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Opaque menus: Yet another way restaurants screw you over


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Just to point out another way of how chefs and restaurateurs indulge in seemingly-endless ways to screw us over, I have recently been both noticing and looking at menus that are more opaque and less-forthcoming about ingredients and how chefs cook them for the dishes they offer us. As Founder and President of the recently-formed League of Anti-Sousvideians, I think that reluctance or failure to state that a dish is grilled, roasted, broiled, etc. can sometimes, but not always, be a result of wanting to camouflage the use of this shortcut. To cite one example of this lack of disclosure, there currently are a couple of on-line menus of a factory-outlet big-name-chef group of restaurants with a section called “Simply Cooked” that comprises no more than “cod”, “halibut”, “salmon”, “organic chicken”, sometimes meat with a “Nieman Ranch” thrown in, without any indication of what “simply cooked” entails. (In all fairness, this is an extreme example, and the menus of these two restaurants also list dishes that state how they cook most, but not all, of the other relevant dishes.) Nonetheless, I can’t help noticing that this lack of general disclosure is an unfair-to-the-diner practice that appears to be growing. It’s not always an all-or-nothing phenomenon since many restaurant menus state how the restaurant cooks some dishes, but not others. But regardless, the opaqueness is an added stumbling block to trying to get the most out of a restaurant. This puts a premium on having enough dining experience to have the presence of mind to try to leave no stone unturned. Grilling is the operative word here since this is what you have to do to your order-taker to navigate the unfriendly mine fields restaurants have laid for their clients. Just hope that your waiter is telling you the truth.

 

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You do allow that this is not the only kind of chef and of restaurant nowadays, yes? That there are chefs who focus on the integrity of the food, not its Instagramity, as part of their creativity. Are

You can see the fault line here.   Some people (like voyager, Suzanne, and me) think that at least top-level chefs are creative people trying to do their best to please their customers, and we're w

i suppose asking the server is too ghastly a proposition.

Your observation is valid, Robert. Many if not most of the restaurants we enjoy give only the briefest description of ingredients and almost nothing of preparation. eg:

 

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Unfair? Perhaps. I'm not bothered but I only judge by what's on my plate. If it sings, I'll come back. If not, I won't.

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Yes, very valid. I am finding myself having to ask how something is cooked with some frequency now.

Have they ever said "it's been sitting in an immersion circulator for the past six hours, and then it gets a light sear just before being served"? :D

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Yes, very valid. I am finding myself having to ask how something is cooked with some frequency now.

Have they ever said "it's been sitting in an immersion circulator for the past six hours, and then it gets a light sear just before being served"? :D

They say it's cooked sous vide. That's what they say when you asked how it's been cooked and it has been cooked sous vide. They say it's cooked sous vide. That's what say.

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And most of the places I go that do are proud they do it. They aren't ashamed. They think it's a contemporary cooking technique that they're proud to be technically sophisticated enough to employ. (Whether or not I favor it myself.)

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Robert: that is nonsense. It is my job as the customer to pick my food wisely. That means doing my own inquiry. If the restaurant presents me with what I consider insufficient information, I will keep inquiring until I am satisfied. It's not a big deal. The restaurant cannot read my mind and cover everything I care about on the menu. And God forbid I should take them 100% at their printed word, in any case.

 

I'd rather not have to read a long entry that describes everything on the plate, where it comes from :rolleyes:, and how it is cooked. A brief list of the main elements is fine with me. I tend to pick dishes on how much the items they contain appeal to me. Often I will reject a desired protein because the sides or other listed elements hold no interest. Or consider a less-favorite one because I want its sides. Once I have narrowed down a few interesting possibilities, I have no problem asking for more information--in great detail and at great length, if need be.This will include the manner of cooking. But that's just one of questions I might ask.

 

 

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And most of the places I go that do are proud they do it. They aren't ashamed. They think it's a contemporary cooking technique that they're proud to be technically sophisticated enough to employ. (Whether or not I favor it myself.)

They also say that it's organic, grass-fed, local, sustainable, swimming in the ocean a couple hours ago, etc. I wonder if any places have ever lied and said something was cooked sous vide when it wasn't?

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Robert: that is nonsense. It is my job as the customer to pick my food wisely. That means doing my own inquiry. If the restaurant presents me with what I consider insufficient information, I will keep inquiring until I am satisfied. It's not a big deal. The restaurant cannot read my mind and cover everything I care about on the menu. And God forbid I should take them 100% at their printed word, in any case.

 

I'd rather not have to read a long entry that describes everything on the plate, where it comes from :rolleyes:, and how it is cooked. A brief list of the main elements is fine with me. I tend to pick dishes on how much the items they contain appeal to me. Often I will reject a desired protein because the sides or other listed elements hold no interest. Or consider a less-favorite one because I want its sides. Once I have narrowed down a few interesting possibilities, I have no problem asking for more information--in great detail and at great length, if need be.This will include the manner of cooking. But that's just one of questions I might ask.

 

 

 

Is this how you always end up ordering roast chicken?

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And most of the places I go that do are proud they do it. They aren't ashamed. They think it's a contemporary cooking technique that they're proud to be technically sophisticated enough to employ. (Whether or not I favor it myself.)

They also say that it's organic, grass-fed, local, sustainable, swimming in the ocean a couple hours ago, etc. I wonder if any places have ever lied and said something was cooked sous vide when it wasn't?

 

 

THAT would be funny.

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