Spain has been mastering small plates since the days of old. Take a walk down Logroño’s Calle Laurel to witness the true spirit of Spain’s tapas tradition. Some call it a tapas pilgrimage, others call it a crawl (likely depends on how much wine is consumed). Tourists and locals alike take this journey for a truly authentic Spanish experience hopping from one bar to the next enjoying a different tapas at each stop.
Today, we’re seeing this Spanish-inspired trend move across borders. Many American chefs & restaurants are saying goodbye to big portions and hello to small plates.
For the diners who want it all, small plates are ideal. Offering them the opportunity to broaden their menu selection releases their adventurous side. Can’t decide between the short rib and crab cakes? Why put your diners in a difficult situation when small plates allow your diners to have the best of both worlds!
Chef tasting menus are another way restaurants are showcasing small plates. These pre-set menus are designed to be a journey through the chef’s top dishes or personal favorites. Chicago’s Alinea serves up an impressive 24-course tasting menu as the “grand tour” of the restaurant’s cuisine. Food coma? We think yes.
In honor of the year of tapas & small plates, here’s a list of dos and don’ts for restaurants, chefs and foodservice pros looking to downsize their menus.
Small Plates Dos & Don’ts
- Flavor – We all know the first bite is always the best. However, most diners lose their taste appeal after the third bite. With small plates, you don’t run into this problem. You provide your diners just the right dose of flavor in a small, compact dish. Make sure your small plate is bursting with flavor, so your diners are craving more even after the third bite.
- Substance – When all is said and eaten, your diners should not leave your restaurant feeling hungry. Having the right ratio of protein + fat will satiate your diners leaving them satisfied, not stuffed. Further, most restaurants educate their staff on the appropriate number of tapas per person to guide the dining experience.
- Variety – Your small plate menu should not be confused with your appetizer menu. Although mini pizzas and bruschetta are delicious, your small plates should reflect the diversity and versatility of your entire menu. Braised short rib, duck confit, or sticky toffee pudding – now we’re talking tapas!