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Jun 1, 2007 01:32 PM

What makes fine dining fine?

What makes a restaurant a "fine dining" establishment? If one looks at restaurants on a continuum, there are obvious extremes, from the fast food/greasy spoon type of place to the haute French Laundry/ Le Bec Fin, etc. I'm thinking about those places that might fall somewhere more toward the middle, and wondering how chowhounders define fine dining...
Looking forward to your thoughts...

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  1. I would define "fine dining" as restaurants that are dedicated to high quality food served by professional staff. Particularly high fine dining is where the staff makes you feel special not by saying: hi, I'm Margie and I'll be your server tonight, but rather attentive and discreet service that you hardly notice they've replaced the silverware between courses and poured a bit more wine for you; that is it's all about you.
    Cisco does not get you there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: NYchowcook

      Well, Cisco might get you a computer system that could help get you there :)

      Sysco is less likely to be helpful at that level in terms of the actual food, though might well be helpful in terms of physical materials (storage containers, etc...those folks sell everything).

      1. re: NYchowcook

        if that's the case Le Bec Fin wouldn't qualify :) Our food was not of high quality and the staff was far from professional :)

      2. When I hear "fine dining" I immediately think "La Maison de la Casa House, Continential Cuisine", that fictional upscale restaurant which Calvin Trillin has spent his gastro-literary career trying to convince us is not where the good stuff is served.

        Fine dining signifiers include cloth napkins, tablecloths, an extra fork, sugar cubes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

          Nah, I've been to Polish places with $11 dinner entrees that have the white tablecloths, sugar cubes, etc. I think it takes a small spoon at the twelve-o'clock position above the plate.

          Also: they give you a dirty look if you unbutton your pants when the coffee arrives.

          1. re: Veggo

            I'm trying real hard to come up with a counterexample, but I think you've nailed it.

            1. re: Veggo

              Unless you ask for it and your request is handled with dignity and professionalism

            2. successfull attention to every detail and exquisite unobtrusiveness.

              premium ingredients, artful presentation, elegant tableware and appropriate stemware.

              clean clean clean restrooms with lovely amenities.

              1 Reply
              1. "fine dining" is a euphemism for "no excuses."

                linen, china, silverware are mere trappings but appreciated where/when appropriate. plan to arrive on time and assume you'll be seated both cordially and on time. a quality meal goes without saying. specials should be special. wine should be an experience and not a return to the familiar. service should be efficient, not familiar. a visit from the owner is usually a good sign.

                litmus test: after you've paid the bill and walked out arm-in-arm with your partner, you say something to the effect, "i had a great time tonight."

                anything less is "expensive dining."

                1 Reply
                1. re: steve h.

                  a good dining experience is one where you leave and say "that was good"
                  a fine dining experience is one where you leave and say "life is wonderful"