In the 70’s I fondly remember restaurant tableside preparation of Caesar salad, guacamole, and flambes. The flambes always added elements of entertainment and glamour to a meal, so I lamented their passing from style. With the advent of Spain’s Ferran Adria, his molecular gastronomy and disciples, tableside food preparation came back into fashion, but it just didn’t seem the same.
Now, restaurants across the country are bringing back some of the traditional dishes and with them, tableside preparation sometime by the chef himself. It makes sense. It offers a culinary experience for the diner at a time when travelers and the affluent want new experiences. For the restaurant it not only creates a buzz, but also, helps justify higher price points and adds value. The Wall Street Journal recently described what some of the more innovative restaurants are doing. Leading the pack is New York’s Eleven Madison Park which has made their signature entertainment, justifying the $225 prix fixe dinner. For instance, a raw carrot is put through a meat grinder clamped to a table. Voila, carrot tartare. Michael Lomonaco, chef and partner at Porter House New York has brought back the duck press. In the $110 roast duck dish for two, bones are crushed in the French press at the table. The duck comes out on a gueridon cart and disassembled at the table. Duck’s legs and thighs are served in a salad for the first course, and the breast with the juice from the crushed bones is second.
Other dishes that get the tableside entertainment treatment are a 40 oz, 14 in long rib eye carved before the diners’ eyes at Urban Farmer in Portland, tea smoked oysters at Desnuda ceviche bar in Brooklyn, and tableside cloud preparations for pasta or rabbit with a mist of truffles at Marc Forgione in New York. And then there are the traditional dishes of the 50’s and 60’s like steak au poivre, crepes suzettes and flambéed drinks. Brennan’s of Houston has even created a new job description: flambé chefs. Glad for the return of this nostalgic element of dining.
Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera