The difference between a five-star restaurant experience and a one-star disaster is judged not only by food quality, but also by the dining experience, including an attention to details. Therefore, to replicate a restaurant-type experience at home, consider these tips and tricks.
1. Better menu and meal prep
The skills required to serve a great meal aren't hard to learn, and a meal-delivery service like Plated is ideal for busy individuals and families who want a stress-free way to eat well during the week.
Plated delivers everything you need to create chef-designed recipes, making it simple and fun to cook restaurant quality meals at home. Each box contains recipe cards and all ingredients — meat, fish or vegetables, plus sides and pre-apportioned spices — necessary to create exciting dishes like Steak Frites, Creamy Shallot Sauce and Sautéed Spinach; Squash, Ricotta and Sage Tartine with Apple Salad; or Blood Orange Wild Alaskan Salmon with Brown Butter Gnocchi.
2. A pleasing environment
Once your meal is cooking, evaluate your dining environment. At a restaurant, the reception and dining areas form a customer's first impression. Take a cue from successful restaurateurs and ensure that your home environment is a pleasant place to enjoy a meal. Not only should the area be clean, obviously, but also free from clutter. A restaurant would never seat you at a table festooned with mail, homework, wilting flowers and a collection of keys and pens.
Evaluate the lighting. Is your table lighted in pleasing colors? Whether you install a dimmer switch or use candles, a soft light is often most relaxing. While on the subject of ambiance, make sure that any candles are fragrance-free. Enjoyment of food relies on smell as well as taste, so don't let a pine tree-scented candle clash with the subtle tastes of your sautéed spinach.
Lastly, consider sound. Whether you choose music or the natural sound of crickets, know that TV distracts the senses from admiring texture and flavors as well as inhibits conversation with your dining companions.
3. The anticipation
Restaurant diners have been conditioned to anticipate warm bread, even if they don't always eat bread. Some diners have been known to start a timer the moment they're seated to record how long before the bread arrives. So when serving meals at home, consider offering warm, freshly sliced artisanal bread. To restore freshness to leftover bread, place a celery stick next to the bread, seal the plastic bag, and leave in the refrigerator overnight
Butter doesn't escape judgment, either. Is it so cold that it's hard to cut and then tears the bread when spread? Make sure butter is soft, yet still cool to the touch.
4. The starter
Many meals begin with a soup or salad of some kind, and here's where plating and presentation can make all the difference. If serving a hot soup, warm the bowl before adding it. When serving a cold soup or salad, chill the bowl or plate.
5. The main
Make sure all previous course plates, bowls and utensils have been cleared before you bring out the main dish. Also ensure that all utensils required for this course are on hand. Few server actions are more disappointing than waiting for a fork or spoon while one's meal gets cold.
And when the main course is over, take a tip from finer restaurants: Do not make your dinner guests retain their dinner fork to use with dessert. Nobody wants gravy or garlic in their tiramisu.
6. The finish
You'll probably know whether your dining companions are up for dessert. Some folks seldom eat it, while others won't think a meal is complete without something sweet and special. But do give some thought to what's offered. Traditional heavy treats like chocolate cake, fruit pies and baked Alaska might not be appropriate with lighter cuisine. When in doubt, err on the side of smaller portions and subtle flavors. If your dining companions prefer a savory finish, consider providing a selection of cheeses. And don't forget the coffee and tea.
Once you combine your newfound cooking skills with these other tips used by top restaurateurs, you'll never again say your favorite thing to make for dinner is "reservations."