We’ve seen it all before. The tiny little plates, one after another, each only about a bite or two and then BAM, you’re hit with that extra large bill at the end of it. From an outside perspective looking in you may wonder, why not get more for your money elsewhere? Is the experience really all that? Are fancy restaurants worth it? The truth is if you haven’t eaten at a restaurant like this before, you may be wondering the same things. Maybe there is an experience you are missing out on, maybe there is more to it than just the tiny plates and the large bill. So what is it about these fancy restaurants that continue to draw people in?
What Do We Mean By ‘Fancy’?
First, let’s establish what we mean when we say ‘fancy’. Many restaurants offer the ambiance and authenticity that we so crave. From the moment we walk through the door we are met with an experience – the lighting, tablecloths, tasteful art, white-glove service, table decorations, all of it plays a large role in the overall aesthetic. But then we sit down, look at the menu, and are met with an entirely different experience – the world of flavor. Many of these restaurants work for years to craft such exquisite menus in which the dishes are seen less as food and more of an art form. They offer multiple-course meals, smaller plate sizes, and an experience unlike any other.
The highest award that can be granted to restaurants around the world worthy enough is the Michelin Star. Think of this as the Oscar award from restaurants (1). The Michelin guide started with the invention of the automobile. Yes, you read that right. French industrialists and brothers, Andre and Edouard Michelin, created the first Michelin guide in 1900. With the rise of automobiles, the brothers worked to get in the game and create a demand in the industry through tire production and manufacturing. They created the Michelin guide as a free resource with instructions on how to repair and change tires, but also included a list of hotels, mechanics, restaurants, and gas stations in France.
With these guides quickly gaining popularity worldwide, the brothers saw a business opportunity. They decided to ramp up the Michelin guide and start charging for it instead. In 1926, they establish the Michelin star ratings for fine dining establishments and in 1931 had created a three-star rating guide:
- 1 Star – An good restaurant, worth pulling off to eat if it is along the way
- 2 Star – An excellent restaurant, worth the detour on your journey
- 3 Star – An exceptional restaurant, worth traveling to that country to eat at that restaurant
The 3 Star Michelin rating is extremely rare, with only 119 restaurants in the world awarded a three-star Michelin in 2019. The rating model is unique in that it is based solely on the reviews of high-trained, anonymous Michelin reviewers, and rewards the Michelin stars based on five criteria: 1) the quality and authenticity of ingredients, 2) complete mastery of cooking and flavor techniques, 3) the unique personality and art form of the chef in the dishes they prepare, 4) the value for money, and 5) consistent quality between visits. Michelin reviewers are not focused on ambiance or interior design, but rather the exquisite flavors and food creations the chef prepares.
Stars, however, can also be taken away. Restaurants must maintain their high quality and brilliant food options with consistency. The goal of Michelin is to only recommend the top food options in the world. According to the international director of the Michelin Guide, Gwendal Poullennec, the ultimate decision of whether a restaurant is worthy or not, is about what’s on the plate and has been that way for over a century now.
Establish Your Reason For Going
Weighing whether the experience is worth it or not will be established by determining your reason for going (2). If you are looking for a nice dinner place to eat a meal with your family, a Michelin rising or a 1 Star Michelin restaurant will be worth the incredible food experience. Michelin rising restaurants are simply that, restaurants on the radar and up for consideration for a Michelin 2 reward. Michelin rising and 1 Star Michelin restaurants are incredibly food experiences but at a much lower price compared to 2 or 3 Star Michelin restaurants. They offer a great environment, incredible food, and are a great place for any weeknight family or couple meal. To sum it up, if you are just looking for a good place to eat for dinner tonight, these restaurants are worth the little extra money.
However, if you have a special occasion you are celebrating, appreciate fine dining, or consider yourself a ‘foodie’ or food enthusiast, a 2 or 3 Star Michelin restaurant is worth your while. These restaurants are so highly rated they are recommended that you travel to them for the dining experience, and some of these restaurants even flourish right in the heart of New York City. Aside from the incredible ambiance you will receive when you enter the restaurant, the dishes and food creations you will get to experience will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many of these restaurants do not include menus, leaving the food options completely at the hands of the chef who creates them. While portions may be smaller, and the amount of courses increased, you will be sure to experience a full pallet, fully immersed in the creativity, authenticity, and art creation from the chef. You will be able to participate in the full regional experience of whatever food the chef prepares.
To Sum It Up, Yes.
In summary, yes – fancy restaurants are worth the time, money, and travel to experience. However, this will come down to the consumer and how and what they prefer to eat. Understanding the unique culture behind the food, the personality of the chef, and their purpose behind their dishes will only help you immerse further and deeply appreciate the food you are eating. The passion behind the chef’s work and the dedication to their art is what makes fancy restaurants such an elegant opportunity.