Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A la Carte, Tasting, or Prix Fixe by Chris Becicka

Bluestem tasting menu items
Restaurant Week in January got me thinking about the variety of menu options available year round.  There is much more to eating out than “à la carte” – literally, “according to the menu,” with pricing for each item – available in Kansas City.

Both tasting and prix-fixe menus can be found in cosmopolitan KC.  They are different; for starters, most people here can pronounce “tasting.”   Not so for prix fixe – which is enunciated as pre (pause) fix.  And all it means is a fixed price for typically three courses.  It’s normally a few to several dollars cheaper than ordering à la carte.

Prix fixe has been a staple in Europe for years, especially France, where they don’t need pronunciation lessons and are pretty horrified to discover it sometimes is even written here as pre-fix.  (Not anywhere really good, however.) It has advantages:  for the restaurant, the choices are more limited so there’s less cooking, less chance for left-over ingredients; and for the diner, it’s less expensive and often consists of what the restaurant does best. But most restaurants offer this selection in addition to their à la carte items so the advantages are less pronounced to the restaurant anyway.

We’re especially used to seeing prix fixe on holidays – Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.  Because such events usually include something special, and because they occur on a holiday, they are usually not a terrific bargain.  Or a bargain at all.

Prix fixe is a good thing for those of us who don’t want to worry about all the choices and prefer limiting ourselves to the chef’s choice or maybe a couple of different choices (particularly for the main course).   But several Kansas City restaurants do have a prix fixe menu selection year round, sometimes only on specific days of the week. For instance, Julian offers one on Monday and Tuesdays, Webster House has their 2 for $20 on Wednesdays, Café Provence offers one on Tuesdays, and 801 Chophouse has a yummy one for Sunday dinner.

Restaurant Week has spawned the re-emergence of prix fixe; some cities' dates are on-line at Chris' Corner. There are probably additional cities offering more than one Restaurant Week; you may want to take advantage of these in your travels.  Most cities try to do them at the approximate same time each year; the prices vary somewhat; and despite the carping you might see on the internet, they are a pretty good way of tasting a restaurant’s offerings that you might not otherwise try.

Dinner for Two at Hereford House
But to me, a tasting menu is even more fun – you get to sample many items all in the same meal.  Tastings can vary from four to even 20 different “courses.” Portions are small; their size depends on the number of items you’ve ordered; all typically involve wait-staff explanation.  Chef Erik Hyre, Corporate Chef for Hereford House and Pierpont’s, points out that a tasting menu is, “like Restaurant Week all year long.  The smaller portions allow you to have more variety.”  They also allow more chef creativity and invention.   Executive Chef Bobby Stearns at Ophelia’s says their tasting menu “permits people to try many more items on the menu without making a commitment for one dish for an entire meal.”

Whether you choose à la carte, prix fixe, or a tasting menu, isn’t it nice to know that the choice can be yours?  

Prix Fixe, Tasting, Dinner for 2 or Continuous Courses Price per Person Lunch or Dinner When Offered
801 Chophouse Prix Fixe 3 $33 D Sunday
Bluestem Tasting  3, 5, 10 $65-$100 D Tues - Sat
Café Provence Prix Fixe 4 $38 D Tuesday
Chez Elle Prix Fixe 3 $25 D Friday & Saturday
Em Chamas Continuous Multi $34.95 D Nightly
Fogo de Chao Continuous Multi $19.50-$44.50 L,D Mon - Fri; Nightly
Gaslight Grill Prix Fixe  3-4 $22.25-$23.95 D Sunday
Hereford House Dinner for 2 4 $65 (for two) D Nightly
Julian Prix Fixe  3-4 $30-$35 D Sun - Tues
Le Fou Frog Tasting 5 $65-$85 D with 24 hour notice
M & S Grill Prix Fixe 3 $28.99 D Sun - Thurs






Ophelia's Tasting 3 $29 D Mon - Sat
Pachamama's Prix Fixe 3,5 $23, $55 L,D Tues - Sat
Pierpont's Tasting  3-4 $34.95-$39.95 D Nightly
Piropos Prix Fixe 2,3 $16, $38 L,D Seasonally
Room 39 Tasting 4 $39 D Mon - Sat
Sullivan's Prix Fixe 3 $39 D Nightly
Tannin Tasting 4 $38 D Nightly
Tasso's Greek Prix Fixe 5 $32 D First Thursday
The American Tasting  5-12 $65-$120 D Mon - Sat
The Melting Pot Prix Fixe  3-4 $19.95-$48.95  L,D Fri - Sun; Nightly
Webster House Prix Fixe 2 $20 D Wednesday

#prixfixe #menu #restaurants

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