You have an excellent sense of color, but not of space. One seems to come naturally, you'll have to work at the other. I don't doubt you'll succeed.
Overall your plating is too homogenous, too evenly spread out, and just plain spread out. Most of your dishes could do with some "verticality" (stacking is a better word). Also, the way you're spreading out the various elements uses too much plate and doesn't leave enough coherent "negative space."
You might want to think about serving one of your garnishes in a separate plate. First, to clear some room on the main plate; and Second, to better present the garnish. For instance, the garnishes for the caldo could and should have been served each in its own small dish. You also lacked dried oregano.
Your knife work is clean and tidy. It appears unforced, neither irregular or too precise. Don't take it for granted, it's better than most and you should feature it. Well done. Except for the ribs. WTF?
The ribs are your least successful effort. They're skinny and dry. They do not speak to your best effort as a cook, let alone the problems with plating. They should have been stacked cross-ways, not too symmetrically, and just off the center of the plate. Even spacing is almost always a mistake. A spoon push is not a good way to present barbecue sauce. Given how dry the ribs looked, you should have dipped them. Had the ribs looked better, sauce on the side would have been another good possibility. Besides stacking, a different rib presentation is touching one another, as though they were still part of the slab. Here, the portion would have looked even stingier than it does now. What's between the ribs? Pickle spears? Spuds? Whatever. They really and truly don't work.
Get things placed so they're easy to eat. Some things should touch one another, some things should not. If they do touch, you're asking the diner to eat them together -- as on the same forkful. If they're on the same plate and don't touch, you're telling her to eat them separately. Look at your caldo again. What do the little piles of garnish tell a guest about how she should fix her soup? Chips are well and good, but fresh tortillas are a necessity with caldo. And where's the dry oregano? If I got that soup, I'd miss the tortillas and oregano enough to ask the waiter to bring some to the table. Did you have a reason for not presenting the dish as it usually is, or was it creativity for its own sake? Your omissions didn't work.
But let's not wallow. The caldo itself looked darn good and that counts for more than all of my whining.
The star of the course, takes pride of place on the plate. Try and elevate it, preferably by leaning it on something.
Spoon pushed sauce is way overdone. Sometimes sauce is better as a puddle, sometimes on top falling off the side as a nappe, sometimes in one or even two of a number of other ways. I'm not saying no more spoon pushes, just that there are other possibilities. The sauce's tightness and the appropriate quantity for service will almost tell you how a sauce should be presented. Not to harp on it, but your ribs are a great example of what not to do.
The curry was your most successful plate. Wonderful colors. It's self plating nature -- hey it's a stew! -- saved you from your demons. Moral: Don't work so hard. Let things be what they are. The red snapper was also very good. No spoon pushes, unselfconscious, garnish on top where it should be. I love fish and I love mushrooms, but I'm not sure that shiitakes and snapper harmonize well. Nevertheless it was fine looking plate.
The catfish was not good. Again with the even spacing. The long rectangular plate was not your friend. FWIW, it usually isn't.
I don't know if it's an accident or not, but you seem to be sensitive to the fact that for "fine dining," well-dressed women need food which can be eaten neatly and won't get on their clothes or smear their lipstick. If you did it unconsciously, pretend you did it on purpose and take credit modestly.
Note to Pinky: Like it or don't, a hunk of corn on the cob is a traditional and integral part of caldo de res. Cut kernels are simply not an option.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/2/11 at 12:51am