Are entrees necessary?

In the new issue of Esquire magazine, writer Tom Junod asks a good question, one regarding multi-course meals at nice restaurants. I think he has a point in saying that the entree, after the amuse boche and appetizers, often feels like an anti-climax.

We’ve “been conditioned to think of the entree as the climax of the meal,’ he writes in his article and blog post “The Death of the Entree.” “It is, indeed almost always disappointing.”

I usually figure out my entree selection first, then base my appetizer choices around it.

But truthfully, the most memorable parts of any nice meal I’ve had in recent memory are the courses leading up to it: the soup, the salad, or the appetizer.  In some cases, my husband and I have taken to not ordering entrees but several small plates, with one of the small plates serving as the “entree.”

And, of course,  “small plates” in many restaurants are often not that small.

Speaking of the “small plate,” Junod’s article argues that chefs are fetishizing it, “while the main course has become an afterthought. “It’s changing the way we eat.”

Likewise, I almost am never that excited about desserts at good restaurants. I’m already full and satiated by the wonderful appetizers that came before it. Even if I hear that, say, the restaurant has an amazing pastry chef, I usually feel like ordering a dessert is almost a duty rather than something I really want.

Junod continues, explaining why many of us are not all that crazy about entrees anymore:

“The amuse, the appetizer, the pasta course: They’re all about hunger and pleasure, expectation and satisfaction, flavor instead of sustenance, and they get your attention before you know they’re telling you a story, like a good three-minute song. But the entrée is the CD in the age of the single; it is marriage in the age of friends with benefits. There is a sense of duty that comes with each one, and so — no matter how molecular the restaurant — America’s food revolution has left it behind. The only restaurants in which you’re actually happy to be served your entrée are the restaurants that serve entrées ungarlanded by Chef’s ambition — sushi joints and steakhouses. Steak that’s just steak never disappoints. Neither does fish that stays away from fire.”

2 thoughts on “Are entrees necessary?

  1. I still find myself very satisfied by a pinto bean and rice burrito on almost any occasion.

    While I have to give kudos to Foreign Cinema in the city for making a stunning Tunisian Chicken, other than that, I prefer simple meals.

    While I think that we need the restaurant industry for non-exportable jobs, I am not interested in spending north of $50 per person for dinner, and generally, $30 max.

    We all eat too much anyway, probably, so small plates seem appropriate anyway – even Cheesecake Factory has come up with a line of Skinnylicious meals –

    now if I could only get the dream of their deep fried mac and cheese
    ball appetizers out of my head…


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