Plating perfection: Culinary aesthetics shape modern dining experience

Plating has taken centrestage in fine dining places with chefs taking the big dish way

Plating has taken centrestage in fine dining places with chefs taking the big dish way

Small is large in contemporary cuisine and space is its aesthetic metaphor in contemporary dining. The Japanese influence on food is a subtle explanation of life itself, and adaptations to changes. For example, yoshoku, a fusion genre born during the Meiji Restoration period in the 19th century signalled Japan’s isolation from the West. Or washoku, which denotes seasonality in food. The new plating concept of Indian chefs in fine dining appears to align with ‘Ma’ (the space between).

Deconstructing the Size

“The plating elevates a dish through visual appeal. I think, people would not prefer to see large portions on the plate. It could be overwhelming in many ways,” explains Rohit Sangwan, Executive Chef, Taj Land’s End Mumbai, adding, “Earlier three to four courses composed a set menu. Nowadays there are a minimum of seven courses. This brings in the downsizing of the average 300 gm consumption of the total food served, to 30 gm per course. Earlier we plated approximately 100 gm per course.” The diner’s choice is clear, with everyone wanting to taste the best signature dishes.

“The density of the protein counts too,” says Nikhil Nagpal, Executive Chef ITC Grand Chola, and brand custodian Avartana. “Hence the approximate portion size can go up to 40 gm per course. The rule of thumb fine dining places is, serve only what the guest can consume. You can add another course, but do not go beyond the 40 gm portion.” Deviations occur in omakase menus as creative hearts like to serve what they come up with intuitively.

Essentially the empty space, commonly dubbed as the ‘negative space’, adds to the aesthetic appeal of the dish. “It is another way of showcasing your culinary talent,” says celebrity chef Karishma Sakhrani. “It piques the interest of the guests, and enhances the entire experience, making them savour every bite. Yet the concept does not work for every dish or cuisine.”

Shilpi Madan for The Sunday Standard

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