Quantcast
Latest Stories

Valentine’s Day dinner? Truth is, traditional fine dining is on its last leg

By

Whatever happened to fine dining?

I wonder if I’m the only spouse asking this as we make secret (but noisily secret, to reassure my better half) plans for Valentine’s Day. It used to be fairly simple: On the 14th of February, we men would shake off our suits of mothballs and drive out with made-up and scented dates into the traffic jam, to make it in time for that difficult reservation in a restaurant with lots of candles, a waiter in a bow tie and exorbitant prices.

It was a pomaded ritual, scrupulously observed, which has gone the way of the many fine restaurants where I celebrated it: Grassi’s at Benpres, Cheval Blanc at Shangri-La Makati, Sala in Malate.

Many would argue that being married is the best reason of all to celebrate Valentine’s, as it serves as a once-a-year reminder that the woman you’re sharing the house with is not just there to make sure you take your cholesterol medication, and it challenges us to find new ways to show our gal a swell night out on the town.

But I think my wife and I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face if we did try to eat out in an old-fashioned, soft-lit joint; and by the soup course we’d be checking our baby monitor to see what was happening at home.

The truth is that traditional fine dining is on its last leg. Even the hotel outlets that have survived have gone contemporary; you can tell by the shape of the plates, which are now long and rectangular or oddly shaped, or made of glass or flat with a depression in the center.

Even the consistently excellent Tivoli Grill at Mandarin, which I can still recommend, has gone funky with foams, infusions, and the general shadow of molecular gastronomy looming in the shadows.

But no one cooks out of the cookbook of classical French cuisine anymore, even if this is still what every chef has to learn in most cooking schools, including (or in fact, especially) Le Cordon Bleu, where creativity is not encouraged; that comes later, after you’ve gotten your diplôme.

French

I miss the candles and the theater of a dimly lit dining room, the meticulously polished silverware, the rituals of a sole filleted at table or a haunch of beef wheeled in on a Christofle trolley.

But casual is the new high cuisine, and of the new best restaurants only a handful are in France, and of these only a handful are French in the traditional sense.

Dining rooms tend to be bright and casual, dress-codes are relaxed, and the serving staff are friendly rather than icily Gallic.

And this is great for most of the year, whether it’s the cozy little dining room of The Fat Duck in England, or the bustle of Mamou, where the good steaks start at over P3,000.

But for one night of the year you need something that’s corny and clichéd, because, let’s face it, nothing is as corny as the idea of romance itself. Which is why you have to give in to roses and candles and heart-shaped boxes, because trying to be original or ironic is just going against the spirit of being silly and doing silly things—which is what being in love is all about.

It’s the one night of the year when the maître d’ needs to turn the lights down and the music low, because us poor pomaded gentlemen need all the help we can get; and it’s the one night that couples don’t want to be interrupted by a chef pulling up a chair for an extended chat.

One of the few good things about restaurants serving overly complicated food is that simple things have become something of a treat, and while most home kitchens aren’t equipped with liquid nitrogen to shatter vegetables with, most men these days can cook simple things. Which is another great reason to stay in for Valentine’s evening; the other being that you don’t have to drive home to get to the bedroom.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Fine Dining , Lifestyle , Valentine’s Day

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Sa dami ng nagugutom sa Pinas, gagastos ka ng P3 K para sa steak? Wala na talagang konsensiya mga tao ngayon :-(

  • E Rigby

    I am glad to know that “fine dining” is on its last legs.  I was never a fan of it.  I was always a lot more relaxed and comfortable in a casual setting where I can be myself.  The last thing I need when I’m hungry is to keep up an appearance of classiness.  What matters to me is that I’m happy with what I’m eating and with the people who gave me good service.  



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Almost mugged on Chino Roces Avenue
  3. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  4. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  5. How healing waters accompanied my journey of faith
  6. Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  7. Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  8. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  9. Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  10. ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • Fires hit Manila’s Port Area, Malabon
  • Palace denies convincing Gigi Reyes to return home
  • Car hits packed US church, injuring about 20
  • LPA enters PH, to bring rains and thunderstorms
  • Sing-along saint: Showbiz world gets papal inspiration
  • Sports

  • Reigning champs Miami open playoffs with win
  • Spurs subdue Mavericks in playoff opener
  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Ageless Hopkins pitches 50-50 Mayweather deal
  • Goodbye MGM, Las Vegas for Pacquiao?
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Business

  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
    Marketplace