Oysters and Pearls. Sometimes in life, one extraordinary dining experience sits like a pearl in your memory, touching everything that comes after. For me, it will always be my first bite of Thomas Keller’s esteemed Oyster and Pearls dish. Served as my first course of the pre-fixe tasting menu at The French Laundry, I remember staring, transfixed, at the tall, volcano-shaped bowl with its beautifully fresh oyster, osetra caviar and a sabayon of pearl tapioca elegantly plated with simplicity and originality. That first taste forever changed the way I see, taste, and cook food.
Ever since that cherished experience at The French Laundry, I have been on the hunt for other restaurants that offer pre-fixe tasting menus. These meals are usually comprised of several small plates of food, allowing a chef and his team to showcase their array of abilities and techniques, or ingredients they are excited about at the moment. The menus tend to have themes, change more often than seasons, and can vary anywhere from five to twenty-five courses.
I have fantasized about running a restaurant like this, and this past year my executive chef and I made it a reality. Don’t worry: Webster’s will still continue to offer a regular menu with all of the beef cuts, fresh seafood, sides, and house-made desserts so many of you have come to love over the years. But now there is something even more special: the Webster’s Pre-Fixe Tasting Menu.
In most cases, restaurants that offer tasting menus offer only that menu. Perhaps there’s a vegetarian alternative and supplements for dietary restrictions or allergies, and some options so that the guest feels – they still have a choice in what they’re eating for a few courses. It’s a great concept, and a thrilling way to eat a meal. It’s almost like falling into the arms of the culinary team, and trusting them to choose what goes on your plate.
We will be different, and something more. Two words come to mind when wanting to be original and put our own stamp on tasting menus in a town like Kalamazoo: exclusive and personal. We don’t print on our menu that we offer these, we don’t create them on the fly (although we have successfully done so in the past!) and we don’t advertise them. Stefan and I prefer to write a killer menu over a few days, allowing us to plan, source, and execute a flawless meal.
We also like to have the opportunity to send a questionnaire, asking questions like, “What is an ingredient you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t had the chance to?” or “What was one of your favorite things to eat as a child?” This allows us to tap into guests’ expectations, as well as give us clues on how to exceed them. It also opens the door to serving “Shooting Star” dishes that will only be created once, a unique experience and taste that will have only been seen and tasted by you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some amazing “cookie cutter” tasting menus at restaurants that were enjoyed by 60 other people around me at the same time, meals that still leave me in awe. But how great would it be to know that you have the chef’s undivided attention, and that the meal you are about to eat was conceptualized just for you. We even let you choose a price range, and then we make sure to pack as much punch as we can into those parameters. I believe this is the formula for being just as good as any two- or three-star Michelin restaurant from New York to Napa.
Another perk that we include is my wife’s amazing talent for beverage pairing. Alexa has received her Level I Sommelier Certification, and is currently pursuing the Level II Certified Sommelier. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic, Alexa has a magical way of turning people to their new favorites and showing them an experience that keeps us “back of the house” folk on our toes. They add just as much personalization to the “front of the house” experience, creating a complete package. If you like to enjoy adult beverages with your meal, her pairings are a memorable adventure all in themselves.
So if you’re looking for a truly unique and special dining experience, to eat dishes tasted by no other before, or to see a snapshot of the time and place of our best efforts and talents in the moment: Webster’s Prime tasting menus are the answer. Please reach out to myself or Alexa Shaw (Tipton) with your inquiry, and from that second forward we will be ecstatic to start dreaming up your meal.
Nate Shaw, Sous Chef
Alexa Shaw (Tipton), Event Coordinator
“I have had the wonderful privilege to attend two Tasting Menu dinners at Webster’s Prime and I have been thoroughly satisfied and impressed. Each dish was unique, creatively prepared and simply superb. My wife and I totally enjoyed the experience and look forward to returning.”
– Robert Page
“I had a blast working with Alexa and Chef Nate to design a tasting menu for my wife’s birthday. I told them about what she likes (and dislikes), helped set a budget, and let them run with it. The results were perfect: A phenomenal menu with expert wine pairings. I can’t wait until it’s my birthday.”
– Geoff Zmyslowski
We had the Webster’s team put together a tasting menu for our sons Birthday. We gave Nate a list of likes and dislikes and let him put together the menu. We have eaten at many restaurants across the country, and the tasting menu was one of the most amazing meals we have ever had. Not only was the food extraordinary, the staff made us feel like we were royalty. It was an amazing experience and we highly recommend it.
– Connie Fox