Why Valentine's Day Tasting Menus Can Be A Red Flag For Chefs

Whether it is that iconic escargot scene from "Pretty Woman" or the more perplexing one from "The Menu," a multi-course, tasting menu can be difficult to navigate for some. Although high-end, celebrated restaurants might plate these impeccable courses nightly, Valentine's Day can see some other restaurants turn to the prix fixe menu for the holiday. As Touch Bistro commented, this type of menu can increase efficiency during a busy dining night. While that can be helpful for the front and back of the house, the diner may not get a true sense of the restaurant's culinary ability based on just a few options.

According to Square Up, a prix fixe menu features a set amount of courses, with limited choices, at a predetermined price. Restaurants can choose to feature signature dishes from their main menu, a specially curated option for a holiday, or some other concept that the chef prefers to showcase. Although there can be value in this concept for the restaurant, some diners might find the food choices limiting. But, the offering should be some type of representation of the restaurant's style. After all, no one goes to a steak restaurant for a vegetarian meal. While the benefits can be debated, the price might be the only incentive for the Valentine's Day menu.

Do guests really want a limited menu on Valentine's Day?

According to Grubhub, Valentine's Day 2022 spending hit $23.9 billion. From sitting down at a restaurant to takeout, dining represents a significant portion of that money spent. While some lists might tout the most romantic locales, diners want more than ambiance when it comes to a meal out. Even as food costs continue to impact personal budgets, the romantic night out could be a big splurge to express an affair of the heart. But, Valentine's Day tasting menus might not have chefs feeling the love in the kitchen.

In a Food & Wine article, chef Giuseppe Tentori of GT Prime and GT Fish & Oyster, expressed that guests do not really want these types of tasting menus. From the food limitations to the cost, the chef states that "it's not a true representation of the cuisine." Furthermore, Tentori says that "Guests who come in on a special occasion want their favorite dishes and do not want to be limited by a smaller menu." For him, the special dinner should be a celebration of a great meal, not necessarily one that has finite choices. While love might be in the air around Valentine's Day, cupid might not strike a bullseye with limited food choices.

Tips to remember when booking Valentine's Day restaurant reservations

From candlelit tables to melodic music, many diners long for a romantic night out with that special someone. While not every event can fit into a Hallmark movie, a few tips can help you step it up from the White Castle tablecloth dinner. Per a 2020 press release, OpenTable suggests that reservations for Valentine's Day should be made by February 4. Although the statement might be blunt, the snooze or you lose idea could leave some people going down to the bottom of the preference sheet.

More importantly, diners should know the type of meal being served for the special occasion. Restaurant Business reports that while chefs are turning to prix fixe menus to combat costs, labor shortages, and other challenges, these offerings may or may not appeal to some diners. From limited options for certain lifestyle choices to not satisfying a craving for a signature dish, the curated menu can have some people feeling a little empty. But, as long as diners know the menu plan ahead of time, everyone can be on the same page. Even though the ambiance and flavor might be on point, a happily-ever-after fairy tale may require a little extra spark after leaving the table.