The menu is one of the most important selling tools of a restaurant, yet in many instances they fail to reflect quality, quantity and origin of ingredients. In some cases, what the menu promises is never delivered. Instead, a poor substitute is the replacement. Surprisingly most diners either refrain from complaining, or are simply ignorant of quality and the importance of food origin or source.
This writer has seen menus that claimed to feature foods from a famous region, but delivered something completely different.
Deceiving menus disappoint, and ultimately lead to loss of business and confidence.
Truth in menu is an important issue in North America and elsewhere in the world, and every caring restaurateur must address it with due care and concern. The dining out public today, at least in large cities, is much better informed about food provenance and quality than even a decade ago. They can distinguish between fresh and frozen salmon, or farm-raised and wild. Most diners know how saffron must taste as opposed to turmeric, and practically all will be able to distinguish between Caspian caviar and coloured lumpfish roe; at least those who can afford such delicacies.
A well-composed menu is to the point, easy to read, and logically organized. Everything listed corresponds to claims made, and all relevant details are stated, i.e local taxes, and gratuities (if included in the price, or applicable for groups of six or more as is the case in some restaurants).
There is no nor are there controls to enforce false claims. Fraudulent restaurateurs ignore guidelines and recommendations.
In France, a country where people “live to eat”, there exist severe penalties for restaurateurs advertising one thing and delivering something else.
Inspectors ensure that menu claims are kept. When a menu advertises chicken from Bresse and an inspector walks in unannounced, the invoice and chicken presented must correspond to the claim of the menu.
In Canada, CRFA (Canadian Restaurant and Food Association) or the federal government could set rules and regulations and enforce them, but nothing of the sort is planned.
Portion sizes are often overstated. A 12 oz. steak advertised may weigh R.T.C. (Ready to cook) 11 oz., and sometimes even less.
Black Angus steak means that it must be from that specie, and wagyu-style beef must be raised in the style of Kobe, in Japan.
A bowl of soup means more than a standard (8 oz) cup, and roasted potatoes on a plate must consist of more than two small pieces of the tuber.
Soft drinks are another category widely open to fraud. No-name cola is just that and must not be being advertised as a branded product. Large means nothing to the consumer. It may be 8oz or 10oz or more.
Portion sizes must be specified. This holds true for wine by the glass, or draught by mug. What does a glass of wine mean? Four, six or eight ounces?
If the menu states: “We serve the best cream of fiddle head soup in town” it is understood that it is boasting for the sake of advertising, but a true restaurateur prefers compliments to come from guests.
If the menu says “fresh daily” the item must be prepared every day and not days in advance.
Visual presentation on menus, displays, and advertising must correspond to actual portions. There are semi-fast-food seafood chains that advertise on TV much larger, and attractively plated dishes, and deliver significantly less in their stores.
In Japan, many restaurants, particularly those catering to tourists and gaijins (foreigners living in Japan), display replicas of dishes made of plastic. Every dish is an exact “duplicate” of the display. You literally get what you see and pay the price advertised.
Servers must be able to categorically state all ingredients of a dish when asked. People with food allergies depend on such information.
Foreign specialties are often misrepresented. Coq au Chambertin means a cockerel cooked in Chambertin wine, and Tournedos Rossini must contain a slice of fattened goose liver pate (pate de foie gras) topped with a slice of truffle.
Vintages on the wine list must correspond to those in inventory.
The restaurant business is a detailed business and those who follow all the rules and deliver an honest, well-prepared, and presented food in a reasonable time and with aplomb will reap benefits all the time.
Here is a list of original and unacceptable substitutes: (Substitutes in brackets)
Maple syrup (maple-flavoured syrup); boiled ham (baked ham); veal cutlet
(chopped and shaped veal patties); ice cream (iced milk); fresh eggs (powdered eggs); ham (picnic-style pork shoulder); milk (skim milk); whipped cream (whip topping); olive oil (vegetable oil); chicken (turkey); Black Angus beef (other strains of beef); corn oil (peanut oil); calves’ liver (beef liver); cream (half and half); butter (margarine); ground sirloin of beef ( ground beef); capon (chicken); haddock (cod); egg noodles (noodles); sole (flounder); Atlantic sole (Pacific sole); cheese (processed cheese); Roquefort cheese (blue cheese); mayonnaise (salad dressing).
Point of origin claims versus unspecified:
Scottish salmon; Atlantic salmon; Bras d’or oysters; Arcachon oysters; Idaho potatoes; Bay scallops; Gulf shrimp; Smithfield ham; Limerick ham; Alaskan king crab; Long Island duck; Florida stone crabs; French white asparagus.
Time and quality statement that must be true:
Fresh daily; fresh roasted; flown in daily; kosher meat; dry aged steak; corn fed chicken; center cut ham; low calorie; center cut tenderloin; strip loin of beef; butter sauce; flamed with cognac, flamed with Grand Marnier liqueur.
Method of preparation:
Charcoal broiled; sautéed, baked; roasted; broiled; gratineed; fried in butter; deep fried; barbequed; smoked; poached; from scratch.
Visual presentation versus pictures:
The use of mushroom pieces in a sauce when the picture depicts mushroom caps
Slices of strawberries on a shortcake when the picture shows whole strawberries
Numerous thin slices of meat when the picture displays a single thick slice
The use of five shrimps when the picture shows six
The omission of vegetables when the picture includes them
The use of plain bun when the picture shows sesame topped bun
Wiener schnitzel – this dish is supposed to be thinly pounded milk fed veal cutlet, breaded and fried in very hot pork- and veal fat. Frequently, pork loin or pork tenderloin is used. This is fraud.
Coq au vin Chambertin (see above)
Tournedos Rossini (see above)
Lobster tails must be from lobsters and not from spiny lobsters or crayfish
Scampis are a specific crustacean and not large shrimp
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.