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Tasting menu - yes or no?

Just like any other, restaurant scene has its own rules as well. One of the topics we often polemicize about in Croatia is a tasting menu – whether and why guests should opt for it in a restaurant. With time and in line with global trends, Croatian chefs and restaurateurs also realized the importance of this type of presentation.

While we still discuss it here, restaurants all over the world go one step further - many give up on a-la-carte dining and offer tasting menus only.

What actually is a tasting menu?

A tasting menu is basically a meal made of several courses (smaller in size than regular restaurant dishes), that serves a purpose of showing guests the philosophy and the concept of a respective restaurant. It showcases the best dishes and, in most cases, the freshest ingredients in the season.

Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić
Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić

What is the point of a tasting menu?

Tasting menu celebrates the philosophy of a restaurant. It consists of a sequence of signature dishes - original dishes invented by a respective chef and his/her team, in which a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” were put in.

Designing signature dishes and choosing a selection of them for a composition called the tasting menu is a time-consuming and hard-labouring task.

Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić
Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić

On one hand, it takes time (usually years) for a dish to become a signature dish. To make an immaculate collection out of them is considered to be a certain form of art. On the other hand, once the chef gets it right – it can make all the difference.

If a tasting menu is conceptually on point, technically well done, originally plated and properly served – it can catapult guests to a gastronomic heaven and, trust me - that is a one experience they never forget.

Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić
Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić

Why would you ever order a tasting menu?

Believe me, if a tasting menu is offered, it is the best thing to order, especially if it’s your first time in a certain restaurant. Eating your way through it should give you an insight into the concept of the restaurant and cuisine they offer.

There are several ways in which restaurants present their tasting menus, besides being served at a regular table. At the moment, it is very popular to have a "community table", which is a bigger table shared with strangers.

Then we have a “chef’s table”, which is usually located in or next to a kitchen so guests witness dishes being prepared in front of them. Sitting at a chef’s table is definitely the biggest honor (and most expensive one).

Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić
Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić

As I said at the beginning, lots of restaurants don’t even serve a-la-carte anymore. Some have pre-set tasting menus for lunch/dinner and they change them on a seasonal basis.

Some let their guests choose a designated number of courses so they literally compose their own personalized tasting menu; some offer only one menu for the whole restaurant, and some even go a step further and offer neither a menu nor a wine list to choose from.

Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić
Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić

Alongside tasting menus, restaurants offer carefully selected wine flights paired with their tasting menu. 

The main point of such presentation is guests’ absolute commitment to food and wine. As a result, conversations at a table are focused on what guests have in front of them. Truly extraordinary experience! And restaurants today are all about experience.

Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić
Photo made @ Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin by Lucija Bilandžić

It’s good to see Croatian restaurant scene moving in this direction, too. Chefs are trying to educate their guests and, in addition to food and wine, offer new ways of thinking. And that's what really matters. So please, always say YES to a tasting menu.

by: Lucija Bilandžić of Pleasure Seekers

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