Is there any best, safest way to navigate a menu?

Scratch off the appetizers and entrees that are most like dishes you’ve seen in many other restaurants, because they represent this one at its most dutiful, conservative and profit-minded. The chef’s heart isn’t in them.

Scratch off the dishes that look the most aggressively fanciful. The chef’s vanity — possibly too much of it — spawned these.

Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil.

Choose among the remaining dishes.

The swan song of a New York Times restaurant critic.

2 thoughts on “Is there any best, safest way to navigate a menu?

  1. The second of these is dangerous – imagine eating at the Fat Duck or El Bulli (which is all most of us can do!). Wouldn’t that eliminate the whole menu?

    My own rules of thumb are:
    1) In a nice place, trust the chef and order whatever sounds good to you. Don’t worry about how difficult it is to execute well. Perhaps a high risk-strategy, but payoffs are high, too.
    2) If you’re concerned about the quality of the place, play the odds, order something simple or that they’re likely to do well. I’ve always been amazed at people going to a, say, seafood place, and ordering steaks.
    3) When eating street food, try everything! In Vietnam, I lost count of the number of lovely meals I ordered with only enough vietnamese to understand the central ingredient.

  2. The strategy assumes that the food is what makes the restaurant great. I’d argue the experience – ambiance, service, etc – is far more important. I had the opportunity to eat at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in London and I can very much remember the atmosphere of the place. I couldn’t accurately describe to you, however, how the food and the wine tasted – other than that they were very good. If I went in there with an attempt to maximize the taste of the food (or minimize the cost), I’m sure I would not have enjoyed it as much… even if I had ended up with better food.