WTF is NFA? A social dining experience like no other

Let's face it, the grass is often greener on the other side. Often I find myself ordering a dish at a restaurant thinking, 'it sounds great,' then realize as soon as the plates are served that maybe I made a 'bad' choice. When the plates are set down on the table, there is always the possibility of realizing in disappointment that maybe your neighbours dish looks more appetizing to you than your own, meanwhile, your neighbour is mulling over the fact your meal is the one they should have ordered instead. The solution - why not just share? Or better yet, why not just have small plates of everything and dibble and dabble in everything? The ability to enjoy a meal in this way, is my reasoning behind loving the idea of communal dining. 

Long table, communal, or social dining, is a trend that has become more prevalent in the Vancouver food scene. This culinary experience has already impacted many cities across the U.S. and Canada, including Montreal and Los Angeles, and is wildly popular in New Zealand, as well as other areas across Europe. Now Vancouver has slowly been drawn to the unique dining experience, and realizing the potential greatness of the mix and mingling that is presented when dining in an open concept.

Whether it's the long table series at The Irish Heather, the 'family style' sharing of dishes with The Social Feed, or the cafeteria-like set up at Meat & Bread, the focus of every dining sharing event, is to meet new people while enjoying tasty food. Eating a meal with someone you know is great, it's comfortable; dining with someone you don't know can be daunting, but the rewards can be that much more satisfying. In fact, many people believe that the dinner party atmosphere is an ideal place to meet potential partners; some people I know have recalled to me past experiences of how dinner sharing acquaintances turned into romantic partners. 

Although this unique dining out opportunity sounds intriguing, wouldn't it be nice to escape the busy restaurant scene, and enjoy a delicious chef-prepared meal while experiencing the comforts of feeling at home? To also perhaps, toss the stress of choosing one item from a menu to the side, in exchange for being served a variety of small plates chosen personally by the chef. And imagine the ability to bring a bottle of wine you enjoy to a restaurant yourself, rather then pay three times as much to purchase a bottle of restaurant wine? With NFA (No Fixed Address) all of this is possible, and well, basically the point of their social dining experience.

Chef Steve welcomes you into his own home (a location he doesn't disclose until right before your dining experience), ushering you into a small room with a long elegant table. Funky local art hangs on the wall, candles sit on each table while wine glasses wait to be filled - it is the ideal dinner setting.

Maybe you arrive with a group of friends, maybe with your significant other, or maybe alone. Whichever the case may be, the concept remains the same; you get what the chef serves you, no if's, and's or but's. This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, but it is quite the opposite, as you'll soon realize once the food presents itself and you start to chow down.

My personal first experience dining at NFA was accompanied by friends. We sat together anxiously awaiting, and wondering, what items of food we were about to be greeted with, and have no other option but to eat. I arrived a little late and was thrilled to hear things were running slightly behind. For me this was fine, but for a few others who were feeling quite famished, this put a sour taste in their mouth as they wished they had "grabbed that piece of pizza" beforehand. Our nervousness quickly faded as the plates began to file out, and we were presented with the beautiful and thoughtfully prepared food.

The dishes looked comparable to, if not better than, what would be served at a high-end restaurant in Vancouver. Each plate possessed a taste and creativity that surpassed many restaurants that I had dined at in past.

That night we had a wonderful spread of food. Looking at the menu, which was presented on a big chalkboard hung on the wall, I was thrilled with the variety. It was neither too red meat heavy, or too fish friendly, and encompassed some of my favourites, including halibut and lamb.

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