The Fearless Seeker
The New York Times recently had a few suggestions for those of us who sometimes struggle with making a choice, when handed a restaurant menu. Below are some of their suggestions along with a few of mine.
15 Ideas for Picking Wisely
- Beware cute little boxed items on the menu. Ask yourself if this is a costly come on or really a special dish.
- Don’t order a dish with ingredients that are out of season. I never go for a tomato caprese except during the summer.
- I most often read the menu online beforehand to avoid being influenced by the whims of others—or my own. It gives me a base from which to start, but one I don’t always stick with.
- Soup “covers a multitude of sins.” In China during the 80s, I was served many a broth, that had no recognizable ingredients. But I was hungry; I slurped it down, sea urchins and all.
- These days I bypass most red meat entrees, which means there’s one less category to consider on a menu.
- I tend to order something I love, but seldom cook at home, i.e. eggplant parmesan.
- Often when I’m torn between two items, I ask the server: “Which of these is better?” I don’t always take the advice, but it aids my decision making. Too often the server will simply give a neutral reply, “They’re both good,” which is a cop-out, but still good to know.
- Sometimes I’ll ask the server: “What is the one dish that people order the most?” That one’s hard to dodge.
- The physical menu is evolving since COVID. While some are still dogeared cardboard, others are for one-time use. I favor the new QR barcodes, that you scan at your table with your phone.
- I usually ask if the desserts are made in house. Unless it says house made, it probably isn’t. Without a pastry chef on staff, it’s best that a restaurant order good prepared desserts.
- I like a menu to indicate that ingredients are organic, locally sourced, or from a specific supplier.
- If watching your fats, take note of items that are labeled crispy, creamy, deep fried, battered, breaded, rich, golden brown, or with gravy, cheese, bacon, special sauce, or sour cream. Look for wording like: steamed, broiled, baked, roasted, grilled, or poached.
- Mouth-watering photos on a menu aid the decision making.
- Vague words such as vibrant, yummy, elegant, succulent, aromatic, or delicate don’t tell me much about a dish.
- Don’t be a “menu monger.” That’s someone who has no clue what they want to eat and it takes them forever to decide on food.
“Nouvelle cuisine, roughly translated, means: “I can’t believe I paid $96 and I’m still hungry.”~ Mike Kalin