The Weekend Australian - Life - - LIFE - BERNARD SALT saltb@theaus­ I @bernard­salt

I re­alise what I am about to say could be re­garded as hereti­cal by some but I can con­tain my think­ing on this mat­ter not a mo­ment longer. I am so over fan­cy­pants restau­rants.

I un­der­stand chefs are no longer chefs but are in fact artistes and celebri­ties. And I get it that wait­ers are no longer wait­ers but are in fact won­der­fully tal­ented, but as yet undis­cov­ered, actors play­ing a role to ap­pre­cia­tive din­ing au­di­ences ev­ery night. How­ever, why must I sit and look up at the waiter while daily specials are coyly re­cited? Why not type out the specials and at­tach to the menu? Why?

I don’t care if the oys­ters are from Cof­fin Bay be­cause, one, I don’t eat oys­ters and, two, I don’t think any­one — not even the food­i­est of food­ies — could tell a Cof­fin Bay oys­ter from a Streaky Bay oys­ter. You do re­alise that I have just raised the ire of the South Aus­tralian Oys­ter Fanciers As­so­ci­a­tion?

I am on a mis­sion to re­form fan­cy­pants restau­rants from their way­ward ways. Let me get to the point. Men know what I am get­ting at when I say never or­der the bar­ra­mundi or any other fish fil­let be­cause, with th­ese main­course choices cost­ing $38 and more, there is never enough food on the plate.

By my reck­on­ing a main course should con­tain more than the equiv­a­lent of three match­boxes of fish. Ladies, do you know what we men think when such an or­der ar­rives? We are think­ing, that’s not enough. I am rav­en­ous. She has or­dered the risotto for $32 and she gets more food. I can eat my fish in four mouth­fuls. Three if no one’s look­ing. That’s more than $10 a mouth­ful. That main course will be gone along with my $38 in three min­utes eat­ing.

I’ll have to stretch this. I can’t get too far ahead of my din­ing com­pan­ion or I’ll look like a caveman. But I am starv­ing. Me need food right now.

Be­sides, I need to get some­thing into my stom­ach be­fore it starts rum­bling. And as any fan­cy­pants res­tau­rant diner knows, it is not a good look to have a rum­bling or in­deed any er­rant noises em­a­nat­ing from the gen­eral vicin­ity of your ab­domen. See, not a caveman at all.

Here’s how to fix the prob­lem. Just as menus have gluten-free, low-fat and ve­gan sym­bols, main cour­ses should come with an in­dex rat­ing. Stay with me on this. Each course gets rated against a nor­mal meal equiv­a­lent where one NME has a value of 1.0 and which equates to say chops and three veg.

A $38 bar­ra­mundi fil­let on this scale would have an NME rat­ing of 0.6, add a $12 side of chat pota­toes at an NME rat­ing of 0.4, and bring your meal up to one nor­mal meal equiv­a­lent at a to­tal cost of $50.

Next is­sue in fan­cy­pants restau­rants: plates. Res­tau­rant plates are like hous­ing. Plates and houses have grown whereas res­tau­rant ta­bles and block sizes have shrunk. We are now in a sit­u­a­tion where su­per­sized plates, rather like sub­ur­ban McMan­sions, are all but bump­ing into each other on the ta­ble.

There are now mez­za­nine wire struc­tures that are placed on ta­bles so as to de­liver more space. The era of high-rise din­ing has ar­rived. I know big plates are your can­vas, artiste-chefs, but this plate-size arms race must stop.

Go­ing to a fan­cy­pants res­tau­rant to­day is like go­ing to church years ago. Th­ese are rev­er­en­tial places that would ben­e­fit from a bit more ques­tion­ing of au­thor­ity. Does any­one know the penalty for my sin of res­tau­rant heresy?

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