planning a sit-down dinner

How To Plan A Sit-Down Dinner

There’s something just so elegant about a dinner party complete with a curated menu spanning a number of courses, each individually plated and served. The result is never short of impressive, whether taking shape over an intimate gathering or to commemorate a special occasion! If you’re keen on planning your own sit-down dinner, here’s a handy guide to help you get started with invaluable insights from chef extraordinaire Amal Farooque.

Born and raised in Dubai, Amal has always been impassioned to explore and experience multiple cultures through their cuisines. An entirely self-taught cook, she is the founder behind three successful F&B start-ups in Mumbai: SugarOverDose (a dessert kitchen), Slider & Fries (a delivery kitchen championing fast-food from scratch) and Sage & Olio, a gourmet catering service specialising in sit-down dinners and epicurean experiences (read more about Sage & Olio, here).

Here she brings her breadth of experience to help you plan and host a special sit-down dinner, right from menu-planning to cheffy hacks for elevating the aesthetic of even the humblest of dishes!

How To Plan A Sit-Down Dinner

But, First

Don’t overthink it! When planning a sit-down dinner, start by deciding on how many courses you’d want to do and would be comfortable doing given your guest list. Plan and write down your menu. It could even be a four-course meal, thoughtfully curated and impeccably executed.

Remember, a sit-down revolves on individual portions that are pre-plated and individually served to your guests. Dishes are not to be shared, so keep a check on your portion sizes. A balanced and appropriately-portioned menu is important in ensuring that your guests do not get full earlier on.

To Start

Any sit-down starts but naturally with an Amuse Bouche. Literally translating to “mouth amuser,” an Amuse Bouche is intended to amuse your palate and whet your appetite! Think of something small and whimsical, as an Amuse Bouche is essentially a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre. It is what prepares you for the courses to follow, lending a culinary window into the Chef’s capability. Let your creativity flow and experiment with vivid colours, flavours and textures. A beautifully-assembled fruit chaat in a shot glass works just as well as the simple but intensely-flavourful pairing of house-made lavash, chimichurri, mascarpone and flat-leaf parsley pictured below.

Part One

Set the tone with something light for the first course. A fresh salad is always a good idea! Of course, to make it a tad fancier, why not pour out the dressing at the table? Alternatively, you could pair cheese and fruit, or even serve a simple soup garnished with crisp croutons.

Part Two

Coming to the second course. This is where the meal literally takes off! As a starting point, you could be inspired by an appetiser at your favourite restaurant. Now, make it your own by arranging it delicately on your plate and piping out a sauce/ garnish. Micro-greens always add a delicate touch, whilst fresh herbs impart their verdant freshness. Something as simple as a potato croquet could work well for this course (two pieces depending on size is enough for one person). Pictured below is Sage & Olio’s signature plating of grilled asparagus served with tahina cauliflower florets sitting prettily atop a bed of asparagus mousse.

Part Three

Next up: the third course of your sit-down dinner features an Entrée.

As mentioned earlier, portioning is extremely key to planning a sit-down dinner, as you would want your guests to enjoy every course in totality. This is your main course in a four-course dinner and so, it would be more robust and heavier than the courses which have preceded it. Your choice of dish could be anything from a whole roasted Portobello or a pasta to chicken or seafood. Pictured is Sage & Olio’s cinnamon pumpkin ravioli served in a hazelnut brown butter sauce.

Build your plate with fresh, blanched or sautéed vegetables, which balance the course whilst also adding a smidgeon of colour. Remember not to over-crowd your plate. For added flair, you could serve the sauce in a small sauce boat or a small bowl and pour it table-side for added drama!

Grand Finale

Finally. Dessert! There is always, always room for dessert! Revel in the unabashed indulgence of this course, which could be something as simple as a slice of chocolate cake drizzled with warmed chocolate ganache. Add a dusting of cocoa powder or a smattering of fresh berries to bring brightness and colour to the plate. A swoop of vanilla ice cream is never amiss either; but to really go the extra mile, scatter a few roasted nuts and edible flowers. As with all the preceding courses, the beauty of this grande finale lies in its elegant yet impactful simplicity!

To know more about Amal/ Sage & Olio, have a read here.

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