishes just go up in price. Money is fungible. If I own a restaurant I don't care how I get to my average check size I just care that I get there.

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There's a BIG difference between the prix fixe multicourse menus of yore and today's "let me explain how the menu works" "small plates meant for sharing" "stuff will come out when it's ready" menus where some items are priced close enough to mains and you don't always know what you're getting or how much to order.

Yes. I was saying 3 courses isn't a timeless norm. That's all.

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The way bread suddenly became a separate charge in a few NYC restaurants is odd and unwelcome (and AB is right about what it means), but again, it's not a new invention. Cover charges for bread weren't uncommon in the UK when I was a kid. Still the norm in some European countries.

 

But yeah, I say include it in the overall pricing.

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