Appetizers , I always presumed, were to whet your appetite for the main course. When we dined out we would order one appetizer and one entree per person unless,of course, the restaurant was known for it’s large portions. In that case, we would cut down on the appetizers or even do without them altogether.
Over the years, this has gradually changed.
We realized that,very often, the appetizers were more enjoyable than the entrees. Generally, they were more innovative and if one appetizer disappointed, it was no big deal. It was disposed of in a bite or two, particularly if shared with a companion. Not so with a main course ; choose unwisely and you were stuck with it. Even when an entree was good, the first few bites were better than the rest.
Also, with time, we’ve found the main courses were too much for us to handle, even if we skipped the appetizer . At ethnic restaurants where one dines ‘family style’, everyone sharing every dish, it’s no problem ; we merely order one less entree than the number of diners. When our group is larger ( 6 or more) we ask for an appetizer sampler which we then share. When we have to order individually, we order two appetizers each which is enough for our appetites while giving us a variety of tastes.
Dim sum are another matter.
At one time , a dim sum lunch used to appeal to me. I loved to select those little dishes ( seven or eight or more) from the carts as they were wheeled by our table.They seemed to provide a lot of variety, were piping hot,we could pace ourselves, there was no waiting, and it was fun to see the little steel vessels opened for our inspection.
But there are drawbacks to eating dim sum in suburban New Jersey.
For one thing , there isn’t as much variety as in the Chinatowns of New York or in Monterey Park. In New Jersey, most dim sum are dumplings or shiu mai of one type or another and while they can be very good, a dumpling is a dumpling is a dumpling. Oh, one other drawback is that dim sum are difficult to share since there are three pieces in each little platter and our party usually consists of an even number of diners.( I believe the Chinese consider four an unlucky number which is why there are three pieces in a platter, not four). Main dishes offer much more variety and ,since they are eaten family style, one is able to try five or six dishes at a meal. So,when it comes to Chinese food, I much prefer a regular meal to a dim sum lunch.
Now if only I were able to order what the people at the next table are eating I would be very happy. It always looks delicious , and far better than what we’re having.