Eating out at a fancy restaurant is just as much about the experience as it is about the food. Unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or regularly splurge on fare at Michelin-starred restaurants, you may be a bit clueless about how to act, what to order, or even how to score a reservation.
Here are eight mistakes to avoid:
1) GIVING UP WHEN YOU CAN'T GET A RESERVATION
Services like OpenTable are not the only way to get a reservation at a coveted dining spot. Sometimes it's better to try the old-fashioned way: calling. Usually, restaurants do not put up all of their availability online, so calling usually pays off.
2) NOT DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION
Never wear jeans to a fancy restaurant and to check the dress code in advance. There are certain unspoken rules on how to dress and act at a fancy restaurant.
3) FORGETTING BASIC TABLE MANNERS
Never say "garcon!" or "waiter" to get your server's attention, to never ask for ketchup or mustard, and to always wait until all guests have arrived to order a drink. For the ladies: Do not place your handbag on the table.
Further, there are a few fine-dining table manners that may not be as obvious, such as using a napkin properly (blotting discretely, not wiping), breaking bread instead of cutting it or biting into it, and not drinking with your pinkie out, which can be seen as a rude gesture in certain cultures. To tell a server you are finished with your food, use the "silent service code": napkin placed to the left of your plate, silverware arranged in a 4 o'clock position on your plate.
4) FEELING LIKE YOU HAVE TO ORDER WINE
The wine list, especially with its wide range of prices, can be daunting. You can save money by bringing your own bottle at most restaurants.
Most fine-dining restaurants charge a nominal corkage fee, typically $35 per bottle, to bring your own wine. For that, they will chill or decant as necessary and serve the wine in beautiful glassware. Bringing a $65 bottle of wine will cost you the same $100 that tends to be the median at most elevated establishments - but you'll enjoy a far better bottle for the price.
5) NOT SPEAKING UP ABOUT FOOD ALLERGIES
Communicate with your server about dietary restrictions before you order, or even when you make the reservation.
Most places are able to accommodate you if they have a little bit of notice. That way, you can really get the most out of your meal and not have to skip on great dishes you would otherwise pass over.
Similarly, you should notify your server if you're in a time constraint.
6) ORDERING YOUR FAVORITE FOOD
It might be tempting to order a familiar dish on the menu, but try to resist.
When at a fine-dining restaurant, ordering outside of your comfort zone should be your great move. Sometimes, certain ingredients can look daunting, but generally, most dishes are based on classic flavor pairings. It's an opportunity to experience something you couldn't make at home and may give you ideas on how to improve your own recipes.
In other words, try the grilled octopus instead of the chicken parm - you may surprise yourself.
7) ORDERING ONLY THE RESTAURANT'S SIGNATURE DISHES
You may have read a few reviews in to know that the restaurant you're going to is known for certain dishes, but don't be afraid to march to the beat of your own drum.
Many fine-dining restaurants change their menus regularly, so if you are only ordering the dishes that you've seen written up, you may be missing out on the most inventive, freshest seasonal dishes that really shine.
8) BEING AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS, AND NOT TRUSTING YOUR SOMMELIER SERVER
Not sure what or how to order food or drinks? Your server is there to guide you.
Diners shouldn't be afraid to establish some monetary and consumption guidelines so that the restaurant can best guide their recommendation. Rookie diners should let them know how adventurous they want to be so that they can then relax and dine into the night.