Multiplying The "Multi" Course Menu

Salmon tartare cones, one of 20 bites on Poste's special menu.
Photo: Michael Harlan Turkell

I'm full but not uncomfortably so as my 20th (yes 20th) dinner course, a warm chocolate bread pudding, lands in front of me.

The 19 courses that preceded, like a dainty cone of steelhead salmon tartare and the petite pan of crispy pig's tail, were perfectly manageable, more bite sized than entree sized. And that's the idea behind Poste chef Rob Weland's "20 Bites" menu, which (as a guest of the restaurant) I had the opportunity to eat my way through the other night.

Once upon a fine dining time, a decadent multi-course tasting menu featured a single-digit number: five courses, maybe seven or nine if you were really up for a big night. But more chefs are pushing the numbers game, taking the traditional multi-course menu and super sizing it.

It sounds positively indulgent, but in practice, when well-paced and well-portioned, these types of menus don't offer an obscene amount of food. Many times, a "course" is really just a bite or two. As Missy Frederick noted, it's perfect for an indecisive eater who wants to try a little of everything.

At José Andrés' minibar, a pioneer of the multi-bite menu trend in DC, the course count tops out around 30. Chef Bryan Voltaggio treats guests at Volt's Table 21 with ... you guessed it, 21 courses.

Interested in testing your stomach's course capacity? Here's where you can get a mega multi-course dinner (prices typically do not include tax, tip or drinks):

minibar: Reservations are nearly impossible, but once you're in, the 25 to 30 course menu costs $120 per person. For info on reservations, visit the web site.

Poste: The 20 Bites menu is $75 per guest and is available nightly for up to four people at the kitchen counter. Reservations: 202.449.7062

Vidalia: Chef RJ Cooper just launched Vidalia "24," available Friday and Saturday nights for up to six people. The cost is $150 per person, which includes a beverage pairing. Reservations: 202.659.1990

Volt: Bryan Voltaggio's Table 21 features 21 courses for $121 per person, served in the kitchen for up to eight guests. Reservations: 301.696.8658


Anonymous said...

There is also Komi's degustazione...

Olesh said...

I hope this does not come off like a grumpy old man, but as I close out my third decade the marathons are not as appealing. I would much rather have two out of three well executed dishes than 12-15-20 dishes with a .500 batting average. It is hard to remember what you actually ate after the meal and really tough to pair wines.

With all of that said, the best meal that I ever had and the single best dish (white truffled Risoto) was at the Laboratorio del Galileo as part of a 12 or 15 course meal.

Of course sushi, dim sum, korean bbq, and brazillian bbq are awesome multicourse extravaganzas that I thoroughly enjoy. So I kind of contradicted myself.

Amanda said...

Anon - I adore Komi's mezzethakia - one of the best parades of little bites around.

And I hear you, Olesh. You have to be in the right mind-set to undertake a menu like that. I remember the portions at the Lab being on the big side. I took my parents and as the third pasta course came (probably No. 6 out of 15 or so total) my mom looked at me with sheer panic in her eyes, like "What are you doing to us??" We walked (waddled?) a few laps around the block before catching a cab home ...

cheapskate said...

Hate to rub it in, but Minibar was the best meal I've ever had in the states. Out of 30 courses only 1 was "meh" and several were transcendant.

zehill said...

So maybe it's because you were a "guest of the restaurant" and feel obligated to provide positive press, or maybe it's just an oversight, but you didn't say whether you liked it or not.

Amanda said...

The Poste menu was fantastic. I would definitely recommend it.