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Test Dishes


gfweb
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I have several favorite dishes to test the mettle of an unfamiliar restaurant. If they screw them up they fail and see very little of me.

Delis- A corned beef reuben. Can't be soggy, kraut must be drained or preferably toasted a bit. Swiss should be applied to each slice of bread which has a nice crunch on it from pan/grddle toasting in butter. Beef should be thin enough to bite through.

Italian- Veal saltimbocca. Veal, prosciutto, sage with a white wine reduction. Cheese optional. Veal should be well pounded. Mustn't be swimming in sauce. Sauce is thickened by reduction and butter...no flour. No burning of the ham.

Chinese- General Tso. I know its not real Chinese food, but how they make it tells me if they care about what they put out. If its made with crummy scrap meat, or coated in gummy batter, or if the sauce has visible pools of oil, they fail.

Edited by gfweb (log)
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Interesting question. We have been to several new places recently to try them out. One thing I always judge is appetizers. I don't care if it is a Thai place or bistro, I like to see if they put care into the small plates. Not sure why I have that prejudice, but I just want to see if the premade (sometimes) or fried (often) things are treated with some respect.

For instance, Thai or Vietnamese. I want to try the spring roll and summer (basil roll). Those make it for me. Chinese or Japanese, I want to try your dumplings.

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For Mexican Restaurants: the refried beans and chips & salsa usually tell me all I need to know at any Mex place but at better ones I'd add the mole poblano.

Diners: Gotta do a good patty melt and have great milk shakes (or preferably, malts)

Italian: first the bread then the house salad dressing, then the osso bucco

Greek: Moussaka (and it better be made with lamb) and bakalava

French: Confit or Cassoulet

Spanish: Paella

The Big Cheese

BlackMesaRanch.com

My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"

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Egg cookery at any restaurant that claims to serve breakfast. Especially scrambled or poached eggs.

French fries at places known for their burgers. Always amazed when a restaurant will go to the point of grinding and blending the beef, baking its own buns, blending ketchup and then opens a bag of frozen shoestring fries.

The greens at a barbecue joint - and, though inedible, the woodpile out back.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Great point about the fries. Working at a Michelin starred place in San Francisco the lunch crew served a snake river farms kobe burger on fresh baked bun with plastic bag frozen fries (served in a tiny mauviel pot of course).

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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If it's a place with waitstaff, I always ask for their best dish. The one they're most confident in. Then if that's not delicious, I know there's not much point in eating around the menu. If it's a counter service sort of place, I eat what's on the sign. If that's not good, nothing else is going to be either.

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Doesn't Thomas Keller serve Sysco fries at Bouchon?

From Grub Street New York "Bouchon" uses frozen fries because:

The quality of the frozen fries we use, and that of frozen fries in general today, is very good. We use fries which are 100% potato, which do not contain additives. The consistency in these fries is often better than that of fresh potatoes.

and because

Bouchon would need to use over 200 pounds of potatoes a day to fulfill French Fry orders. In addition to space in the kitchen, it would require an exorbitant amount of manpower to process this large of an amount of potatoes into useable French Fries.

Unless, that is, they used McDonald's fresh fry cooking line - sink with peeler and cutter, fry basket holding rack, blanching fryer, fry basket holding rack, finish fryer - approximately 16 feet plus storeroom space to store and cure potates. A busy McDonald's went through a lot more than 200 lbs of potatoes in a day - one employee could handle it. Yes McD's switched to frozen, arguing labor cost and consistency. But McD's also stopped serving hamburgers fresh off the grill for the same reason.

There is no way frozen fries match fresh cut fries, properly fried as in pommes frites. Not Keller's finest moment.

Edited to add: Just checked. Bouchon charges $7 for reportedly frozen shoe string potatoes and calls them "pommes frites."

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Italian - antipasto salad and white clam sauce - lots of cutup clams, not too garlicky. I'm always concerned when something is too garlicky that they are overcompensating for lack of taste with the other ingredients.

French - salad lyonnaise: egg has to be adequately runny, lettuce can't be too wet, large lardons (but not too large)

Chinese - Mongolian beef: I'm not sure what I base it on...maybe the sauce and I only want green onions in it.

I like cows, too. I hold buns against them. -- Bucky Cat.

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I've found that a restaurant's treatment of something simple/cheap gives a pretty good sense of their overall attitude: If I order a cup of coffee, and some fries with gravy (stop laughing and rolling on the floor, already), or cassoulet (in a place that doesn't pretend it's something fancier than it actually is), and the waiter doesn't curl his or her lip, and the food is carefully prepared, I'll probaby be back.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I just have to say...a lot of times frozen fries are WAY better than fresh. I'm usually not any kind of advocate for frozen food, but honestly fries is the exception. I'll take a well prepared, well seasoned frozen fry over a limp, soggy, dull fresh fry anyday.

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Frozen fries are frequently screwed up too - typically too long under the heat lamp or over fried.

The limp, soggy fresh cut fries are typically single fried. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes not. Yes, twice fried fries take skill, commitment, proper training and attention to detail. But when they are good, they are great. And considering this thread's topic, test dishes, a properly fried fresh cut fry is a sure test of a restaurant's bona frieds fides.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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After the first low temperature oil blanch, freezing th fries and dropping them into the high heat oil gives that perfect crispy outside and fluffy inside. It's just that I question the quality of spud with mass produced ones. My favorite for fries is a Kennebec.

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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some fries with gravy (stop laughing and rolling on the floor, already),.

You Canadian?

No... is this a Canadian comfort food? Potatoes and gravy are two things I love, and when I was in my most broke student days, this was a still-affordable treat. :smile:

add cheese curds and its poutine

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Chinese: Kung Pao Chicken - Does it have a kick to it? Or is it wimpy? What does the wok hei taste like? Does the accompanying fried rice have peas and carrots in it :hmmm: (which means they're cutting corners in the kitchen)?

Mexican (sit down) - Do they even have mole on the menu? Do they make their own tortillas? How do they make something simple like their rice & beans? If they blow that, can you depend on them to make anything else decently?

Mexican (take out) - What? You're using ground beef in your tacos? Hell to the No! :angry:

 

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