There are many ways to write a menu to describe the food to a hungry diner. From minimalist listings of ingredients to consummate detail to everything in between. Sometimes one can come away with an accurate portrait of what a particular dish will be like, while other times the description leaves a lot or all to the imagination. Depending on the kind of restaurant and the style of food, the style of describing a course means more or less to me. If I’m at a Modernist restaurant in which whimsy and surprise are potent elements of a chef’s alchemy, I don’t mind leaving a little mystery in the description, but when I’m dining at a more straightforward restaurant, I prefer the menu to be an accurate representation of the food.
The other night, I ordered a pizza at a local restaurant. The menu called the pizza a “Clam Pizza.” It also described other ingredients on the pizza including pancetta, garlic, chile, parsley and grana padano. Given the top billing and status as the title ingredient, I expected that the pizza would have featured clams front and center, but while there were clams on the pie, they were probably the only ingredient that I couldn’t actually taste. I’m not saying that the pizza was a bad pizza, that it was poorly conceived or poorly made. It wasn’t. IT was actually quite tasty. I wasn’t unhappy with it, but I’m not sure that it should be called a “Clam Pizza.” The pancetta was certainly the dominant protein source, at least flavor wise and between that, the chile, the garlic and the cheese, any semblance of clam taste was essentially eliminated or at best relegated to the background. The flavor of the pizza may have truly benefited from the clams, but at best they played a supporting role. For star billing, I expect a star performance.
Frankly, as long as the food is good, as the pizza was, I don’t really care too much, but I do hate it when an inaccurate description results in something that leaves me dissatisfied. While I’m not interested in naming restaurant names, I would love to read examples of good or bad menu descriptions from others.