The best restaurants offer a tiny serving of something interesting soon after you sit down, which ideally previews the cooking style of the restaurant. Most use the French term amuse-bouche (literally "mouth amusement"). In some restaurants, it's also a way to present something luxurious to favored customers.
At Picasso in Las Vegas, a tiny smoked salmon roulade with cucumber, apple and osetra caviar was pristine and focused, like Julian Serrano's cooking, and a good foil for Champagne, the classic aperitif. At New York's Daniel, four amuses showed off different types of cuisine: a golden beet topped with goat cheese (vegetarian); spiced chick pea puree (exotic); potato with prosciutto, cornichon and mustard (bistro); foie gras terrine rolled in blanched almonds (luxury). At Tru in Chicago, a tiny Parmesan tuile formed into a cone held a green "sorbet" of peas and mint--perfect for a restaurant that promises "sensory overload."
Tru also makes a specialty of serving wild-patterned custom-made Versace demitasse cups holding different soups, such as sweet corn with Maryland crab and truffled cream of cauliflower. We applaud this trend of serving thimblesful of wonderful soups as amuses. Daniel offered creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup with duck prosciutto and thick cranberry bean soup with confit of gizzards and black truffle. A tiny cup of warm mussel soup wafted its intense aroma from the waiter's tray at The Inn at Little Washington.