Tasting Menus Will Take Over in 2013

Diners who love having the chef recommend a special dish will be delighted with the rise of the tasting menu. To tasting menu aficionados, the chance to sample the fullest expression of the chef’s culinary art is a rare opportunity. Chefs appreciate the chance to show off their full range of skills. For restaurateurs, tasting menus make ordering and preparing food far simpler than a la carte selections. Because so many restaurant owners, chefs and customers have reason to love tasting menus, you can expect them to become omnipresent.

The typical tasting menu ranges from four to eight petite plates at a fixed price. Each plate is designed to flow from one to the next, often accompanied by pre-selected wine pairings. For diners who prefer to put their enjoyment of the meal entirely in the chef’s hands, tastings offer an exciting chance to try something new and appreciate the art and craft of fine cooking.

Restaurant workers also find a fixed menu easier to manage. When everyone coming into the restaurant will be eating the same thing, preparation for the evening’s seating becomes simple. Some restaurants have moved to a tasting-only menu plan, offering course packages at different price ranges. One of Houston’s newest restaurants, Oxheart has four-plate and seven-plate tasting options set by the chefs.

However, not everyone appreciates tasting menus. Vanity Fair author Corby Kummer refers to them as a form of totalitarianism in his article Tyranny — It’s What’s for Dinner. Restaurants that carry the concept to extremes by overloading diners’ palates with 20 and 30 courses and refuse to allow choice on their menus ignore diners’ tastes, the writer contends.

Whether dining out should feel like a thrill ride, strapping you in and cautioning you to keep your hands inside the cart at all times, or a Sunday drive that lets you wander where you choose is a matter of personal taste. For those who love tastings, 2013 will be a great year; for iconoclasts who prefer a la carte dining, restaurant choices may become more limited.

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