So much food: Why do restaurants serve tasting menus?

New York (CNN) — I still remember the "Oysters and Pearls," a dish described as a "sabayon" of pearl tapioca with oysters and caviar.

It was one of many perfect little Thomas Keller dishes, and they just kept coming.

I was delighted to be dining at Per Se that night in 2004, just a few months after French Laundry chef/owner Thomas Keller and his partner Laura Cunningham had opened their East Coast outpost in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

There was no traditional choice of appetizer, main course and dessert. It was the tasting menu to end all tasting menus, I thought, all perfectly orchestrated by Keller, Cunningham and their staff.

As would befit a fine dining restaurant, the mood overlooking Columbus Circle was quietly elegant, and the service was sublime. (The wait staff had taken movement classes to learn how to walk gracefully within the space.)

And the food? I counted more than a dozen perfect little dishes before the night was over, and it took most of the night.

And yet, it sometimes felt like an endurance race for my stomach.

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