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Restaurant Rant

Restaurants have become like shoes. Used to be you could buy a nice stylish pair of shoes, made of good quality leather for a reasonable price.  Now for the same price you get plastic or poor-quality leather shoes with dumb glitter and five-inch heels that no one can walk in. Mid-range quality is gone, all that is left is  totally cheap or really high-end at exorbitant prices.

Over the holidays when I tend to eat out more it dawned on me that restaurants now had the same problem. They were either a family casual  “bar and grill” with remarkably similar menus or higher end “white table-cloth service” restaurants where you paid a lot more but really ate nothing that tasted special. I admit that I might be a tough audience to please because 1) I cook all the time and love my own food  and 2) I’ve worked in the industry and know that for some  marketing has become more important than taste. Read the descriptors on the menu and you think you will be transported to nirvana with every bite until the sorry result lands on your plate.  But seriously, is it not possible to have a decent meal anymore that is tasty and memorable for $40–$50 per person with a beverage? Herein lies my pet peeves:

  1. Yes you are a “Bar and Grill” or “Casual Family” restaurant but your menu can still show some creativity. French Fries, Chicken Wings, Fajitas, Burger, Chicken Fingers, overdone Pasta and bad  Sauces,  Dried out Kebabs and flavourless mini desserts are not what we all want, it’s just all you offer us, try offering something else, even one different dish you may be pleasantly surprised.
  2. If I opt for the Dinner Salad should I really be tired after I am done eating it? How much bigger can these things get and how much less nutritious? If you have a pound of cheese, chicken, meat or fish, copious amounts of nuts and seeds and deep-fired tortilla or noodle strips tossed into the salad why bother to put the dressing on the side, just dump that sucker in and finish the job.
  3. You can in fact survive without the Deep Fat Fryer, go ahead, I dare you give it a try, even restaurants where you are paying the big bucks are so reliant on this method of cooking. Fancy starter shrimp deep-fried in coconut or tempura batter, deep-fried mushrooms, cheese balls, vegetable sticks, bananas and even ice-cream. Come on, after a while no matter what you started with they all end up tasting the same, like fryer oil.
  4. Please God they are Vegetarians not horses! Lay off the roasted and grilled vegetable casseroles and sandwiches that you need horses teeth to chew. Once in Italy I had a totally vegetarian Risotto with seasoned cannellini beans and sautéed mushrooms it was so good I can still taste it! A little more creativity for the vegetarians among us and a little less gas please.
  5. While your treating the vegetarians better how about actually cooking the basic starches for the rest of us on the premises. You don’t have to buy Mashed Potatoes and Wild Rice Pilaf frozen in a bag. We can do that at home if we want, we thought your were a restaurant and someone would actually cook them from scratch.
  6.  Whether high-end or cheap,Your Desserts Suck! No one is fooled by the “special” dessert that has to be ordered when you sit down because it takes time to make, really, is your microwave slow? Those “special” desserts are not made in-house, they are frozen and you got them where everyone else gets theirs. I would kill for a creme caramel, flan, custard, call it what you want–that tastes like fresh milk, cream and eggs instead of just cornstarch paste! This is the world’s simplest dessert I can make it with one hand tied behind my back, how is it possible that in all restaurants it is totally flavourless. And don’t get me started on the cakes and pastries, all designed to look fancy and pretty and taste like nothing. I’ve learned my lesson, if I’m going to have a “treat” wait til I get home and have a Vachon Flaky, better the devil you know.
  7. When the menu is so big no one at the table can open it fully without smacking someone in the head, try a little brevity, cut it short. Here’s an idea keep it to one page and only put food on it that tastes good.
  8. No Its Not My Birthday, Please Don’t Sing To Me, I Came In Looking For Food.

All joking aside, lots of studies have shown that flavourless foods tend to result in people eating more because our brains have memories of tasty meals and continues to search  for that flavour. It is the reason why in many parts of the world people eat smaller portions but get up from the table feeling satisfied. Even a simple dish of roast chicken, rice and vegetables, cooked with care and a few herbs  can leave you feeling like a king.  We are not doing ourselves any favours eating large portions of flavourless foods at these restaurants, after all we share a border with people who have already gone that route.

P.S. Never say I just criticize, in my featured recipe section I will post a menu that I think restaurants ought to try along with a recipe for flan/custard-the worlds simplest dessert.