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Oct 18, 2007 02:19 PM

architectural food? Yes/no?

So you sit down at a pricey new place---you order, say, a seafood item.
It arrives, a slab of fish perched [pardon pun] on a precarious stack of fruit, cheese, or vegetables.
Touch it, and the stack starts to unravel. You wanted food that stays warm thanks to contact with the crockery, that hasn't been set up in mid air. And now the pile is a mess of bits.
You're allergic to onion, and they have put some reeking little strings of deepfried onion up on the top of this mess---which, if you don't lift it off with the delicacy of a bomb disposal squad, will shed little bits of onion-flavored crumb into your dinner. Was onion listed in the menu? No. You just got the chef's little surprise. It was also strewed over the salad and appears as suspicious little flecks in the 'vegetable medley.'
Ah. Now there's a term I detest. A 'medley' of vegetables. It arrives, cooked together, so that the inevitable zucchini tastes very much like the inevitable yellow squash AND oddly like most everything else on the plate...wood fire and hickory smoke is a lovely thing---in moderation.
Dessert arrives. I ordered chocolate mousse. Should be easy, right? Nice little cup...a spoon, something I can savor quietly. No. It's nearly a foot high, with wafers and straws of this and that, and has some pouffy stuff on it with a flavor never advertised. I'm supposed to sit there talking serious business at this expensive and rare chance to talk to a certain business relationship, and I'm put to looking like a teenager dissecting the Pig's Dinner banana split---there is no way to receive this thing without a to-do, a distraction, and by the time you've taken it apart to get to what you ordered, you have bits of structural sugar untidily displayed on the plate as if you were a child playing with the green beans.
Personally, I want what I ordered, done as well as it can be done, I want it hot [or cold] according to type, I want it quietly delivered, and I want it to astonish me with its flavor, not its structural diversity.

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  1. How else could they charge you that $75 price tag per plate if they didn't hire the architect to construct it? I whole heartedly agree- things have become a bit absurd in some restaurants with the "construction." What ever happen to the clock method- meat @ 12, start @ 3 veggies @ 6 & 9!

    1. The concept of food presentation has gotten out of hand -- but as long as the chumps are willing to pay the price, it'll continue.

      1. If you are allergic to onions, you have GOT to tell your server. It is entirely unfair to expect the restaurant to list every single ingredient in every single dish on the menu.

        Personally, I sort of like the way those crazy architectural dishes look on the plate, but they are a pain in the rear to eat.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jnstarla

          indeed, I tell the server. The fact that the server doesn't equate onion strings or chives, or leeks, or garnish as possibly a problem...that's a problem.

          Or the server, bless 'em, decides without asking that I must be on a bland diet and requests the cook to hold the spices, the jalapenos, all the flavor...

          ...but not the 'flavor enhancer' in the marinade, if we get down to that.

          Catsup has onions. Flavor enhancers have onions. Beef broth has onions. Sigh. I learned to cook in self-defense: learned to analyse the likely recipe and query the server---who queries the cook---but who doesn't query the last guy on the prep line, who adds the architectural garnish of onion strings. It's a little job, but it's his job, and by golly, he's devoted to it....

          I love eating out. I even enjoy the occasional oddity, like the presentation of edible flowers on the plate, which turned out to go very nicely with the meal: I admire the clever swirl in the sauce. I admire the layering in a dessert. There are so many ways to look delectable without building the tower of Babel.