A new dining app takes pressure off the diner and rests it on the chef’s creativity.
By: Branden Raulston
It’s Friday night, and the brutal work week has come to an end. The time has come for a relaxing night on the town, but six words may ruin it all.
“What do you want to eat?”
In all the millennia of human existence, no other question, except possibly “Will you marry me?”, has caused more agony and frustration. Despite the question’s reputation, it rolls from my tongue almost daily.
One can imagine my thrill when I was offered a complimentary dining experience that promised the absence of that dreaded inquiry.
I’m speaking of WaltzIn, the dining app with a little mystery.
A diner makes reservations for his party from a list of partner restaurants at a set price per person. The reservations are around $50 per diner. Tax and an 18 percent gratuity are added at checkout. The app is clean and simple. Within a few clicks the bill is settled and the table reserved.
Here’s the catch: You never touch a menu.
“You get in the restaurant and you’re not worried about ‘What do I have to order? What’s good here?’” explains Melissa Edwards, Growth and Marketing Manager at WaltzIn. “You’re able to immediately just sit down, start connecting with whoever you’re there with, and it’s kind of all taken care of.”
A dinner through WaltzIn is a multi-course meal specially curated by the chef, unknown to the diners unless they call ahead.
After making a reservation, I walked into The Cannibal, a butchery and gastropub in Culver City, and was immediately seated. The first dish arrived within 10 minutes, and the food came non-stop for the next hour. There was cake and some conversation, and then I drove home. That was it.
Personally, picking what I want to eat off a menu isn’t much of a hassle. But It was a pleasant experience not having to worry about it.
The real appeal is the nervous excitement of the unknown. I’m not the kind to throw a dart at the menu.
“The sort of hook is breaking up the mundanity on both sides, the chef’s and the eater’s, where you go into the restaurant and order off the menu and there is nothing new about that because that chef has been making that dish for five years,” Edwards says.
Some quick research showed everything we were served was from the menu. The app and other reviewers mention being served special creations not found on the menu. However, the menu at The Cannibal changes often, so they usually serve regular menu items a server explained following the meal.
Edwards says every restaurant is a different experience. Creativity and freedom are the cornerstones of the concept. Of course, I would love to have formed a special bond with a world-class chef over a genius moment of spontaneous culinary innovation – maybe next time.
As a first-time experience at The Cannibal, being surprised with delicious food every round of an eight-dish, shared meal made for an enjoyable dinner. If the exclusivity of an off-the-menu dish is what you crave, simply inquire with the restaurant before booking, Edwards says.
WaltzIn is an interesting and adventurous way to experiment at a new restaurant or rediscover an old favorite, but for a younger crowd scraping by in Southern California, the set prices are a bit high. A lighter and cheaper dining option would be a nice addition.
The app has other expansion opportunities as well. The party size is limited to two and four without a phone call, all reservations are at 8 p.m., and booking is only 24 hours in advance. An update addressing these concerns should be coming out in March, Edwards says. Currently, the app has been live for two months and has partnered with five Los Angeles restaurants: Alimento, Hart and the Hunter, Sotto, Mardi, and The Cannibal. The company eventually wants to expand to New York and San Francisco.
I’m sure “What do you want to eat?” will continue claiming marriages across the country, but WaltzIn will be sure to save a few. That’s hope, people. Hope.