We met friends at a trendy restaurant recently. The waiter explained that the plates were "sharing size". When asked to clarify, he said, stiffly, "Somewhere between tapas and a full portion. We suggest three mains and three starters per table."
We then entered into the tedious selection process, to ensure everyone wanted each dish, because we were sharing. Eventually we selected seven dishes.
It's bad enough to negotiate with one person ("If you're
having the duck, then I could have the lamb and we'll get a red, but
if I wanted the oysters...").
Four or five people takes ordering into the foodie equivalent of fractals. My choice, salmon tartare, was approved.
Two plates arrived; 45 minutes passed, then came two salads, then the other three all at once. Le Duc said, "I'm not having any salad." Others heard him say this. But he wanted a taste, then suddenly hoovered half the plate without noticing.
When my salmon came, Le Duc and his Falstaffian buddy hit it like seagulls on a hamburger. I liked it, but the fragment I ate made a definitive opinion impossible.
Dessert was a tiny ramekin of something toffee. I left the restaurant thinking about where I could grab a slice. Our share cost the equivalent of four solid meals at a good Mom and Pop joint.
I want my meal, dammit. Small plates are fine in their original incarnation, as bites that tide you over until a later dinner or mitigate cocktails, but they are unsatisfying when shared four ways.
Before the small plates fad, restaurants provided a sort of Marxist menu that ranged from 22 oz.
steaks to a nice light piece of fish: to each according to his needs. Your courses, chosen to accord with your appetite, came in a comforting, choreographed procession.
Now, a table is expected to share fitfully-appearing food that fits in the palm of a hand, served in whatever order the mysterious "The Kitchen" decides. Apparently The Kitchen likes long breaks, perhaps to catch an episode of "Girls".
And it's yucky, hygiene-wise. I'd rather swap microbes by kissing my friends than by commingling in communal plates for hours.
I've put my hungry foot down and told Le Duc that I'll share two ways, but that's the limit unless of course it's Chinese, but they give you lots.
Naomi Klein and
Avi Lewis were dining there with their moon-faced baby; since they made the excellent documentary, "The Take", might they follow that with "The Plate", exposing this dining delusion?
PS. The style part
So, what did I wear to this non-meal? A Mongolian lamb-trimmed sweater-jacket, black jeans and a grey cashmere tee. No worry about jeans feeling snug after "all that food"!