HomeWayne's WorldThe Differences Between a Chinese Banquet and The French Laundry

The Differences Between a Chinese Banquet and The French Laundry

By Wayne Chan

I’ve eaten at the French Laundry.

If you’re not a foodie, you may not be familiar with the French Laundry. It’s a world-famous restaurant, started by acclaimed Chef Thomas Kellar, that caters to those looking for a three Michelin-star experience set in the vineyards near Napa Valley.

I had high expectations for my visit there, and I wasn’t disappointed. Every aspect of my meal was a delight – just top-notch. Each course was a surprise, and each dish topped the last.

It’s a meal I’ll never forget.

Just last week, I had a different, yet equally compelling meal with a group of friends. We went to a high-end Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, named Dynasty Seafood Restaurant. The dinner was amazing – a tantalizing treat to all your senses.

Now, while I may not be a food critic, I’m still a writer. And as such, I feel it’s my responsibility to provide my insights on the differences between partaking in a top-of-the-line Chinese banquet compared to a high-end western gourmet restaurant. So, here goes.

One is amazing, and the other is incredibly fantastic! Hmm…maybe I should have been a food critic – this is a cinch.

OK, OK – you want more specificity. Let’s try that again.

There are differences.

First off, the attire. When we ate at the French Laundry – I wore a suit and tie. All the wait staff were smartly dressed. At Dynasty? I would call the dress code “Friday casual”. I’m not talking about t-shirts and flip flops, because believe me if I could have gotten away with that…

Second, the pre-show. At Dynasty, the servers took pride in bringing out the food to show you that we were all about to eat the freshest of the fresh. That means, they first brought out a tray of live scallops, still in their shell, followed by a tray of live shrimp, still flipping about the water. Next, they brought out a 12-pound live Alaskan King Crab, and a couple of the guys at our party ended up holding up the monster for all to see.

The 12-pound crab // Photo by Wayne Chan

As for the French Laundry, they didn’t show off the main ingredient before they cooked it. Besides, one of the courses was Wagyu beef, so for all practical purposes, I doubt they’d have enough room (or heart) to pull ole’ Bessie out into the dining area and then lead it back into the kitchen.
Third, food presentation. At the French Laundry, the food was so beautifully arranged that I wasn’t sure if it was something to eat or a still life that I was supposed to pull out my charcoal pens and canvas as part of an art lesson. I was afraid to disturb it.

At dynasty, each dish was served piping hot, and basically placed indiscriminately on a serving plate. Their focus is on how amazing the food looks only in relation to how good it’s going to taste.

Finally, the prices. Actually, not much difference there. They’re both expensive.

So, which meal did I prefer? Honestly, that’s a question that doesn’t really make much sense, because asking which place I like better leads to the follow-up question – which place would I go back to next?

The answer is – there aren’t going to be too many times where I’m going to think, “You know, I’d like to spend basically a luxury car payment’s worth of money on my next meal.”

My real answer – I can’t make up my mind. They are both amazing experiences.

I’ll start playing the lottery. Ask me again after I win.

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