When we think of fine dining, it brings to mind fancy, luxurious, and glamorous settings. The beautiful way the food is presented and the wide variety of wines can make it seem like a special experience only for a few people. However, if you give it a chance, fine dining introduces you to a world of amazing cooking, where every little thing is carefully prepared, and the dining experience goes beyond the usual.
The term “table service” in the restaurant industry encompasses both the serving of food by waiters and the arrangement of table settings. One of the most unique styles of service in fine dining is the Russian type of table service. It distinguishes itself from other types of service through its unique qualities. It places significant emphasis on formality and ceremony, where multiple courses are meticulously presented and served with great attention to detail, resulting in an extravagant and opulent dining experience. In this article, we’ll explore the Russian way of serving food at the table, so you can learn more about its interesting features and traditions.
What is meant by Russian type of table service?
Russian service, also known as “service à la russe,” is highly regarded for its formal and sophisticated nature. Russian service shares similarities with French service, but it distinguishes itself through its unique characteristics, making it a popular choice for upscale restaurants and prestigious events such as gala dinners, formal receptions, and luxury banquets.
This style of table service focuses on meticulous attention to detail when arranging the guest’s place setting, ensuring that every element is executed properly. The waiter showcases their skill by elegantly presenting each course on a silver platter and serving it directly from the kitchen to the table. This can include exquisite main course items such as perfectly cooked cuts of meat or fresh seafood.
When the dishes are ready, the waiter, trained in the art of Russian service, respectfully presents the platter to the guests, allowing them to appreciate the culinary creations before serving the food onto individual plates with precision and finesse, using specialized serving cutlery. The waiter initiates the service from the left side of the guest, adhering to etiquette and emphasizing the precision and refined procedures that define Russian service.
To maintain the optimal temperature of the dishes, a hot plate on the sideboard is used to keep them warm throughout the meal, ensuring that guests enjoy their food at the perfect temperature and freshness. Each course is served directly from the sideboard, adding a touch of grandeur to the dining experience. This refined form of table service distinguishes itself from other styles like French service, English service, and silver service through its distinct protocols and presentation.
Ten Examples of Course Meal in Russian Type of Table Service:
- Hors d’oeuvres Course: The first course features a tempting array of hot and cold appetizers, including esteemed delicacies like caviar, smoked salmon, and blinis. These carefully curated bites are designed to awaken the taste buds and stimulate the appetite, setting the stage for the culinary journey that lies ahead.
- Soup Course: The second course offers a comforting and flavorful soup, such as the renowned borscht or solyanka. Crafted with traditional ingredients and robust flavors, this soup serves as a delightful prelude to the main courses, preparing the palate for the diverse flavors to come.
- Fish Course: The third course showcases an exquisite fish dish, prepared with precision and artistry. Impeccably cooked and seasoned, the fish takes center stage, allowing the freshness and delicate flavors of the seafood to shine. Vibrant sauces and garnishes complement the dish, enhancing the overall dining experience.
- Palate Cleanser: To cleanse and invigorate the palate, a refreshing sorbet or palate cleanser is served between courses. Skillfully crafted, this intermezzo prepares the taste buds for the next course, ensuring optimal enjoyment of the flavors to come.
- Salad Course: The salad course features a vibrant medley of seasonal vegetables, herbs, and dressings, offering a refreshing and crisp interlude. These carefully composed salads go beyond the ordinary garden salad, showcasing the diversity and creativity of Russian cuisine.
- Poultry Course: The poultry course presents a succulent and tender poultry dish, such as roasted duck or the classic chicken Kiev. Prepared with expertise and served alongside complementary flavors and textures, this course highlights the culinary mastery of Russian cuisine.
- Sorbet Course: Another palate-cleansing sorbet follows, refreshing the taste buds and intensifying the sensory experience. This course adds a delightful touch, ensuring that each subsequent dish is savored to its fullest potential.
- Beef Course: The beef course is a hearty and indulgent delight, featuring exceptional cuts of beef such as tenderloin or the iconic beef stroganoff. Expertly prepared with rich sauces and accompanied by delightful accompaniments, this course embodies the robust and savory flavors synonymous with Russian cuisine.
- Cheese Course: A carefully curated selection of artisanal cheeses takes center stage in this course. Paired with crusty bread, honey, and seasonal fruits, this offering provides a harmonious blend of tastes and textures, showcasing the diverse range of cheeses available in Russian gastronomy.
- Dessert Course: The grand finale of the meal features a sumptuous assortment of decadent desserts. From layered cakes to delicate pastries and sweet delicacies, this course is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Paired with a steaming cup of hot tea or coffee, it brings the dining experience to a delightful and satisfying conclusion.
How to set-up Dining Table in Russian Style:
When setting a table in the Russian style, meticulous attention to detail is key to create an elegant and refined atmosphere.
The dishes are arranged in a specific order on counters, forming a straight line. This allows customers to move along the counter, choosing the dishes they want and placing them on their tray. The counters are designed for efficient flow and easy access to the dishes.
At the end of the counter, there is a cashier station where customers can rest their trays, receive their bill, and make payment. Typically, this step occurs after customers have made their selections and are ready to proceed to their table. However, in cases where meals are pre-paid, the cashier station may not be necessary.
Separation of Service Counter
The service counter is usually separate from the dining area. This means that the kitchen staff plate and prepare the dishes in the kitchen. Once the dishes are ready, they are brought to the guests’ table from the right-hand side and placed neatly at their respective covers.
The waiter plays a vital role in the Russian service setup. They should be capable of carrying at least three fully plated dishes at a time to expedite the service process. For larger groups, the waiter may work with an assistant to efficiently place the plates on the table. It’s important to note that using trays to transport plates is not recommended in this style of service.
Use of Trays
Trays are primarily used to carry cups and bowls. Cups are placed on saucers, and bowls are placed on quarter plates along with the appropriate spoons. This allows the waiter to efficiently carry multiple cups or bowls at once and serve them to the guests.
Plating and Serving
Let’s consider an example of a waiter carrying four bowls of minestrone soup to a table. The waiter would hold a stack of four quarter plates, a bunch of four soup spoons, and four bowls of soup on a tray. Upon reaching the table and standing to the right of each guest, the waiter would place a bowl on a quarter plate, position the soup spoon on the plate, and serve it to the guest’s cover from the right-hand side. This process is repeated for each guest at the table.
Applicability of Russian Service
Russian service is commonly employed in restaurants and hotels located in busy areas that require quick and efficient service. It is particularly suitable for coffee shops, fast-food outlets, casual dining restaurants, and establishments situated in high-traffic locations. The speed and efficiency of Russian service make it a preferred choice in such settings.
In the Russian table service, precision, elegance, and meticulous attention to detail are essential. However, it goes beyond that by emphasizing the importance of hospitality and creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for guests. The aim is not only to serve the food but also to provide exceptional customer service, ensuring that every guest feels valued and well taken care of throughout their dining experience. The staff in a Russian-style service is trained to be attentive, knowledgeable about the menu, and able to anticipate the needs of the guests, further enhancing the overall dining experience. The goal is to create a sense of indulgence and luxury, where guests can relax and enjoy their meal in a refined and sophisticated setting.