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Jan 12, 2008 08:45 PM

What do they call this kind of presentation / cuisine?

I know, a silly title, but an honest one.

I'm thinking of the way food is served in "fancy" restaurants, like this: (top image).

I'm thinking of courses that take up only about 10% of the plate they are served on, lines traced using crumbs or sauces, and what seems like a desire to present each ingredient in a dish individually. I hope those here can see what I mean from the pictures, based on their similarities. What is this style called? Is it "nouvelle cuisine"? Where did it originate?

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  1. don't know, maybe it's simply is "modern" cuisine ?

    IMO, its history comes from Nouvelle Cuisine, where the cooking and preparation were trip down to simple elements, putting focus on produce and freshness instead of over-the-top preparation and presentation.

    Nouvelle cuisine was a strong reaction against the old school, but now, the focus is back on more complex flavours of more complex presentation and preparation while keeping the element of minimalism and "apparent" simplicity.

    1. Some of the aspects are those of nouvelle cuisine.. most notably the "painted" style of saucing.

      The "deconstructed" elements..little lines of ingredients separated from the main part of the dish... well, in part that is Asian influenced... think of all the dishes where you have multiple extras with a dish that you add in as wanted... such as a Thai khai soi that is served with a seperate plate with little dabs of pickled mustard greens, crushed chilis, pieces of lime, bits of fried shallot... just in this application of modern cuisine it is separate but still on the same plate. This allows for texture and temperature variance as you are dragging your food through different elements bite by bite.

      The large plate little food thing? That comes from a Japanese sensibility where negative space is really important. While some places do it to the point it becomes laughable in the hands of someone skilled and knowledgable it is a nice plating style. problem is so many cooks now are doing it that don't understand why it was done or where the concept comes from.

      6 Replies
      1. re: lebelage

        Thank you for your answer(s). I appreciate them.

        I've always found this kind of presentation to look really pretentious, I guess. Never cared much for negative space.

        1. re: tvdxer

          Think of it as modern day "curb appeal" for cuisine, to borrow from the real estate industry.

        2. re: lebelage

          maybe in japanese art, but negative space in the presentation of japanese food?

          i think the big plate little food thing is indicative of a sense of self-importance.

          and i thought nouvelle cuisine was about a new appreciation for simplicity in presentation of beautifully prepared fresh ingredients -- not heavy sauces, smothered dishes, etc.

          1. re: alkapal

            "maybe in japanese art, but negative space in the presentation of japanese food?"

            Yes, in kaiseki style cuisine and Kyoto style sushi

            1. re: lebelage


              i googled "kaiseki style food" images, and don't see the "negative space" in these food presentations, as beautiful as they are. maybe we are just differing in our concept of "negative space."


              and then i did some fun exploration:

              a little interesting background on the kaiseki/kyoto food/drink rituals:

              and an intersting variation of the historical background from the tokyo tourism folks:

              and on japanese food culture, in general:

              and kyoto, in particular:

              types of sushi styles from across japan, and the reasons therefor:

              and this little snippet that reinforces my idea that the kaiseki style dishes are similar in concept to nouvelle cuisine: a celebration of the best and freshest, minimally manipulated or disguised, and artfully presented:

              all in all, lebelage, our definitions of negative space differ, but with your insightful comment, you invited me down a path of exploration of beautiful cuisine and culture. thank you.

              as they have done for me, i hope these links will enlighten other hounds on another extraordinary piece of our world and its cuisine.

              (PS, imo, this japanese food is different in scale and degree from the "big plate little food" presentation pretensions in today's "trendy" places so acclaimed by foodies. the difference between tasteful, and ridiculous -- where the food is so lonely on the white porcelain lake.)

              1. re: alkapal

                Glad you did your research.. like I said- it is "inspired" by kaiseki.. and therefore is often funny because done by people who don't understand it.

                In kaiseki the food only takes up a pre set amount on the plate... but the food is small and the plates are pretty small too and there is a reason for both.

                Our definitions of negative space may actually not be all that different.. since I do kaiseki cuisine.. I think it may just come off that way because I try to be generous to those who try to apply it to American cuisine. Some do better than others.