Q.

What is an amuse bouche?

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A.

 

Perhaps you’ve gone to a fine dining restaurant before and been presented with a tiny appetizer that you didn’t order “compliments of the chef,” and asked yourself, “what is going on?”

You’ve just encountered the Amuse Bouche (“mouth pleaser” in French, aka amuse-gueule) or, as chefs often call them, “an amuse.”  Amuses vary wildly depending on the restaurant and the style of the chef, but here are some generalizations you can rely upon:

An Amuse Bouche is:

Tiny – usually only enough for a bite or two per person.
“Complimentary” – you won’t see it on your bill anywhere.  Of course its cost is rolled into the restaurant’s prices…there’s no such thing as a free lunch…but don’t worry, you won’t pay any extra for it.
Served to Everyone – everyone at your table and everyone at the restaurant for that meal (unless they’re allergic) will be served the same amuse.
Not Something You Order  – it just shows up.  Though you indirectly pay for the food (see “complimentary” above), consider it a gift of the kitchen staff’s talent, ingenuity, and time.
A Surprise – though your waiter should describe it to you when they put it on the table.
A Message – amuses are usually deeply rooted in a chef’s culinary philosophy.  They can tell you a great deal about the meal you’re about to eat.
Light – The idea is to excite your senses and your appetite, not to make you feel stuffed before your meal arrives, so amuses are almost always light rather than heavy or fatty.

Apart from that, your amuse could be darn near anything, depending on what the chef has on hand and what dish they felt like designing.  Because the amuse can change from day to day (and even meal to meal) it’s the perfect place for the chef to experiment, play, and display their art in a few perfect bites.  It could be their interpretation of a dish they had somewhere else and loved or a crazy idea that popped into their head that they just had to try.




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