To Please the Mouth
Is there anything better than getting an amuse-bouche?
You sit down at the table, order your drinks and menu items and kick back and relax, thinking that your best-case scenario would be some freshly-baked bread and olive oil for dipping. Then, much to your amazement, out comes a small plate of deliciousness prepared by the kitchen especially to whet your taste buds. And you didn’t even have to ask!
I bring this up because it happened twice in the past few weeks. Mrs. TVFF and I were out and about in Philadelphia, seeing the sights, when we were able to snag an early seat at Chifa, a popular Peruvian/Chinese tapas bar. After ordering our five plates, out came a bowl of bite-sized pastries and a small dish of spreadable topping…manchego puffs with spicy guava butter. It was a highlight of the dinner and the meal itself hadn’t even started yet.
Then, the following weekend, we decided to take it easy after splurging and headed out to our neighborhood Italian place. We’re used to getting the complimentary bread and salad, but we were presented with a plate of grilled vegetables — cauliflower, green beans, peppers and more. Mrs. TVFF hardly put a dent in her pasta, having enjoyed the various appetizers along the way.
Hell, getting anything for free is great. (OK…I know it’s priced into the cost of the overall meal, but don’t burst my bubble.) But there is something more to the amuse that elevates it above the other freebies like the fortune cookie or starlight mint…It’s the fact that it wasn’t just something that the restaurant manager ordered in bulk from the supply company. This is something that someone in the kitchen truly thought about. Sure, they may pump them out by the truckload. But there was attention paid to them and if you adhere to the notion that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, then you’re probably getting a nice glimpse at the spirit and attitude of the chef.
When you get an amuse, you’re receiving a message from the restaurant: We truly want you to enjoy the meal you are going to experience.
So it’s not even the free mouthful you receive that’s the important part. It’s the fact that the people who will be feeding you subscribe to the belief that they have a responsibility to please you — the diner — and that they’re willing to go the extra mile. They take pride in their craft and believe in this one plate so much that they’re willing to put it out as an offering to each and every person who sits down to a table.
Any restaurant that respects you that much and which takes that kind of pride in its food deserves your business.
(Photo: LokoN Only One)