When I think of fine dining I think of being all dressed up, eating on a table with fancy tablecloths, beautifully folded napkins, and a multitude of silverware on the table, a menu that is high quality and beautifully plated. In short a dinner that is minimum five courses, and takes about three hours to eat, and a bill that will extract a big chunk of my hard earned money! As apparent from the term ‘fine dining’ presents, patrons the finest in food, service and atmosphere.
Nevertheless to practically translate “Fine dining” in action in restaurants is one of those things that is often impossible to be objective specially in local context here in Pakistan. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary define “fine” to refer to “superior in kind, quality, and appearance; excellent; outstanding, very good to look at; showing special skill, detail, or intricacy, especially in artistic work; very subtle”. Practically speaking still the term ‘fine dining’, always leave me perplexed!!! Among the circle of food lovers there are often time this discussion about what is fine dining.. so well thought of discussing this million dollar question here.
My love for gastronomic adventures and finding stories for my food blog takes me to a range of eateries. I find myself engaged in interesting conversations with chefs, restaurateurs, or other food lovers like me on fine dining. The perception of fine dining varies from person to person, or the fine dining in a restaurant in Karachi may not be the same as in NYC or in Dubai. But what is common is that the patrons end up coughing up a big chunk of their money in pursuit of an experience called fine dining.
But do we always get what we pay for?
So, here goes a brief guide on ‘fine dining’ if you plan to spend for a special occasion or just to get that exclusive experience, watch out for:
Dress Code: Semi formal and formal dress code is followed, no slippers, denims, shorts, T shirts with slogans are allowed in the restaurant. The staffs are also well dressed and smart with exemplary manners and show high level of courtesy.
Atmosphere: One should feel pampered and enjoy their meal in unusually comfortable chairs and tastefully designed ambience. The pacing of the meal is leisurely but consistent. The only sounds should be forks and knives upon china, low conversation and un interrupting music.
Plating: Presentations is an important part of fine dining, combining food and art concept together. Small portions paid with extreme details. Along with plating extra ordinary clean and elegant flatware, hollowware and stemware is a must on the table.
Food: Excellent food with emphasis on visual presentation. Superior quality produce treated delicately with respect to create dishes that taste very subtle yet outstanding. The food preparation is by a chef who is qualified with years of industry experience, reputed to have special culinary skills.
Service: Is always beyond taking orders and serving the food. It is nothing less then top notch; faultless, precise and exquisite. At least one smartly dressed server dedicated to a table. They escort patrons to the table, holding the chair for women. They possess uncanny knowledge of the menu, ingredients, cooking methods and are willing to answer any all questions and ready to make recommendations. Clearing the table of crumbs in between courses, replacing linen napkins if a patron leaves the table, serving food directly on the plate at the table.
Restaurants need to be very careful labeling themselves as ‘fine dining’ in a fine dining there is no room for excuses!!! It is beyond a term, a complete experience and anything less is just expensive dining.