When Was Your Last Tasting Menu Experience? James Melendez

When was your last tasting menu experience?

Well that was far too long ago!

I said to a friend once “I wish I could go to a tasting menu once a week” she said that she didn’t have the same wish.  She has experienced a good number in her time but for her it was not the same as it was for me.  I do have a devoted love for the tasting menu and chef prepared food.

What inspired to me write this was that I was recently at a tasting menu and it struck me solidly the fineness not just of the food but the ambience, service, comfort, wine and total touch was very meaningful to me.  The waiter was a quintessential professional–it was a party of ten and he worked to make the meal the resounding success and it was.  I am not sure if all diners appreciate the hard work to making a meal a success–I am fully aware because I notice detail and I love detail.

I think that ‘at the heart of matter’ of culinary excellence is to showcase the chef’s vision and aptness.  I think to be a chef is to love food and by that extension hospitality.  Hospitality is a word that we may know immediately but the many nuances are both fascinating and elusive.  Hospitality and the tasting menu are synonymous with having each guest feel special and have the heart touched.  I am not sure all chefs would agree but the chef who views their work as a vocation is the chef who conveys that excellence to the meal participant.

I have been to both tasting menu-only restaurants and those who have a mix of regular menu and tasting menu – singular selection and those with several per course.  I always order tasting menu if offered at a restaurant offering both.  It can be hard when you are with a group or even just two people often 99% of the time all people need to order the tasting menu.  I get it.  It is hard to time the meal and the experience can leave one diner feeling left out.

I remember one tasting menu experience that almost wasn’t–it was with wine writers and one person wanted to order off the menu but the requirement was all or nothing for the tasting menu.  Each member of the table lobbied and eventually convinced that one person.  I cannot imagine having to be convinced!

Now when I am asked about food allergies or those food items I don’t prefer–eggs by themselves for me.  I am one of a dozen people on the planet that doesn’t like eggs.  But I forget to mention eggs…now my standard line is eggs by themselves or lamb are something I prefer not to eat.  I am not allergic they just are too intense for me.  Eggs are too intensely scented as well as texture issue.  And lamb is a texture issue and the gameness.  Do I use eggs to bake yes absolutely.  For years, I had not eaten cheese–but just in the past decade have been eating some cheeses, some of the time–still the strong cheese I cannot eat.  So perhaps I can eat an egg or lamb in the future?  Who knows stranger things have happened.

Food is the total senses experience and when thoughtful and expertly executed–it is a spiritual journey.  One of my favourite programmes is Netflix’s Chef Table and like chef prepared food the programme highlights beautiful photography, editing, narration, story, direction, lighting and music and much more.  The intent is getting into the head of each chef to talk about their vision, their drives.  Their connection to ingredient and their love to share that with each person who goes to their restaurant.

The food documentary is the heart of the matter.  Season 3 Chef’s Table highlight Virgilio Martinez’s Central in Lima and his quest for the excelsior tasting menu is truly unique.  Martinez core vigil is to raise Peru’s most obvious as well as unique ingredients in his seemingly coterie of dishes on his tasting menu.  The programme didn’t necessarily talk about spirituality but that was the net result of watching it–that for Virgilio Martinez–it is a spiritual quest to find and create food that feds body and soul.

The food documentary called ‘For Grace’ about Chef Curtis Duffy explored his brutal upbringing that might have stuttered someone’s life but his core being is not about just surviving but fermented ideas, aspirations in food and in life.  Fermenting ideas to become lyrical food that is graceful—he left the restaurant Grace in 2016.  And as I understand it he and business partner are looking to create a new restaurant.


I do appreciate the well-known chef as well as a chef that is not known.  I am quizzical about what a great chef does (again known and not) and their choices, aspirations, visions and the beauty of their art on the plate.  I think of one chef here in San Francisco who for years is more known for his bars and lunch counters–which is one of the best, high quality, casual meals you will have at the sandwich-salad level in the City.  I was inspired by Chef Dennis Leary’s Canteen restaurant (now closed) on Sutter Street–seating no more than a dozen people–was an intimate, accessible and wondrous space.  And even a personal side of Leary was on display–his favourite books within easy reach of most diners who were seated in the booths in his teeny, tiny intimate restaurant.   I think Dashiell Hammett would have dined here–it just had the vibe.  I would love Chef Leary to have a tasting menu restaurant–I think he is under-rated.


Some beautiful plates at a various restaurants as evidence of some great tasting menu experiences from Reims, Paris, and San Francisco:

Frenchie – Paris

Duck – Frenchie, Paris









Cucumber rings, fennel, sauce – Porte 12, Paris

Rabbit tenderloin and white beans – Porte 12, Paris








Beautiful Cheese Plate – Porte 12 – Paris

Langoustine – Porte 12 – Paris








Rich, granular chocolate dessert – Porte 12

Lobster – Michael Minna, San Francisco

A5 Wagyu – Michael Minna, San Francisco

Just the starter – Michael Minna, San Francisco


Lemon Macron, Pâte de Fruit and lemon cookie – Michael Minna, San Francisco

Tuna and marrow – Racine, Reims

Restaurant Racine – Racine meaning root proves a great fundamental name to this wondrous presentation and food

Racine, Reims


So what are you waiting for?

When I know I am going to a tasting menu either if I book the reservation I immediately let them for tasting menu preferences/allergies.  I often order the wine supplement–I want a variation but you could conceivably order by the bottle as well.  In general, I find tasting menu pricing and especially with wine much more expensive in the US than say in Paris.

Enjoy your time–ask questions of server and ask of things you want to increase your enjoyment.

These are my future bucket list tasting menus:

Alinea – Chicago

Central – Lima

Osteria Francescana – Modena




James the Wine Guy

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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