The move from the phrase "tapas" to the more inclusive "small plates" signaled the fact that the shared food phenomenon could apply to almost any cuisine, not just Spanish. Restaurants opened with New American small plates, Japanese small plates, Caribbean small plates. But one such Caribbean restaurant, Sunny Spot, is giving all that up.
Today, Sunny Spot is moving away from the shared-plates formula the restaurant has gone by since opening, and going to a new menu format focused on a more traditional protein with sides.
"The flavors are staying the same," chef-owner Roy Choi tells us. "I'm really proud of the flavors. The sharing format was just not working in that space. I think if the space were tight, like the ceilings were low and you were always bumping into one another then the shared thing would work better. But because the restaurant is so huge, it just doesn't really work. And a lot of people coming to the restaurant just didn't really navigate it well."
It's an interesting development given the almost universal move towards small plates and sharing. A few months ago the small plates/sharing debate blew up when New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote a post about "the big problem with small plates." So to see one of LA's young, format-busting chefs abandon small plates at one of his restaurants perhaps signals a shift away from the small-plates-for-everyone era.
"Now the food is even more like the islands," Choi says. "Plates come with rice and coleslaw. All the sandwiches comes with yucca fries. Basically I'm putting everything one one plate so people are forced to eat it, because I really like the food. It's like throwing water on people rather than asking them to get in the pool."
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