Fine dining is a restaurant experience that spells sophistication, uniqueness, and expensive compared to the average restaurant. Fine dining is all about quality. The taste is in the experience the client has in the restaurant. From the music to the wine, refined restaurants almost always have a formal environment. Now, unlike the fast-food drive-ins and eateries, which feature menus such as all-you-can-eat meals and food-on-the-go, a traditional and classy restaurant with an excellent dining policy would not care about filling your belly. These restaurants are more interested in the experience, quality attribute of their establishment, and your bank account’s depth.
“I think fine dining is dying out everywhere… but I think there will be—and there has to always be—room for at least a small number of really fine, old-school fine-dining restaurants.” — Anthony Bourdain.
I love to eat! Call me a foodie if you will, but the truth is that we all love to eat. Not just eating to stuff myself, but to eat good food that would fill my belly. However, I wouldn’t take Oprah Winfrey to McDonald’s when I want to discuss serious business negotiations, neither would I take Jeff Bezos to a KFC in a similar business scenario. Therefore, this is indeed a case of quality over quantity, class over the common, and need over expedience. I don’t mean this statement in a derogatory way—no offense to the McDonald’s or KFCs of the world; I am trying to drive home a point. I am merely stating the fact, which is that some restaurants are made for quantity and the masses while others are niched and cater only to a more elite and upscale clientele.
Have you ever seen how possessive some chefs are over how a misshapen prawn or lobster placed lonely at the center of a white plate with a lost mint leaf that is begging for someone to rescue it from the white no man’s land called a plate? The mere thought of this prawn or lobster shifting from its glorified spot is enough to send the Chef into throwing a frenzied tantrum. The care and attention to detail, balanced in taste and color coordination that goes into one of Chef Daniel’s plate of Maine Sea Scallops, are out of this world. Layered with black truffle in golden puff pastry or roasted squab stuffed with foie gras and black truffle, winter vegetables, and chestnuts would tell you that fine dining is not an easy feat to achieve. It’s a gourmet dish artistry and extravaganza at its best.
Refined restaurant owners view food as a form of art. You see it in the art of plating that they evoke in presenting the nosh that they have to offer. Refined restauranteurs also view it and as a sign of sophistication and breeding. In many cultures, pedigree and breeding are significant indicators of good grooming. While this fact has become unquestionable, the question remains— Is there a point to this? Are we neglecting the real needs of our bodies in search of more superficial pursuits? Does fine dining matter as long as we are getting the right amounts of nutrients? Should we bother ourselves over if it is a thing of quality or quantity?
Just as the name implies, fine dining is used to describe a much more upscale service in a refined restaurant. It caters to and offers diners an elegant atmosphere that comes with high-quality service. The chefs and waiters in upscale restaurants are usually impeccably attired and professionally trained. These restaurants, characterized mainly by the meals’ bird-like nature, the room ambiance, and a ridiculously overpriced menu, often offer a conducive environment to host business executives or visiting diplomats. For instance, there is usually a different shade of clientele when you walk into a restaurant like Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue, Washington, or the Capital Grille in Seattle, or the many prized locations of Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse across the country.
Despite these snobbish attributes and characteristics that separate an all-you-can-eat from an upscale diner, the experience is indeed worth every cent spent. This line of thought reminds me of restaurants in New York, such as Restaurant Daniel with his, mouth-watering menu of seasonal French cuisine and wine. The warm ambiance, lovely music playing in the background, and luxurious Venetian Renaissance-style dining room with tables adorned with expensive cutlery, and beautifully laid dishes leave an unforgettable experience seared into your memory. Not forgetting the professionally and almost military-style trained waiters always in tuxedoes and cummerbunds, red or black bow ties with impeccable manners, and a constant smile that never leaves their faces. This sort of dining experience does not come cheap. It screams luxury and expensive.
Fine dining depicts exceptional quality and a refined personality. This experience can be gotten not only when one eats at an upscale restaurant with an address that is the envy of its peers but also at home. The art of restaurant savoir-faire calls for attention to detail, quality assurance, impeccable customer service that goes above and beyond, and an almost exclusive clientele—those with deep pockets and are not shy to spend. Refined dining features ridiculously exorbitantly priced menus, a snobbish, strictly call-in reservation policy, and a welcoming setting that could easily glide its way into the pages of the Architectural Digest magazine.
From the above narrative, it is reasonably apparent that the idea of quantity has no place in fine dining. That fine dining is also not exclusive to refined restaurants with an upscale address. Anyone can enjoy eating deliciously cooked meals with beautiful silverware. All it takes to create the same upscale dining restaurant experience is tethered to the word, care. Replicate such an experience is not an act of showmanship. It shows that you care about the quality of your food and the concomitant experience. Hence, you replicate fine dining at home by paying a little more attention to the meal’s recipe, the service, the choice of wine, and crockery. And not to forget, you highlight the moment by dressing smart for the occasion, even though the dinner table is in your home. A pleasant environment, great conversation, refined table manners, and an ambiance with lovely soft jazz music makes all the difference.
If your goal is to thoroughly enjoy your meal with no recourse to who is watching how many plates you ate or to be conscious of your environment, then, by all means, make sure you visit an all-you-can-eat buffet. This type of dining could cost between $15 to $20. If you wish not to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can eat all you can on a dollar menu at a fast-food joint of your picking. The upside is that the food is not always bad, and you would have several varieties of meal choices to make. However, please remember that in some cases, the standard and quality of the food is low as the Chef is more interested in giving you quantity at a pocket-friendly price. On the other hand, the more upscale restaurants can charge as high as $50 to $300, or more as the case may be.
Now you know the available option, and it is your right to choose what fits you best. You could either choose to save time and money by selecting to eat in a more relaxed and family-oriented restaurant where your meal is already dished and just waiting for you to help yourself. There is no judgment in that; it is what you crave and what you can afford. There is no shame in that at all. Or, you could take the time to dress up for that special occasion, splurge on expensive cuisine and wine, and have a great conversation while waiting for your meal. There is also no judgment in that. Patrons of fine dining can afford it because it is within their reach to do so—at least, that is our assumption.
You don’t fine dine on a shallow pocket. You don’t pay a lavish amount for a meal on Friday night, and call your buddies to lend you some money to pay your rent on the fifth of the month. If you do that, you are parked up on the alley of nincompoopery at the cross street of idiocy and lack of subliminal purpose, to say the very least. Pay the price. Become successful. Fine-dine if you want to and whenever you wish to do so. There is no judgment in that at all.
“I don’t think fine dining is dying, but I think those rare occasions when you really want the fanciness are diminishing … I think a lot of people are going to find simpler, more casual ways to enjoy an experience.” — Mario Batali.
So, I would say, if you want to experience the heightened sense of being pampered and in an elite company, choose quality. There is no shame in being an elite and choosing to live like it. You paid your dues to become one, at least I hope so, so enjoy your hard and smart earned money. There is no judgment in that. However, if you need to chill and have a raucous laugh with friends over dripping hotdogs and barbecued ribs, fine dining is not for you! Head on to the quantity section!
By the way, who do you agree with on the two quotes highlighted in the article? Do you agree with the late Anthony Bourdain, who stipulated that fine dining way dying? Or, do you agree with Mario Batali, who says that fine dining is not dying? Share your comments below.