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Shalmanese

Tepid food at high end restaurants

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I really dislike the trend that plating in fine dining has been moving towards in the last 20 years. While the multiple bits and bobs on the plate make for stunning photographs, too often, it means being served food that's barely above body temperature.

Taking the time to plate 18 individual components means that the first component going down is cooling while the rest is being plated. Sous Vide proteins are great for uniformity but cool down much faster than conventionally grilled or sautéed proteins. Plating foods "palette style" leaves lots of air between each component and lots of jagged pieces, meaning just the walk from the kitchen to the table is going to cool a plate down significantly. And finally, the extra time required to eat a composed dish means the last bite is going to be significantly cooler than the first.

What this means is that I often find myself eating technically well executed food that lacks passion because it's all so tepid and limp. What's more, chefs realizing they can only produce tepid food, end up shifting the menu to accomodate that. I suspect one of the reasons that seafood has become so much more popular in fine dining is because it tastes perfectly fine tepid whereas something like pork belly is useless unless piping hot.

Frankly, I don't care if my food comes as a hot mess if that's what's required to keep it hot.


PS: I am a guy.

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A heated plate would solve many problems as would a cloche.

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Frankly, I don't care if my food comes as a hot mess if that's what's required to keep it hot.

Why am I reminded of the first class flight attendant who recently plopped down a messy plate in front of my husband, telling him, "Sorry it's sloshed. Eats the same."


eGullet member #80.

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I actually think many foods taste better warm, or even at room temperature, than hot.

(That said, I'm not into plated or paletted foods, and can't stand dots and drizzles on the plate - it doesn't do anything for me aesthetically, and tends to add little to the taste.)

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Heated plates only go so far when your plating 12 plates simultaneously each with several elements and a precise arrangement, there's simply not enough time to plate everything before the food cools down. I have experienced that problem at home when cooking multi-course meals for several people, but I assumed restaurants had solved it (in Kingston the only elaborate tasting menus I get to eat are the ones I make). One strategy I've resolved to adopt is to more carefully think about the mechanics of plating (sous-wide ingredients, for example, shouldn't be taken out of the bag until the last second, IMO). I wonder how much attention is paid to this in your 'average' high-end restaurant.


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Heated plates only go so far when your plating 12 plates simultaneously each with several elements and a precise arrangement, there's simply not enough time to plate everything before the food cools down. I have experienced that problem at home when cooking multi-course meals for several people, but I assumed restaurants had solved it (in Kingston the only elaborate tasting menus I get to eat are the ones I make). One strategy I've resolved to adopt is to more carefully think about the mechanics of plating (sous-wide ingredients, for example, shouldn't be taken out of the bag until the last second, IMO). I wonder how much attention is paid to this in your 'average' high-end restaurant.

True - but a lot of places use heat lamps over the plating stations to try to limit cooling as much as possible while doing an intricate plating. I've done this at home with moderate success - but I couldn't position my heat lamp exactly where I wanted it so it could've been a lot better.

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I bought a single bulb reflector with clamp-on base from the Home Depot - the kind that's normally used with a light bulb. Also from the HD is an infrared heat lamp, normally used in bathrooms, I guess, the base is the size of a normal light bulb, but the bulb flares out to about a 5-6" diameter. It works well when doing say 4-6 plates at a time - for 12, I'd use two - mounted on opposite sides.

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Heat from the bottom is generally better than heat from the top. The latter has the tendency to wilt greens and to put a veil on sliced meat making things look pretty unappetizing pretty quickly.

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