Small Plates Grow Up

Small plate revolution on the restaurant scene.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times | MARCH 31, 2015

We live in a messy revolutionary period for restaurants. The old rules for going out to eat, under which Mom and Dad ambled down a predictable path from appetizer to main course to dessert, with Mom pausing halfway through dinner to ask about Dad’s veal chop, were repealed some time ago. In place of rules, we got small plates, and anarchy. The last decade has been the era of messy tables, of gonzo pacing, of menus that came with a spoken introduction, of senseless plating, of endless instructions to share dishes that collapsed into rubble when you tried.

Charred octopus with citrus, caramelized endive and chorizo vinaigrette at Colicchio & Sons. Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Charred octopus with citrus, caramelized endive and chorizo vinaigrette at Colicchio & Sons.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

So, when the news came in February that Colicchio & Sons, Tom Colicchio’s five-year-old restaurant near the meatpacking district, had eliminated large plates in favor of an all-appetizer menu, those who longed for order and stability may have groaned, “Not you, too, Tom.” Yes, him too. When his next project, Beachcraft, opens in Miami in the next few weeks, it will follow the same format, and he is mulling over a similar change at some of his other restaurants.

Mr. Colicchio is not exactly the voice of the old guard, but he is, in his restaurants and “Top Chef” appearances, the voice of reason, of a sensible approach that resists wild experiments for their own sake. When Mr. Colicchio says now that he has lost interest in cooking or eating main courses, it’s like hearing that Wolf Blitzer gets all of his Middle East news from Upworthy.

But his decision is promising, too. Now that the revolution has been won, there are signs that new rules are finally being written. Small-plates are growing up, and one of the ways we know this is that some grown-ups are starting to enter the fray. 

[....]

Greeting these shrunken portions was a new generation of eaters who saw restaurants as a game. The object was to taste as many OMG dishes as possible, and sticking to two courses and dessert was no way to win. Momofuku Ssam Bar and its imitators catered to this audience, with menus of flavor-charged plates and no appetizer-main course barriers to slow things down. The only limitation was the size of the table.  [ read the entire article ]

 

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