The following scenario happens to us all of the time at Babbo, to the point where we just continue to subject ourselves to rejection: You sit down, you look at an extensive menu, offering delicious and tempting fare and you try to narrow down what you want to order. Then, somewhere yonder, you see a Tasting Menu, Chef’s tasting menu, whatever, that is a combination of some of the items that you saw on the menu, and some other magical creations that appear to be unique to the Tasting Menu. You begin to select your first and second courses in your mind, but you just can’t shake the temptation of one of the items from the Tasting Menu. When your server comes over and inquires “do you have any questions?” or “have you decided what you would like to eat this evening?” you ask if it would be possible to order just one of the items from the Tasting Menu a la carte. “The Tasting Menu must be ordered by the whole table,” is usually the reply, even though that is not what you asked. Once the initial confusion is squared away, and your request for just one dish from that special menu is clarified, the answer is a resounding: “No.”
What the fuck? Why do they care if you want that one dish? They obviously have all of the ingredients and people in the kitchen who are ready, willing and able to make this dish, but just not for you. Does this dish only taste the way it is supposed to when served in the sequence of the Tasting Menu? Is the a la carte price for this item so crazy that it just can’t even be quantified and expressed to paying customers? Isn’t the customer always right? I understand if for example the requested dish was the 6th of 8 dishes in a tasting menu and needs a lot of time to cook, and would throw off the tempo of the meal. I also understand if it is a very pricey item that is just lumped in the cost of the Tasting Menu to amp up perceived value, but come on. The odds of you starting a trend with everyone in the dining room selecting this one item and messing up the alloted nightly provisions are slim to none. You can’t dangle items of deliciousness in our faces then not allow us to have them!
On the contrary, Jean Georges (swoon) is extremely accommodating when it comes to the tasting menu; Once, when dining at Nougtaine, I requested my favorite dish from JG proper, the caviar egg. The server had to ask someone else, but they were more than happy to serve it to me, and I was more than happy to pay $50 for it. Also, Marc Forgione offers all of his Tasting Menu options as stand alone dishes as well.
Wish we could see what Costanza would do when told he can’t order what he wants…