Getting a tasting menu in a restaurant that doesn't have one
A friend was leaving town, and we were going to have dinner. On a whim, instead of going for the tasting menu at any of the "high-end" places like Gary Danko or Masa's or Elizabeth Daniel, I decided to get Chaz (currently my favorite mid-priced place) to come up with a tasting menu with matching wines. They didn't have a tasting menu nor did they advertise one, but they were more than willing to put a tasting menu together. "It would be fun" assured the chef/owner after I made the arrangements.
In short, we ended up with an excellent 7 course meal with matching wines; 8 courses if you include the palate cleansing sorbet. The price tag was shockingly reasonable - 1 full glass of champagne + 5 half glasses of wine + plus all that food came to $65 per person (not including tip).
I would be happy to describe what we had if there is interest - it was composed of a selection from the regular menu.
I thought it was a great meal that was just half a notch behind the one I had at Charles Nob Hill when Siegel was there. The main reasons that Chaz was behind was because they didn't deal with the more exquisite ingredients as caviars, lobster or white truffles etc... and while the wines were good and generally well suited to the dishes they were pared with, they were not the most luxurious I've had. Obviously, these things can add a lot of ooomph for diners who enjoy them.
On the other hand, a tasting menu with matching wines would cost about twice as much at Charles Nob Hill (or Fifth Floor or Fleur de Lys etc). I thought I got away with great value and would defintely do this again if the occasion calls for it.
I'm thinking about doing this at other places as well, and I was wondering if any has tried this with good experiences at other restaurants in town.
When I got married, we had our wedding dinner at Oliveto. I called and spoke with Paul Bertolli...told him our budget and he suggested a family style menu with matching wines. It was an amazing meal...large platters of food and great wines. I'm embarassed to admit that I don't remember exactly what we had that evening....but the gnocchi were delicious and the house cured meats are excellent. I like the family style format - more interaction and it's less formal....just less fussy overall and those platters are very impressive. All the items were from the regular menu, if I remember correctly. A nice variety of food... well orchestrated.
A couple years ago we had a party of 6 or 8 or so at Splendido in the Embarcadero Center, SF. It was rather late by the time we were seated and with that many folks with too much time at the bar, we had a hard time settling down to order. After checking back a couple times, our server suggested that we put ourselves in the chef's hands to make the selection for a family-style meal. He asked us if there were any food allergies or things we couldn't eat. The dishes were all from the current menu but were arranged beautifully on large platters to share around the table. I still remember the warm heirloom tomatoes with crescenza cheese, and also the lamb rib chops. We were all very happy with the choices. It was also a gracious way for the server to move us along and get our order into the kitchen. Even so, it was near midnight by the time we left.