We millennials are accused of loving food to distraction. One dude even theorized that we can’t afford to buy houses because we eat too much avocado toast.
Yeah, our reduced purchasing power has absolutely nothing to do with overinflation in the property market, global economic downturns, and increasing political uncertainty the world over. Nope.
But okay, let’s move on to something more, ah, savory. There’s no denying that the world is filled with good things to eat, more so now with technology and logistics making it possible for diverse ingredients and cuisines to cross borders. Take my home city of Manila. Here, whether you’re craving for Mediterranean falafel balls or a bowl of tonkotsu ramen with chewy, katamen noodles, you can bet that there’s a restaurant or hole-in-the-wall serving it up.
Still, even when you’re spoiled for choice, you should know that there are still some menu items you should steer clear off. Here are the ones even chefs and restaurant owners tend to avoid when dining out:
1. Different Side Dishes.
How would you react if a foreigner said s/he would prefer to have bread instead of rice alongside a piping hot bowl of your tangy, delicious sinigang?
Chefs often choose specific side dishes for different reasons. The right side dish can accentuate or bring out an entree’s flavors, add heft or substance to a dish, or even provide contrast so you don’t get sick of what you’re eating. If you insist on swapping your order’s side dish, you might miss out on how a specialty was intended to taste like.
Unless you’re eating at a fast food joint or even a fancy restaurant where you’re given the option to choose a specific side dish, try to avoid asking your waiter to serve you x instead of y with your main course.
2. Cream Dory.
Sure, cream dory’s a pretty hot commodity these days because it’s affordable, tender in texture, and has a neutral flavor that allows you to blast it with anything from pesto to teriyaki sauce.
The trouble is, this ingredient has garnered a lot of controversy because of the issues surrounding how the fish is raised and processed. As of this writing, it has yet to be established whether cream dory is actually safe for consumption, so you may want to give this a pass if you see it on the menu.
Better yet, opt for one of the local seafood dishes instead.
3. “Soup of the Day.”
I hate to break it to you, but there’s nothing special about a restaurant’s daily or weekly specials.
Rather, these specials are the restaurant’s way of selling off kitchen scraps before they go bad. To be fair, spoilage is classified as an expense, after all.
Now you know why some restaurant soups contain an odd motley of ingredients like chickpeas, corn, carrots, peas, celery, and shrimp heads.
4. Half-and-Half Pizza.
Oh, you can still order a pizza with two flavors from any fast food joint, but don’t pull this stunt if you’re eating at one of those fancy places that use wood-fired ovens to make pizza.
Here’s why: When pizzas are baked in such an oven, they tend to get moved around as they finish. This can cause the toppings to shift on the surface, thus resulting in a Frankenstein-like pie if you requested that the kitchen merge two flavors in one pizza.
Since these kinds of pizzas don’t come cheap, it would be a needless waste of money to risk ending up with something that you might not enjoy. Still undecided? Invite some friends to join you and order two small separate pizzas instead.
5. Discount Sushi.
I get the appeal of bread or pastries being sold at 20 or even 50% off after 6 pm, but “discount” and “sushi” are two words that should never be thrown together.
Guys, raw fish is perfectly safe to eat and actually quite delectable under the right circumstances. Sitting in a plastic container underneath a sad fluorescent light for the past eight hours isn’t one of them.
Do your stomach and your toilet a favor, and satisfy your sushi cravings at a proper Japanese restaurant.
6. Well-Done Steak.
Okay, we Filipinos are averse to eating meat that appears to be undercooked, but it’s a bigger sin to ask your waiter for a well-done steak.
There are other cuts of beef that were meant to be braised, fried, or boiled to oblivion, but steak cuts were designed to be treated more gently on the grill. Past medium well, it won’t matter if you ordered fancy Wagyu beef or run-of-the-mill grocery steak. The proteins break down and the fats dry out, leaving you with an AU$100 piece of dried-up chewing leather, basically.
So, get your money’s worth and order steak the way it was meant to be: medium rare, where the meat is moist, tender, and just a little pink in the center.
One last thing: as much as most eateries would like to cater to our every whim as diners, there’s a good reason why they have to turn down some special requests. A lot of thought and planning goes into designing a menu and certain modifications can really mess up the flow of the kitchen, potentially interfering with the other customers’ dining experience. Also, you’ll make an a$$ of yourself in front of your date if you order something like a vegan filet mignon at a steakhouse. Seriously
If you really want to remove or add all sorts of ingredients to a traditional recipe, you may want to consider doing so in your own personal kitchen instead.