Most restaurant patrons have come to take menus for granted—they’re as much a part of the dining experience as utensils, and having someone else cook your food for you. But in this month’s Food & Wine, Salma Abdelnour engagingly argues that the Japanese omakase style of dining is the standard that far more restaurants should adopt.
Chef’s choice—in which the kitchen sets the agenda based on the freshest ingredients, the most harmonious combination of dishes, and the whim of the cook—obviously isn’t a style that will work at every restaurant, and there are certainly lifelong finicky eaters who would break down in despair at the prospect of the menu’s disappearance.
But for the rest of us, there’s something very appealing about not having to fuss over the menu, trusting the kitchen’s reigning expert to serve up the best of what’s on hand in a manner designed to delight and impress. And a good chef will take food allergies and other dietary needs into consideration, and respond gracefully when a vegetarian—or, hell, vegan—strolls through the door in search of a tasty bite to eat.
And if nothing else, the ambitiousness of Abdelnour’s column makes it worth reading. It’s all very well and good to argue that wines from Austria are the next big thing, but it takes some real stones to go after one of the fundamental building blocks of the modern restaurant.