Pete Wells on the Tyranny of Tasting Menus

Saison does it right.
Saison does it right. Photo: Melissa Hom

When small bites go wrong: Times critic Pete Wells takes a long look at the thriving trend of tasting menus. Sitting down for a four-hour meal made up of twenty or more courses, he argues, is fundamentally different than dining styles like omakase and kaiseki because “the genre has no rules and few limits,” and the rapid-fire succession of one-bite courses has the unintentional capacity for torture. Alinea, Atera, and the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare balance the flavor profiles and ceremony of their menus like finely layered compositions, but when it goes wrong, Wells writes, it comes at the expense of hospitality. And the bread basket, apparently: Rigid house rules and set menus at some of these places mean no more Parker rolls. The “delayed-bread power play,” writes Wells, “is the strangest of all the anti-hospitality gestures.” [NYT]