There's a la carte, and then there’s from the cart.
Momofuku offshoot Má Pêche revamped its format, adding tableside cart service for most items. Dim sum favorites such as fish buns, which are served from a special steamer cart, or soup from the special, well, soup cart, mean everything is served perfectly moist and hot.
“Some people are incredibly into the cart service — they get extremely excited,” says executive chef Paul Carmichael. “One major advantage is the interaction with guests. There’s a direct connection to the kitchen and guests connect and talk with the person who prepared their food. It is a fun, interactive style of service. People see what they are ordering before they commit. You smell and see all of the food as it arrives tableside.”
Rosa Mexicano spearheaded the trend of muddling guacamole tableside, ensuring guests know it’s fresh and not pre-made or — heaven forbid — out of a jar.
“The guacamole en molcajete is our signature dish and has been on the menu since we opened back in 1984,” says executive regional chef Joe Quintana, who still enjoys occasionally stepping on to the floor to mix up the avocado, jalapeño, tomato, onion and cilantro. “We take our guacamole very seriously. The secret is in the paste. By mashing the onions, salt, and cilantro in the lava rock molcajete before adding the other ingredients, we build a base of flavor, and then fold in the avocado and the rest.” Quintana says the tableside prep is here to stay: “It’s been our most popular dish. No sense in changing that.”
BLT Prime's Côte de Boeuf adds serious aplomb to dining a deux. It’s meant for two and carved tableside. The first step is perfectly cooked rosy beef; the second is having the right equipment on the cart, including a Japanese steel blade, French forks and three bowls containing herb butter, sprigs of thyme and sea salt.
“We sharpen the knife and first cut away the bone, then the top part of the steak, and then we cut and slice the rest of the steak,” says general manager Ricardo Morgan. “We pour the jus on the bottom half of the plate, sprinkle with sea salt, dab on the herb butter and finish with the thyme. The guests really enjoy watching it. We thought it would be a great idea. Turns out it was; it has become one of our most popular dishes.”
The most classic tableside service is arguably the flambéed dessert. NYY Steak, the New York Yankees’ steakhouse, offers the 151 Volcano, which is made with vanilla bean ice cream, covered with Heath Bar crunch, doused with a shot of 151 rum and (safely!) flambéed tableside.
“Showing guests the full process is always fun for them and even for us,” says general manager Raul Adorno. “ We train our staff to properly flambé the dessert and ensure this experience is wonderful for guests, but also safe too. The presentation creates an excellent show in the dining room. It adds a huge 'wow' factor. Everyone loves watching.”