What is a degustation menu? (and why you need to try one!)

by | May 9, 2023 | Menu Inspiration

If you’ve ever been to a fine dining restaurant and thought “what is a degustation menu?” when the menu is placed down in front of you, you’re not alone. Degustation may be an unfamiliar term due to its French nature, but you can simply think of it as a ‘tasting’ menu.

A degustation or tasting menu is a popular choice for those looking to be adventurous with their next meal out; it’s a chance to experience the restaurant’s signature dishes or new experimental flavours in one sitting. Restaurants often have their own take on what constitutes degustation dishes and how many courses make up a menu, meaning you’re sure to enjoy a unique experience every time.

If you are looking to try a new fine dining experience and treat your palate, tasting menus may be the way to go.

First things first, what is a degustation menu?

Degustation menus, commonly referred to as tasting menus, are a multi-course dining experience meant to tantalise the senses and encourage appreciation for cuisine.

Your dining experience is made up of several small dishes as part of a set menu, as opposed to choosing one or two main dishes from a la carte menu. The cuisine is intended to reflect the best of local and seasonal produce, and may also be referred to as a ‘chef’s tasting menu’ due to it being designed by the executive or head chef.

By having multiple courses of small and delicate dishes, a degustation menu is intended to be a lengthy and extended experience, rather than a single meal to satisfy your appetite. The use of fresh local ingredients showcases what the region has to offer, as well as the skill and creativity of the chef. These menus are designed to reflect the specialties of the restaurant, but you can usually find vegetarian or vegan menus variations of the tasting menu to cater to these specific dietary requirements.

The benefits of a degustation menu

With most tasting menus embrace the latest gastronomic trends, meaning you’re sure to have a fine dining experience like no other!

The nuances of local ingredients are highlighted in each course as the tasting menu journeys between vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes, before ending with at least one or more dessert dishes. Some longer menus may also include a palate cleanser between savoury and sweet dishes, and most degustation menus offer matching wines chosen to pair with each dish.

Enjoying food in a degustation format can introduce you to an array of new ingredients and cooking techniques you may not have previously come across. There are many benefits to trying out this unique way of dining, including:

Tasting the chef’s best dishes

A tasting menu is created with the chef’s talents in mind. Not only is each dish created to delight your taste buds, they also showcase the chef team’s collective skills with unique plating and food styling. Choosing a chef’s tasting menu allows you to truly understand the complexity of the different dishes a high end restaurant has to offer. Lunch or dinner truly becomes a culinary journey with a tasting menu.

Enjoying the best seasonal and local produce

You can expect a restaurant that offers a tasting menu to only use the freshest local ingredients, with meals being created around whatever’s in season.

The fact that many tasting menus are based around seasonal produce also means that chefs get to test out new dishes and flavours with each season. These creative endeavours are often solely found on the tasting menu, meaning you will most likely try something that will only be available for a good time, not a long time.

Experiencing gastronomic trends

Adventurous foodies enjoy tasting menus due to their embracing of the latest gastronomic trends. Many chefs enjoy trying their hand at new and exciting food artistry and a degustation menu is the perfect place to enjoy the fruits of this labour.

Beyond stunning presentation, the food on these menus often invokes certain palate sensations and features creative means of preparing ingredients. You are likely to be served trends like fermented foods, foams and gels, or gourmet versions of simple meals made unique with interesting techniques. The inclusion of matched wines or other beverages also helps to highlight the flavours and textures of each course. 

How many courses are in a degustation menu?

There is no set rule regarding the number of courses in a degustation menu. Some restaurants keep to no more than 5-7 courses, while others go all out with as many as 20 individual platings! Generally, anywhere from 5 to 10 dishes is the average. 

Is a degustation menu the same as a tasting menu?

A degustation menu is functionally the same as a tasting menu, with the French word ‘dégustation’ literally meaning ‘tasting’. The use of words often depends on where in the world you are, as countries like France and Australia enjoy using ‘degustation’, while the USA and the UK prefer ‘tasting’.

What’s a good occasion for a degustation?

Whether you’re looking to celebrate a life milestone like a birthday party or wedding, or just looking to try a new experience for your next dinner party menu, a degustation menu is a perfect choice. Whether it’s at home or to a restaurant, a degustation can work for any occasion.

What does a sample degustation menu look like?

Degustation menus are often designed around the local cuisine and the number of courses. With a larger menu, you can expect to see each dish focusing on one core key ingredient (e.g. your first two dishes may hero vegetables, the next two on seafood, two more on proteins, and two desserts). However, most menus follow a similar sequence of dish designs:

  1. Canape or entree (two or three small plates)
  2. Main courses (around three or four plates, often slightly larger than the entrees)
  3. Dessert (usually one or two plates)

The entree will usually feature local produce such as vegetables, fruits, cheeses, pickles or uncooked meat or seafood. In contrast, main courses regularly feature meat or seafood as the key focus, with specific other ingredients working to heighten the protein. The strong, savoury flavours of the main serving are then followed up with final dessert courses, which often presented with delicate edible flowers, spices and finishing touches.

It’s not uncommon to enjoy surprises that aren’t listed on the menu, like a complimentary amuse bouche (a tiny bite to awaken the palate), palate cleansers to reset the palate between different flavour profiles (granita or sorbet is common), and even petit fours or dessert bites.

Each dish often have the option to be paired with a matching wine, beer or other beverage, and coffee or tea may also be offered at the end of the night during or after dessert. 

Experience a degustation menu unlike any other

If you’re interested in trying out a novel dining experience with an exciting array of dishes, a degustation menu is the answer you are looking for! Treat yourself and your partner to an impressive date night at home experience (or a really special date night, if you’re planning on asking a very special question!)

You can bring the unique tastes of a degustation menu to your next organised event with Gathar’s tasting menus. We provide in-home degustation catering suited for any occasion, any dietary restrictions and any personal taste.

Contact us today to discuss how we can create a delicious degustation dining experience for you, or get stuck right in with our enquiry form. Taste waits for no one, so turn to the chefs you can trust with Gathar!