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Opaque menus: Yet another way restaurants screw you over


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You know, the funny thing about restaurants that cook "sous vide?" (Although I sometimes prefer the moniker LTLT).

 

I'll bet those restaurants, like restaurants that don't cook with any immersion circulators, use many different techniques in their kitchens, before the food actually gets to your plate.

 

Once again, I'd much rather have knowledge that the cooks washed their hands, than whether there's a water bath somewhere in the kitchen.

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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.

 

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

Wilf, does how something is cooked influence whether you will order it or not? (Other than rejecting SV)

 

 

Yes, absolutely. (And I am not thinking particularly about sous vide.)

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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?

 

What makes you think I "always end up ordering roast chicken"?

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

Wilf, does how something is cooked influence whether you will order it or not? (Other than rejecting SV)

 

 

Yes, absolutely. (And I am not thinking particularly about sous vide.)

 

Ah. Okay. I get it. I kind of like seeing what the chef has in mind. With these obscure menu descriptions, I seldom get what i envision but am almost always delighted with the kitchen's imagination.

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It's easier these days to envision a dish, not ironically because of menu descriptions, but that in nearly every so-called creative-chef restaurants, they are presenting the assembling of the plate in the same way. Chefs don't want you to think, as seen by every contemporary photograph, they are slaving over a hot stove or otherwise do what one considers cooking, but rather being "artistes" with their leaning over a counter top doing slicey-dicey, dribby-drabby with their squeeze bottles, tweezers, and paint brushes. Form, structure and integrity of the fish, fowl, meat and whatever starts out on the bone is doing a slow fade to oblivion in these kind of restaurants, all facilitated by you know what.

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It's easier these days to envision a dish, not ironically because of menu descriptions, but that in nearly every so-called creative-chef restaurants, they are presenting the assembling of the plate in the same way. Chefs don't want you to think, as seen by every contemporary photograph, they are slaving over a hot stove or otherwise do what one considers cooking, but rather being "artistes" with their leaning over a counter top doing slicey-dicey, dribby-drabby with their squeeze bottles, tweezers, and paint brushes. Form, structure and integrity of the fish, fowl, meat and whatever starts out on the bone is doing a slow fade to oblivion in these kind of restaurants, all facilitated by you know what.

 

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 just not aware of them? Or do they simply not fit into your argument, so you ignore them? (It bothers me that the N of your sample seems limited to only those who exemplify the horrors you dislike.)

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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 willing to trust them .

 

Some people think that chefs are doing whatever they can to cut corners to defraud their customers, and should be strictly monitored.

 

And, I guess, some people just want to know what they're ordering before they order it.

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The same fault line exists for folks with celiac disease, nut issues, etc. If the menu doesn't even hint at an unexpected ingredient, how will you know?

You ask, because your life depends on it. (You should have been trained since childhood to ask, which I believe is finally happening.) Or you ask simply because you want to know and make a decision based on your preferences.

 

Seriously, should a menu list everything in every dish? Down to the oil used to sauté? (I worked under a sous chef with a peanut allergy. All sautéing was done in peanut oil, so he couldn't taste many of the dishes. But no, of course the place didn't mention peanut oil on the menu.)

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Right. If you have something genuinely health-threatening, you can't possibly think you can rely on the face of a menu.

 

(Similarly to Suzanne's sous chef, my Celiac friend has a related soy allergy. So she knows she has to ask what kind of oil is used. There's no way a menu would ever say.)

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Amen. This should be a non-issue. It's ridiculously ingenuous to propose that allergies could or would be addressed on a menu. At the same time, we are constantly asked when making reservations and again at table if we have allergies or food aversions. Safeguards exist but people need to get a grip and take responsibility for their health and safety. Splinky should give tutorials.

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To be fair, a lot of eating issues are, in fact, addressed on menus: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, spice level (not life-threatening, but important to many eaters). In today's litigious climate, even though (IMO) it's the customer's responsibility to ask, restaurants have to operate under CYA. When I was in restaurants 15 to 20 years ago, we had trouble just getting FOH staff to understand they should come back to the kitchen to pass along questions from customers and to get the correct answers on what was in the food. In the kitchen, we'd roll our eyes--but we would try to comply with requests, as far as we could. It was just the right thing to do and, we hoped, would turn customers into regulars--even if they were a pain in the ass, they would come in a lot and spend, and talk us up positively.

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I think all Robert is saying is that menu descriptions tend to be less forthcoming than they used to be. "Lamb, grains, market vegetables" doesn't tell you much. I think he's right, and yes it means you can ask.

 

What eating disorders have to do with the original point I don't know.

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