Let's talk tasting menu. At some places, it means 36 microscopic 'tastes'. Some places compose a 'tasting menu' based on dishes listed on their regular menu.(incidentally, this isn't a tasting menu so much as it's a chef ordering for you off the menu) I think it's important to know what you are getting into when you go to a restaurant and order the tasting menu, so I'm talking tasting menu philosophy on this and the next post.
INSTANT UPDATE!!!: I've decided that instead of two posts, I'm gonna break this into three posts. I know I originally said two, but I wanna do three and it's my blog, damn it. So, the next post will still explore the philosophy and what is behind creating the menu each week. Here's the cool addition; I think I can convince the guests who have booked the table next weekend(Dec. 20th) to allow me to tape portions of their dinner so everyone can see what it's all about. And I'll have a camera in the kitchen taping the cooking and plate up. How cool is that? Thomas Keller has video conferencing between The French Laundry and PerSe.....I've got home movie cameras stashed in the kitchen and at the Chef's Table.....Is everyone on the edge of their seat waiting for this post???
Now back to our regularly scheduled post...We've had a bunch of folks order our tasting menu over the past few weeks. Some of them have even taken the time to outline their experiences on sites like Chowhound. I really enjoy reading these accounts of guests experiences at TSM, but recently, thanks to the supreme content geniuses at Chowhound, some of these accounts have been removed from their PUBLIC food forum. This is very disappointing to me since 'word of mouth is your best PR'. But I guess the imperial guard at Chowhound can decide what can be written and what can't. (A quick P.S.....Thanks to those of you who came, dined and posted. I'm sure ChowGeniuses think I know who you are and put you up to it, but I'm just glad you had a good time and thought enough of your experience to write about it. THANKS) So............... I decided to write a little FAQ about the tasting menu in Part One, and then in Part Two of this post, take you through an actual tasting from concept to on the plate. So here goes. If you have questions....please ask. I'll be glad to add them to the FAQ.
What is the tasting menu at TSM? The tasting at TSM is 6 courses, plus a battery of canapes and mignardise.
When is it offered? Currently, we offer the tasting on friday and saturday nights for the whole table. Yes, the whole table. We have found that it is in everyone's best interest to go through the tasting together so that guests are not waiting without food while their dining companions eat multiple courses. It also allows me to pace the meal accordingly and not rush or drag certain courses.
How much does it cost? The cost is $65 per person and an additional $35 for Karen to pair wine with your food.(an excellent idea)
Do you offer a Chef's Table? Yes, we do. The menu at the Chef's Table is served and explained by me. I cook each course and deliver each with a brief explanation between courses. Before the food is presented at the table, Karen offers a brief explanation of the wine pairing. At the conclusion of the dinner, I invite you into the kitchen to see 'where it all happens'. The Chef's Table is located directly off of the kitchen, so you are right in the 'middle of it'.(READ: It's not the table to have if you want to gaze longingly into your lover's eyes while you play footsies. It's kinda loud, there are waiters all around you carrying plates and polishing glasses all night....it's sort of like TSM's version of the infield at a NASCAR race. Holy crap. I just compared our dining experience to a NASCAR race. Somebody get Food and Wine on the phone) The cost for this table is $115 per person and includes food and wine pairing. Currently, the Chef's Table is available only on Saturday nights for parties between 4-8. Unfortunately for you, but fortunately for us, the table is booked through the end of the year, but we have started taking reservations for saturdays in 2009. Ask for Karen. :-)
What is the food like on the tasting? Well, you won't find beef tenderloin or crab cakes.(those puppies are on our regular menu) I think if you tune in to The Tasting Menu, Part Two, you'll get a good idea about the food.
How often does the tasting menu change? Well, here's the thing. It's a new menu every week. By new, I mean NEW. Like every dish changes....every week.(With the exception of the cheese course which I'll explain in part deux)
Can I call on monday and ask what will be on the tasting menu on friday? Nope. Sorry, Charlie. No Can Do. I'm not trying to be an asshole here....honestly, I'm not. Here's the thing. Lots of time, the menu is written that day....actually, much to Karen and the waiters chagrin....lots of the time, the menu isn't actually finished until just before our pre-service meeting.(Imagine this.....here's the menu guys, we have tables in 5 minutes, better learn it quick) If you're going into a tasting, you're buying the experience, as much as the food. If you have to have a steak for supper, the tasting isn't for you. However, our regular menu is.(just no foil wrapped baked potatoes)
Hope that whets everyone's appetite for Part Two and spurs some thought about doing the tasting at TSM.
Oh yeah, a friendly reminder to make your New Year's Reservations SOON. The 8 course tasting is filling up quickly and is going to be the shizz nit. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term shizz nit, click here.http://www.urbandictionary.com
Properly used in another sentence....'Chowhound is no longer the shizz nit of food forums.'