By Karen Tee –
Now that you’ve finally nabbed that elusive reservation at a Michelin three-star restaurant, expectations are at an all time high. To the uninitiated, three-star restaurants on the Michelin guide are considered the crème de la crème of fine dining, with menus created by chefs who have made it their life’s work to turn a culinary experience into a work of art.
With just over 100 three-star restaurants around the world, usually located in gastronomical capitals such as New York City, Tokyo and Paris, it is no wonder that foodies are known to schedule trips abroad based on the reservations they snag.
Of course, the pressure’s on you, too. What to wear? Will the waiters be snobbish and worse of all, what if you can’t appreciate the food? Stress not – here’s the simplest, most fuss-free guide to wining and dining in style that you could ever read.
While there’s no need to show up in your red carpet best, you still want to look suitably smart for the occasion. This means dress shoes and a jacket for men, and cocktail chic for women. My best advice – avoid skintight clothing or your belly might start feeling uncomfortable as the meal progresses.
What to order
To fully experience the chef’s artistry and enjoy the freshest catch and produce of the season, pick the omakase or prixe fixe menu. The former means “chef’s selection” while the latter is a fixed menu. Some three-star restaurants offer an a la carte menu as well, but I’ve found that my most enjoyable Michelin meals are those that have an element of surprise, or when I leave it to the chef to decide what’s best on that particular day.
Enjoy the show
Since you will be paying at least $200 each for a meal, the best way to get the most bang for your buck is to treat this as an interactive theatre. Imagine that you are part of a perfectly choreographed performance, where the chefs and wait staff have timed the food preparation and service down to the second.
Some restaurants, such as Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Alinea in Chicago may even create dishes that invite experimentation. For instance, at Eleven Madison Park, I was once handed a picnic basket and told to unpack it for my next course. Besides some very fancy tableware, I also pulled out a bottle of home-brewed beer, as well as chef Daniel Humm’s deconstructed version of the traditional New York bagel, which included extremely fine caviar.
Dealing with food you don’t like
As a picky eater, I have a long list of food I would not normally eat. But, when I’m at a three-star establishment I try to put my preconceived notions of what I consider edible aside and at least taste dishes outside of my comfort zone. Over the years, I’ve tasted smoked kangaroo, shirako (cod sperm) and even ants, washed down with generous pours of excellent wines and sake.
It also helps to take a reliable dining partner with an insatiable appetite, in case you need to pass on a few morsels off your plate.
Don’t get intimidated
It is, admittedly a little scary to deal with the maître d’, sommeliers and waiters who are likely to be significantly more informed about culinary affairs than you are. But it’s really not a big deal at all. They are professionals who are there to help you get the most out of your Michelin experience. Be polite and do not hesitate to ask if you do not understand the menu. It is also perfectly reasonable to set a budget for your wine, when getting recommendations from a sommelier. In fact, it may even help you narrow down your choices.
Before we leave you to get all excited about having the meal of a lifetime, here’s one last tip: go hungry.
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