Food for Thought: How to Spot the Best Dish on the Menu
There are a variety of factors that go into the construction of a truly pleasurable dining experience, several elements that may well mean the difference between a gratifying meal and a dour one. The service team, for one, are of vital importance, having to adhere to every whim of the diners without being so obtrusive that they almost become an unwanted member of the party, whilst the company in said party can also be just as significant – a somber crowd usually making for a tedious affair, and an unruly one triggering an uneasiness within the group and, in fact, the restaurant.
The most important aspect however, almost certainly comes in the choice of fare. A disappointing selection can put a real dampener on the proceedings, whereas an enjoyable one can become the main event. And there lies the biggest issue that one comes across upon entry to any eating establishment, one that has troubled the purveyors of all things gastronomic since the dawn of time (or at least since the advent of the restaurant), and one that will continue to do so for much of their gourmet lives, a quandary that brings about the very question on which this piece is based – how do you spot the best dish on the menu?
In the case of this humble writer, something sweet and sticky is virtually never bypassed – a tender rack of barbecue ribs here, a plateful of Jack Daniels chicken wings there, and no Chinese eatery is ever exited without first sampling at least a quarter of an aromatic crispy duck. These, or a succulent sirloin steak, cooked rare and accompanied by a medley of king prawns, are enough to ensure that my mouth will be watering from the first moment until the last. Alas, I am fully aware that not everyone has the same palate as me, or the same appetite for that matter – no, that would make a chef’s life far too easy, wouldn’t it?
So, how do we go about making that which is the principle mealtime decision? Even the most decisive of souls can find themselves stumped by a particularly extensive list of food, where many an option seems to jump off the page, screaming pick me, pick me! Your brain practically begs your stomach, nose and taste buds for some sort of indication as to what you should go for, and you look around desperately to see what other people in the room are having delivered to their table in the hope that inspiration pops up from somewhere, anywhere – though none will be forthcoming. In the end, it generally comes down to choosing between two or three dishes, and there are numerous ways that people go about narrowing it down to the holy grail. For some, price is the predominant influence, whereas for others, the item’s description is of higher value – heck, a few even decide off the strength of the name alone – that, or they flip a coin! Considering all of this it seems more than fair to ask the question on which this article is based, and even more reasonable to hold the belief that there must be a better way – and in this day and age, there just may be.
Many top restaurants in Britain today post their menus online, menus that are often accompanied by image after image of their sumptuous offerings – information that is only enhanced by the various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, allowing potential diners a look at what’s on offer well before they step across the threshold. Having a gander earlier on in the day allows for a longer decision making process, and it may well lead to you developing a craving. There is absolutely no excuse not to turn up at least somewhat prepared, even if that means narrowing the choice down to two or three dishes, which definitely seems easier than searching through the vast expanse of culinary terms and bold gastronomic statements.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done, the service team should always be on-hand to give guidance when necessary. Be that by giving advice on that which is most frequently chosen, the chef’s chief creation, or the selection that is seen to incorporate the best, freshest ingredients. Alongside such, a good team will also be able to tell you which wine, ale or cocktail will go best with a specific plate – so it may be worth keeping an ear out for your favourite tipple.
Far be it for me though to tell you how to order a dish that you will truly enjoy, a task that is close to impossible when considering how many people of differing tastes there are in the country today – it’s hard enough choosing a cuisine type! Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Spanish, Italian, French, and the good old traditionally British are just seven of the multitude of cookery styles that are known to the country today – and that’s without mentioning the many spin-offs available in the market, such as Pan-Asian, Cantonese and Bangladeshi being just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget about personality types either, many tending to go with the tried and tested, while the more adventurous diner will look to try new things whenever and wherever possible, or the budget of all involved – although for a Gourmet Society member, this should not be much of a drawback at all. Bearing the above in mind, it would be obnoxious of me to presume that I am the be all and end all when it comes to making such a judgment, but it is my belief that any of the methods noted in this piece of writing will go some way to helping you to draw a conclusion as to which is the perfect dish on the menu for you.
Have you noticed trends like these? Let us know in the comments section below or via Facebook or Twitter! And of course, be sure to check out the rest of the gourmet goodness on the Gourmet Society blog!
By Calum Dewsbury