Experimental plate: Fun dining is a great way to indulge in fine dining


We all know about fine dining and I wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that many amongst us absolutely loathe it. It’s long-winded and tedious, too many courses, pretty plates with little satiety, sometimes too artistic, and often we can’t even take a proper toilet break!

I don’t; if you want to sit someone down and regale them with food and drink for a good part of a week and call it lunch, I am your guy. But I understand why many people would prefer something crisper, simpler, and, well, less time-consuming.

This, latter one, is what we call casual dining, which, frankly, has no strict definition. More people enjoy this form of indulging – not only is it (usually) more pocket-friendly than fine dining, it is also a lot less constricting in terms of format and thus feels more agreeable and fun.

That last word, ‘fun’, is the most important word when we are entertaining, or being entertained. If we eat and drink with all our senses then the definition of what constitutes fun cannot be simply linked to the comestibles which are put in front of us. The actual stuff we consume is a part of the entire eating out experience.

Fun can be upped in more ways than merely making better food. And that is precisely what I felt I got to experience at the Shangri-la recently when they hosted me for a very special meal. The experience is called “Le Petit Chef” – the world’s smallest chef, no taller than your palm! So how does it work?

Well, it’s all complicated projection technology which makes it appear as if a small chef is cooking up your meal right there on the table, using your plate (and the table) as the backdrop for his many culinary escapades. In one course he is diving for seafood, in another he is working in his garden, one course has him in a forest by a brook while another sees him putting the dessert together right there on your plate. It’s a complex system involving projectors and carefully positioned tables and plates but it all comes together beautifully. There are a few different menus — the more expensive ones add more precious ingredients and flavours on the same base dish and there are wine pairing options too. On the whole, the experience is, you guessed it, fun!

And this fun dining is a great way to indulge in fine dining but in a casual light-hearted way. It’s versatile in that I, a fine dining lover, got to eat in courses, and others at the table, got many Instagram-worthy moments to capture. It was casual and fun while still adhering to a service regimen but it was approached in a manner that didn’t let either side feel out of sync. Fun dining fills a gap that we didn’t realise existed and now that we know, it will be hard to go back. It made me think, what if wineries started telling stories in a similar manner; a short story telling us how the red wine that we will get to sip was made? Sometimes, knowing more about the process can make us feel more involved, and this immersion can make for a more tactile experience.


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