Restaurant menu

An Alphabetical Soup Guide to Confusing Restaurant Menu Terms


NEW YORK (AP) — Okonomiyaki, anyone?

A survey published for restaurant booking site OpenTable on Tuesday showed the style of savory Japanese pancake is the most confusing term among 2,035 diners, with one in five saying they won’t order something they don’t understand not on a menu.

Foodies, shut up. Many of the 10 most confusing terms you’re probably familiar with. For the rest of us, as American chefs have expanded their horizons, we offer gochujang, piri piri, yuzu, and bibimbap, after okonomiyaki in that order.

Nearly one in three diners in the Harris Poll conducted online for OpenTable said some menus are more confusing than they should be. More than half of those surveyed in March felt that ordering an unfamiliar item ruined their restaurant experience.

Okonomiyaki was a challenge for 69% of diners aged 18 and over, about half of whom said they ate out at least once a month. But there is rarely shame. The survey of diners across the country showed two-thirds aren’t bothered by their ignorance, saying they’re usually ok with asking a server for advice, said Caroline Potter, catering director ‘OpenTable.

The fact that some of the friction, ingredients and finished dishes are a problem shows how far many mainstream restaurants have come, she said. For example, the 2014 edition of “The Foodspotting Field Guide,” featuring 75 dishes chosen by a panel of recreational foodies, posed this question: “Have you ever heard of Okonomiyaki?”

Now, at least among those unfamiliar with classic Japanese cuisine, “it’s much more prevalent on American menus,” Potter said. “Interestingly, there’s still this confusion on the restaurant side, as chefs and restaurateurs have latched onto it.”

The menu problem does not mean that some components are not easily identifiable.

“While you might recognize, you know, carrots, you might not recognize when it says on a menu that they’re rubbed with harissa,” Potter said, noting this northeastern spice blend. African flavors made with chilli, cumin, garlic, coriander and olive oil. ranks 11th on the list of confusing menu terms.

In addition to traveling the world in search of inspiration or expanding their repertoires, the farm-to-table movement is causing chefs to reconsider heritage techniques that might not be widely known by name.

Ballotine, for example, is a piece of roasted, braised or poached meat, poultry or fish that has been boned, stuffed, rolled and tied or sewn. Think turducken. It’s a classic French way of cooking a chicken leg, meant to be reshaped to look like one, but the word was unfamiliar to 61% of diners surveyed, capturing 10th place on the list.

It’s clear, Potter said, that diners are trying to catch up with the chefs’ ambitions.

“Chefs are coming back, they are reaching every corner of the globe. When you talk to chefs, the way they spend their free time, they say I’m going to Thailand for two weeks and I’m going to eat on the streets and all these restaurants and come back with inspiration,” Potter says.

Potter thinks yuzu, which 64% of respondents found confusing on menus, is a good example of an ingredient beloved by American chefs.

Dallas restaurant Victor Tangos, for example, has used the known aromatic Asian citrus fruit primarily as a flavoring in everything from tempura-fried Brussels sprouts to an infusion for a cocktail made with gin, shiso (#8), cherry liqueur wild French, lemon, honey and orange blossom water.

“Restaurants make everything from brown butter with yuzu miso on their lobster to yuzu marmalade or yuzu vinaigrette,” Potter said.

Recently, at a restaurant in Manhattan, she came across a yuzu pound cake and yuzu jelly.

“That, in particular, is really sweeping the nation, and I have to admit, I was kind of, like, what exactly is yuzu?” she says.

There is, of course, a segment of diners seeking familiarity and comfort in restaurant food, Potter said.

“We know diners want to see more descriptors on menus, and they also like to see images. This plays on our food photography culture. Instagram is full of food photos. This desire is a byproduct of how our food culture has become visual,” Potter said.

So what is gochujang, the second most confusing term? It is a savory, spicy and tangy fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, sticky rice, fermented soybeans and salt. It was considered confusing by 67% of diners surveyed.

And piri piri n°3, which was misunderstood by 64%? It is a Portuguese term for hot peppers or a hot sauce made from them. Bibimbap No. 5 is a Korean dish of rice topped with stir-fried vegetables served with chili paste, beef, or other meat, sometimes with a raw or fried egg.

Gougère, a puff pastry flavored with cheese (usually Gruyere) and often stuffed with a savory filling, showed up at No. 6, followed by guanciale (a type of Italian salt pork made from pork cheeks). ; shiso, which is an Asian plant from the mint family used as a herb in cooking; and in brodo, a beef or vegetable broth often used on its own as a broth or as a base for sauces and stews.


OpenTable menu jargon decoder:

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