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Jenise

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Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Jenise » Wed May 14, 2008 2:12 pm

I swear I was going to ask this question even before reading this morning's NYT restaurant review of Eighty One, where Frank Bruni chides a restaurant he otherwise likes for having both Veal Three Ways and Lamb Three Ways on its menu. But that's precisely what would be my first nominee, especially since I'm tired of hearing myself cursing the ubiquitously creamy, soggy, overdressed mess that is the mainstream version of the once noble caesar salad.

Maybe I am jaded because the first example of this I ever had, a dish also called Lamb Three Ways, was a poorly done version at the Black Sheep Bistro in Tustin, California, a restaurant much beloved by local wine-o's for the chef-proprietor's friendly BYO policy but at which I never had a dish I couldn't have prepared better myself. Including this one. I can't remember precisely what my complaints were it was so long ago (perhaps ten years), except that I thought that each element only got a third of the chef's normal attention and that the cumulative effect was less than 100%. It was, in short, a gimmick. And not a good one. I have since steered very clear of other such two- and three-way gimmicks except in circumstances where I have not been given another option.

Your nominations?
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Howie Hart » Wed May 14, 2008 2:24 pm

Not so much a fad, but the other night I was eating alone in a local restaurant. Halfway through my meal the waitress asked "Can I wrap that up for you?" I had to finish chewing and swallow a mouthful of food before I could answer "Not yet, thank you". :roll:
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Dave R » Wed May 14, 2008 2:25 pm

It seems half the restaurants here now serve "tapas" which are not even remotely similar to the real tapas served in Spain. Sorry, but a Sysco frozen tillapia fillet coated in stale tortilla chip crumbs is not a real tapa.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by ScottD » Wed May 14, 2008 3:48 pm

Dave R wrote:Sorry, but a Sysco frozen tillapia fillet coated in stale tortilla chip crumbs is not a real tapa.


:lol:

For me it's the whole presentation concept of verticality; how high can we pile stuff up on the plate? With the ubiquitous [insert herb of choice here]stem stuck triumphantly in the top tier. It's like there's a sign on the swinging door--"You must be this tall to leave this kitchen".
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Robin Garr

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Robin Garr » Wed May 14, 2008 4:28 pm

Jenise wrote:Your nominations?

I'm starting to get a little tired of foams and smears unless they're done with great creativity in such a way that appearance, texture and flavor all work.

Vertical food is a maybe with me. I don't mind spectacular presentations, but if it's difficult to deconstruct and eat, then it's not really working.

I'm not bothered by "tapas" that aren't really tapas, though. I love the idea of small plates that you can mix and match, and it seems to me that calling multi-cultural small plates "tapas" is an affectionate nod to a classic tradition, not plagiarism or blasphemy.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Dave R » Wed May 14, 2008 4:38 pm

Robin Garr wrote:I'm not bothered by "tapas" that aren't really tapas, though. I love the idea of small plates that you can mix and match, and it seems to me that calling multi-cultural small plates "tapas" is an affectionate nod to a classic tradition, not plagiarism or blasphemy.


Hello Robin,

If they are not truly tapas, then why not just call them appetizers?
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Mark Lipton » Wed May 14, 2008 5:15 pm

Like Robin, I think that "foams" and "essences" would probably top my list. The fad of small plates (aka tapas) I quite like, so that won't make it, and the verticality of towers I thought went out with the '90s.

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Robert J. » Wed May 14, 2008 5:20 pm

Foam. Foam is not a garnish or a food item. Foam is a contraceptive. Let's leave foam off the plate.

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Stuart Yaniger » Wed May 14, 2008 5:23 pm

Robert J. wrote:Foam. Foam is not a garnish or a food item. Foam is a contraceptive. Let's leave foam off the plate.

rwj


A few years ago, I had dinner at a very chi-chi Napa Valley place (two Michelin stars) where one of the appetizers was a ravioli topped with a foam. I tried it, the waiter asked, "How did you like it?" I responded,"Like someone spit on my ravioli."
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Mark Willstatter » Wed May 14, 2008 5:46 pm

Dave R wrote:Hello Robin,

If they are not truly tapas, then why not just call them appetizers?


I'm not Robin but it's my impression by using the word "tapas", a restaurant is issuing an invitation to assemble an entire meal made up of small plates, while the word "appetizer" implies that a main course normally follows. Between tapas and appetizers, the food might be the same, the prices might be the same and there's certainly no law preventing one from assembling an all-appetizer meal. But I think by using "tapas" a restaurant signals that the practice is normal/accepted in their establishment. Like Robin, I see no problem with calling small plates "tapas". After all, there's pretty much no limitation on what tapas might be in Spain.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Robin Garr » Wed May 14, 2008 6:03 pm

Dave R wrote:If they are not truly tapas, then why not just call them appetizers?

I think "small plates" as a term of art works even better, Dave. "Apps" at least implies a small plate used as a first course; building a full meal of them is easily done but non-traditional.

Bottom line, I'm fine with small plates, tapas, meze, whatever. Let the Jerez Trademark Enforcement Bureau carry on the tapas battle if they want to. I have no dawg in that fight. For the purposes of this discussion, though, it seems to me that we're talking about restaurant trends that are good vs. restaurant trends that have jumped the shark, not about names. For me, tapa^H^H^H^H small plates are still fine.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Robin Garr » Wed May 14, 2008 6:05 pm

Mark Willstatter wrote:I'm not Robin

For the purposes of this discussion, Mark, you might as well have been. :wink: Your response captured what I was getting at even better than my response did!
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Dave R » Wed May 14, 2008 6:08 pm

Meze! Holy crap! I forgot all about the abuse of the term meze! :lol:

Well, that's the nice thing about life. Most things are open to interpretation.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Jo Ann Henderson » Wed May 14, 2008 8:58 pm

Gastrique!
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Bill Spohn » Wed May 14, 2008 9:37 pm

Along the lines of verticality, the use of overdone garnish.

One local restaurant was in the habit of sticking a large branch of rosemary standing up in whatever the dish was and I used to tell the waitress to please take it away to the brush chipper as I didn't feel the need to gnaw any wood that day.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Mark Lipton » Thu May 15, 2008 2:19 am

Bill Spohn wrote:Along the lines of verticality, the use of overdone garnish.

One local restaurant was in the habit of sticking a large branch of rosemary standing up in whatever the dish was and I used to tell the waitress to please take it away to the brush chipper as I didn't feel the need to gnaw any wood that day.


Ah, yes, the rosemary plantings in food. To make matters worse, rosemary is such a pungent herb that even that limited amount of contact can impart a strong rosemary flavor to your dish, an all around disaster IMO.

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Rahsaan » Thu May 15, 2008 5:08 am

Mark Lipton wrote:To make matters worse, rosemary is such a pungent herb that even that limited amount of contact can impart a strong rosemary flavor to your dish, an all around disaster IMO.

Mark Lipton


Aha, yes, although it also depends on how long it is cooked, and what stage it enters the process.

I must admit, with rosemary so abundant here in the East Bay (we have several bushes growing around our house), I have gotten quite creative with using the stuff, and always pick a few sprigs to mix into my pizza dough.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Stuart Yaniger » Thu May 15, 2008 10:31 am

Interesting! I've used it for toppings (especially potato) but never in the crust. Not too tough?
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Bill Spohn » Thu May 15, 2008 10:39 am

Another pet peeve.

Someone must have once told all restaurateurs that it was shi-shi to serve a small sorbet part way through the meal as a palate cleanser.

So what moron perverted this to be a G-D SWEET sorbet, calculated to come right before the best wines of the evening and guaranteed to cloy your palate so you will be unable to appreciate same.

I will admit to getting shirty about this once and calling over the manager to tell him I had been misinformed when I was told that his restaurant was a good one with a fine sense of what worked with wines. I told him that serving such offensive dreck was a clear indicator they didn't have a clue about how to treat good wines and to please bring me my bill (and unopened wines we had provided) and left. It was a trial dinner for a wine event that needless to say was held elsewhere.


He waffled and tried to make excuses, but really had no explanation when I asked who had told him a sweet apricot sorbet was the ideal introduction to a 1978 Ducru.

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by John Tomasso » Thu May 15, 2008 10:56 am

Operators trying to get on the green/sustainable bandwagon, who have no genuine interest in the subject, but see it merely as a marketing opportunity.
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Larry Greenly » Thu May 15, 2008 11:02 am

I don't like phony familiarity.

"Hi, I'm Ashley (or Kevin) and I'll be your server tonight."
"Hi, I'm Larry and I'll be your eater tonight."
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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Paul Winalski » Thu May 15, 2008 11:58 am

The question "Are you still working on that?" from a waitperson. Certainly not a fad, but something one hears distressingly often in restaurants.

Regarding true fads: lose the foam, guys.

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Mark Lipton » Thu May 15, 2008 11:59 am

OK, another fad that I'm tired of is the "exhaustive listing of sources" school of menu writing. Yes, I do appreciate knowing that your meat comes from Niman Ranch, but I don't really need to see where the tomatoes, butter, garlic and lettuces came from when trying to understand what the dish actually consists of. Perhaps those restaurants so pleased with their sources could provide a vendor listing at the end of the menu for that rare moment when Michael Pollan drops in to eat.

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Re: Restaurant fads you're tired of?

by Robin Garr » Thu May 15, 2008 12:34 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:OK, another fad that I'm tired of is the "exhaustive listing of sources" school of menu writing. Yes, I do appreciate knowing that your meat comes from Niman Ranch, but I don't really need to see where the tomatoes, butter, garlic and lettuces came from when trying to understand what the dish actually consists of. Perhaps those restaurants so pleased with their sources could provide a vendor listing at the end of the menu for that rare moment when Michael Pollan drops in to eat.

Agree in part, disagree in part. If they're just naming high-end names like flashing a Rolex, I agree. But with the locavore movement active and growing, I'm all for restaurants using - and promoting - quality local artisan producers.
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