A year ago my friends and I were out for dinner and our mains had just arrived. The waitress asked my dining companions if they wanted herb aioli and spiced tomato chutney to go with their steak frites. As I looked up from my plate, I saw a look of trepidation on my friends’ faces and I instantly replied, “Yes” on their behalf.
The waitress left to retrieve the condiments and my friend asked, “What did you say yes to?”
I replied, “Herb mayo and spicy ketchup.”
A few moments later, the herb mayo and spicy ketchup was placed on our table.
The meal and service was outstanding but that one moment where my friends felt unsure may have left a bad taste in their mouth and possibly as a result they have not returned to that eatery on their own.
That tiny incident has stayed with me. I believe everyone should consume scrumptious food because at a bare minimum a tasty dish can put a smile on anyone’s face. However, good food can be much more:
-It can be the conversation starter that allows people to get to know another better and strengthen bonds with their love ones.
-It can be the spark that ignites your imagination and curiosity about an exotic culture or land.
-It can be the catalyst to awaken fond memories of people who are no longer with us, events and places from the distant past.
For whatever reason, bad food doesn’t have the same power to invoke the aforementioned positive experiences; only delicious meals do.
I want everyone to have those positive food experiences, regardless if they are “foodies” or not.
I believe one should not have to study up on a chef’s creation or be a food expert in order to sit down to tasty and delicious food.
In Vancouver, good food can be found at high-end eateries to ethnic restaurants and everything in between. It sometimes can be challenging to access the wonderful food in this city.
We all want to want to be confident and sure in any situation, so to help more people eat good food I’m listing out some of the issues I’ve encountered and the advice to overcome them.
Price: Cost of a meal is an obvious problem. Quality ingredients and prime restaurant locations cost a premium and it can be challenging to fit a specific restaurant into a budget. My advice is to save up and be on the look out for special fixed priced menu promotions by checking the restaurants’ websites and twitter account you are interested in.
Food Jargon: Every industry has its own language and if you’re an outsider even though it is in English, it might as well be in a foreign language. The food scene is no different.
In my story, I’m sure the waitress was not being snobby as she was very nice. However it would have made my friends a lot more comfortable if she had just said, “herb mayo and spicy ketchup”.
They are lots of things restaurants can do to prevent this situation. Eateries can try to communicate as clearly and plainly as possible about their food to ensure their customers understand what they are eating.
Having friendly, personable and helpful staff would also be an asset because if you simply don’t know, the staff should be able to explain it without making you feel bad.
Any restaurants that purposely put on the airs by using jargon or belittling their customers for not knowing a culinary term will have their day of reckoning. In this age of social media, the negative PR generated from willfully being pretentious will catch up with the eatery.
Not Knowing What to Order: I usually just pick anything that seems different from the other items on the menu, but I know that will scare some.
Usually my best advice is to look around to see what other people are enjoying and just order the same thing. Failing that you can ask the staff what they love to eat on the menu, which differs slightly from what they would recommend.
When you ask a person what they love to eat, it personalizes the question and it’s easier to tell if they are lying or not with their response. If they truly love the dishes they are recommending, I find people’s eyes light up as they pick out the items they personally like to eat. It takes a talented actor to hide that excitement or conversely fake enthusiasm for a dish they were told to “push”.
I know the concern is that the more expensive items will be recommended not the tastiest but it’s in the best interest of the restaurant to turn you into a repeat customer. As a result the waiter should pick items for you that they know the kitchen can best execute to ensure you become a loyal patron.
Not knowing how to eat what you have ordered: My first time eating Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crispy Crepes) was a bit of an adventure. I thought you just brought up the crepe and ate the pieces along with the pickled daikon with the dipping sauce.
I had no idea you were suppose to wrap the crispy bits and vegetables in the lettuce leaves that were provided (I thought there were just garnishes) until the server suggest I could eat it that way.
Was I sheepish? Yes but the waitress was just being helpful and wasn’t trying to make me feel bad. Ultimately, I had a delicious meal and funny story to tell my friends afterwards.
Whether it’s a large assortment of cutlery at your place setting (thankfully, I haven’t seen that too often in Vancouver) or not know how to eat an item, I say don’t fret too much.
Even if you misuse a utensil, most professional staff will replace it with a clean one at the appropriate time. Most places that use chopsticks will have forks or spoons, simply because they will have customers who will bring their young children who are just not coordinated enough to use chopsticks either.
As for being unsure to how to eat something, don’t worry and just enjoy the food! In the end, having an enjoyable experience is the whole point of dining out. If you are having a great time, even though you’re eating something incorrectly, the staff may offer a suggestion but won’t outright correct you at the restaurant. Why? Simple, someone that’s having a great time is happy and a happy customer will often mean repeat business.
If you are still concern about how to eat something, just ask the staff.
I hope my tips help embolden you to seek out great food. So if you have heard about something tasty but are afraid of its foreignness, be brave and try it out. If you a well verse food enthusiast, act as a food ambassador for your non-food friends.
This is my 50th post for Food: It is More. Thank you for reading my writing with all the grammatical errors and typos (I’m sorry, I working on it) and I wish everyone EPIC food experiences.