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Feb 16, 2007 05:50 AM

apps vs entrees?

Question: Why are appetizers so often better than entrees in a restaurant? Anyone got a theory?

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    1. re: jfood

      I also enjoy the variety that comes with ordering 2-3 appetizers, or salad/appetizer as my meal. One problem I sometimes encounter is that they all arrive at the table together, when my intention is to have them as separate courses.

      I think many other people also like the smaller portion option, as witnessed by the number of restaurants that are now offering "small plates" or half-portion entrees on their menus.

    2. I think you can be more creative with appetizers. It's a smaller portion, so people are more willing to try something different the first time. I am big on variety when I eat, so I will often order a few different appetizers instead of a main. Appetizers are better for people who like variety. Also, sometimes, the best food is the simplest - 1-3 ingredients - and appetizers are perfect for this kind of thing. Oh, one more thing, you know how when you have the first couple of bites of something it tastes the best and then sometimes you overdo it so by the time you finish you are not enjoying it as much? Well an appetizer usually is just enough to savour the first few bites, because the portion is smaller.

      1. My theory is about portion, palate boredom and timing.

        Portion: I find appetizers, due to their smaller nature, carry small bursts of flavor that just tickle your taste buds.

        Boredom: That said, I find the larger portions in entrees a bit daunting - the hunk of meat or fish. Sometimes by the 4th bite I'm done with it and wish I had another flavor to play with.

        Timing: Because they're your first initial bites, they seem to serve to open up your senses. After having not eaten in a few hours, they have a kir-pow! effect on your nasal passage and tongue. This is, of course, a purely non-scientific observation. I'd be interested to know if actual scientists have any real scientific theories?

        7 Replies
        1. re: yumyumyogi

          It's really interesting. I wonder if chefs know this and put more effort into the apps too?

          1. re: chow7117

            Or perhaps chefs find making appetizers more creative and enjoyable? Maybe we can taste their passion and love. Chefs: any comments?

            1. re: yumyumyogi

              I believe there is also another requirement for most chefs who aren't doing tasting menus to try to do the requisite protein/starch/veg thing for a main course, which sometimes cause them to do something safer and less adventurous. At least with apps people don't feel like they need to order them, unlike mains.

              1. re: Blueicus

                That's what I was going to say, too. People have certain expectations about what an entree is going to be composed of, while an appetizer can be just about anything (except something clearly in the "dessert" realm). That allows the chef a lot of room to let his/her creativity come to the fore.

                Add me to the list of people who sometimes order multiple appetizers instead of an appetizer and a main.

            2. re: chow7117

              chefs also realize that guests typically are more willing to be daring on smaller plates. when they're coughing up money for a main dish, they want to stay in that comfort zone of chicken/salmon/steak. i worked for one of boston's best chefs and he'd go crazy every time somebody ordered chicken. to punish them, it would take 45 minutes from order time to table.

              in many places, specials like squab, rabbit or baby goat will go unsold because too many diners are unwilling to try something new. it's a 2-way street.

              and regarding palate boredom, we usually call it "palate fatigue." if something no longer tastes like "wow", your brain is telling your stomach you're done. even though people complain if a protein is less than 8 oz., ("this is so small!") a *portion* should really only be about 3-4 oz.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Your chef would love me and frown at Mrs Jfood. Your examples are exactly the conversation we have before ordering, I can not decide among the squab, rabbit and goat and Mrs Jfood can not decide among the chicken, salmon and steak.

                45-minutes between order and service sounds about right though. I order app and entree at 8, app served at 810-15; 5-10 to eat; ~20 minutes until entree. Don't tell him but he may not be upsetting his custos as much as he thinks. As a thought are you saying 45 from order or 45 from firing the entree.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Oh, "palate fatligue." I have that often. I wish all protein came at a maxiumum of 3-4 oz size.

            3. I think that many appetizers are more interesting or at least more daring. Also, portion size in restaurant is so out of control that a huge entree is both daunting and a bit boring in the end. I want more variety than a single entree.
              I generally order two apps. In my estimation the restaurant mark-up is often higher on apps because they have no huge hunk of protein but I don't really care. Just make it tasty.

              When I was a poor college student I used to love leftovers but now I would rather pay for a good meal that I can enjoy, not lamely reheat the next day.

              1. 1. Your hungrier, and it's usually your first bites of the evening.
                2. In America we have a tendency to overwhelm the palate with too many heavy flavors on one large plate, it's boring after you've eaten half.
                3. The chef can get alot more creative since its not the decision you have to make for your main meal so the diner can try new things.
                4. We all want to grab a bite off of everyones plate when we're eating and appetizers allow you to do that.