Not fit for the hungry eater, Michelin-starred restaurants are notorious for their small sized portions, and no, it isn’t just for aesthetics.
If quantity is what you’re after, Michelin-starred restaurants might not tick the box for you. Whilst the culinary experience tends to be intricate, exotic and unexpected, most Michelin starred restaurants remain consistent on one thing; portion sizes. And they’re not particularly big.
Whilst there is a variety of reasoning for the small dishes, the main one is that when eating, we only ever truly savour the first three or four bites – when our tastebuds are at their most sensitive. Everything you consume afterwards intertwines into an interesting memory, whereby you are actually just remembering the initial taste. And because Michelin starred meals are all about sensations and providing for an otherwordly culinary experience, providing several small dishes, edible in a handful of bites, actually allows you to experiment with a much wider, and richer variety of flavours.
Then of course, there’s the pace. Dining at Michelin-starred restaurants is not a race; it’s an experience meant to be savoured slowly, and you’re like to find yourself at the fancy restaurant for much longer than you would a normal one. Smaller portions encourage a slower, more mindful pace of dining – a chance to engage in meaningful conversation, appreciate the artistry of each dish, and fully immerse yourself in the ambiance of the restaurant.
Human psychology has an innate fascination with the allure of scarcity. Whether it’s the allure of a “special collector’s editions” or the tantalising prospect of offers available “for a limited time only,” we’re drawn to things that appear rare or exclusive. The adage “good things come in small packages” rings true not just for collectibles but also for culinary experiences. A towering mound of spaghetti may not elicit the same admiration as a carefully arranged few strands of pasta placed at the heart of an elegant plate. In this context, it’s not the quantity that captures our attention but the presentation and the promise of a unique dining experience.
On a significantly less elegant note, there’s the issue of cost. Part of what makes fine dining so exciting in this day and age is the way ingredients are cooked. With things such as molecular cuisine, Chefs are becoming more and more like scientists, raising the cost of a Michelin starred-meal insatiably. Interestingly, a combination of small portions and expensive price tags strikes the perfect balance, as psychology shows that customers appreciate food more this way.
Less is more, or so they say.