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Menu Atrocities


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one of the most ridiculous I've seen:

Freshly Harpooned Sashimi Quality Bluefin & Hamachi Tuna at a NY restaurant

Not as funny as you might think. When I was attending an Ongoing Maritime Education class in New Bedford, Mass a couple years ago, (I think it was for my STCW cert), I had a couple classmates who'd worked on swordfish boats; apparently bluefin, like swordfish, bask on the surface with enough regularity that hunting and killing them with harpoon is nor nearly as rare an activity as you might think. Every possibility that that tuna had been killed with Ye Olde Harpoone. Crossing over the Acushnet river bridge every morning, I several times saw boats with bow pulpits so elongated that they were stowed folded up over the flying bridge. That would be, I guess, where the harpooner stands in the final moments of the hunt. "Swordfish pulpit" returns some 13,000 responses on everybody's go-to search engine.

nothing against harpooned - it's the "freshly harpooned" bit that i consider ridiculous. harpooned to order? out in the back? in the middle of Tribeca?

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

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One of my personal faves is a place that offered "vegetarian chile con carne."

This reminds me of a college housemate who was in the kitchen one day, cooking up a storm, when I walked in. I asked her what she was cooking; 'Arroz con pollo,' was the reply. There was a slight pause, and then she continued, 'Without the chicken'. :blink:

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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A great but basic Chinese restaurant at home has several "guts" dishes that we haven't quite got around to trying...Fried Guts with Special Sauce, Steamed Guts with Mushroom....  :blink:

Is "guts" a really bad name to substitute for "intestines"?

Michael aka "Pan"


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I once ate at a Turkish restaurant where you could order the grilled monkfish kabobs with "masculine" salad. My guess is that they misspelled mesclun, as nothing in the salad really stood up. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one. :biggrin: ) Perhaps with a nice anabolic steroid vinaigrette, a "masculine" salad might actually work.

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A great but basic Chinese restaurant at home has several "guts" dishes that we haven't quite got around to trying...Fried Guts with Special Sauce, Steamed Guts with Mushroom....   :blink:

Is "guts" a really bad name to substitute for "intestines"?

Really bad, no, but it wouldn't be my first choice. I'm all for people actually knowing and accepting what they are eating, but in my book "guts" has some very definite collocations that I would stay away from on a menu - "steaming guts", "gut trouble", "his guts came spilling out".... :unsure:

At the very least "intestines" is neutral and straightforward. Granted though, if English isn't your first language you might not immediately recognise the difference between the two.

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I don't really resent the ridiculous English that I see on many restaurant menus, especially those mistakes made by non-native speakers. I also find a similar variety of errors in 'English' language websites, brochures, etc., for hotels and restaurants in France, Italy, etc... one can hardly expect everyone to speak my language perfectly.

But I've often wondered whether I could get a few free meals (etc.) by offering to correct the menus or brochures for foreign, or foreign-language speaking, restaurant and hotel proprietors. Do you think a restaurant, especially a mid-high end place, would simply resent the suggestion that the language on their menu/brochure makes them look a little goofy?

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My memory swings back years ago, to Berkeley, to a "Happy Fungus Soup."

When I asked the waitress what this was, she said "fungus...it's good for you." I finally got it that this was a hot-sour soup with sliced mushroom...

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)



Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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In China at an unremarkable tourist restaurant en route to the Great Wall, we noticed an item translated as "strange taste nuts" on the English+Chinese menu.

I do believe the Chinese text indicated peanuts, but I read only a little bit of Japanese and it only gets me so far in China.

Our colleague had been fed chicken testicles at another restaurant in China, and refused to entertain the idea of ordering nuts of any kind, especially if a strange taste was their selling point.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Maybe this isn’t quite the same, but here goes.

Whenever we used to order carry out food at our local Chinese restaurant, we could never get recognition that we don’t like egg in the egg fried rice. The solution – order of ‘egg fried rice – no egg’! Worked every time.

And it’s not just ethnic restaurants. Ordering fish without chips (fries), only works when the order is ‘fish and chips, no chips’. Then we always have to confirm at least three times that we don’t want fries.

I imagine, when everyone orders the same thing a hundred times a day, the wait staff are in automaton mode (but then, tips used to be paid before, not after, a service is provided).

On menu terms, the precision of the English language often trips up menu writers, especially if the style is to use no punctuation:

Egg fried rice (can eggs cook?)

Fried cod balls (Chinese restaurant)

Chicken with lemon, saffron rice, vegetables balls (airline menu)

Half fanned ripe avocado (was it hot and exhausted?)

Organic, matured, grass-fed rump (far too graphic for my sense of humour)

Puke warm cocoons, simmered chives, calf knobs in cream (we didn’t try this one)

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Shrimp - Scampi == with Scampi being (Italian for shrimp)

So Shrimp-Shrimp!!

I may have posted this in one of the related threads

but Chai Tea is the same way.

(Chai just means tea! If someone means

Masala Chai aka Spice Tea, then just say so!)


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The cold apps menu at the place where I'm going to get married offers something called "tomato confit bruschetta."

This is just wrong in so many ways. First of all, how the hell can you confit something which has no fat of its own?

Then, why would you have a French word, followed by an Italian word? The menu also offers cold-app stuff on "croutons," so why not put the French-named thing on another French-named thing?

Or else call the "tomato confit" something Italian?


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The book Crazy Quilt by John Train has a whole chapter of butchered menu translations. Most are English menus in foreign countries. The one that stuck in my mind was "Lao Sauce Water Cockroach." Mmmmm mmmm!


I'll post some more when I find my copy.

I've also noticed some unfortunate items on local chinese menus, with Strange Flavor Chicken always topping the list. I wonder how much of that they sell?

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are a few that I've come across in Greece and Turkey:

Peppers stuffed with oil

Grun beans

Horse bean smash

Roll with sesame semen

Chicken in pyrex

Unadorned spaghetti

Bowels in spit

Blundy Mary

Soda divers

Folded sweat pastry

Burnt pudding with thoraxic of hen

Chicken translation

I've heard several waitresses say "The soup du jour for today is...."

Edited by sazji (log)

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Some more from the John Train book:

Chicken Bowels

Swerds Cherde with Anals

Dreaded Veal Cutlet

Limpid red beet with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger

Roasted Duck let loose

Half cooking moose meat

Baked scaly ant eater

Lao sauce water cockroach

Water pies

Beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion

Notes from the underbelly

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I find the constant use of the phrase "pan fried" very irritating. As opposed to what ? Sink fried ? Microwave fried ? Why not just used the adjective "fried" and be done with it ?

Similarly the concept of "nestling on a bed of".....


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at an outdoor seafood restaurant in bangkok where each server had a tiny whip to use on stray cats who strolled into the dining area, one menu item read "spicy cat salad". after discussing this we discovered that one of the menus had "fish" handwritten after the cat and it was indeed a "spicy catFISH salad"; there were at least 3 or 4 stray cats in the restaurant area during our entire dinner........

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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Chau Doc, Vietnam: "Little or not water frog with rice"

You may get a little water frog, you may not. You'll get rice, though.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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The menu listed "diver fresh" shrimp, mussels and clams on its menu. Mildly amusing if in error, perhaps an error of ignorance, but just as likely intentionally misleading.

What examples of silly, obtuse, inflated, misleading or just plain wrong menu descriptions have you chortled or chuckled (but hopefully not choked) over lately?

Very intersting topic Bob.

Besides menu language, there are also lots of technical misuse of terminology and creative license.

As food and cooking technique has evolved over the years, things have become murky.

Diver Scallops.

At some point, people indeed dived or dove for scallops.

In fact I remember the famous line from Marco Pierre White's book "White Heat"


Redundancies have always been used to try to explain to culinary neophytes depending on how egregious the redundancy.

"Penne Pasta"

"Shiitake Mushroom"

"Ahi Tuna"

"Basil Pesto"


Embellisment is generally characterized into 3 categories.

Simple embellishment , compound embellishment and disingenous BS.

Simple embellishers name every farm that grows the produce.

Example: Satur Farms Beets, white miso vinaigrette.

Most likely locale : New york city.

Compound embellishers add the people who raise the animals to the people who grow the produce to the degree that menu items start to be as long as Alexis de Tocquevile books.

Example: Snake River Farms flatiron steak with Anson Mills Polenta and creamed sonoma spinach.

Most Likely locale: You guessed it ....california between LA and sanfran.

Disingenous BS.

This is when the grower either unilaterally or in cahoots with a restaurant decides to add a superflous qualifier to produce that has already suffered from simple embellishment.

Example: Blue moon acres "Mezza" arugula.

Oh pardon me there is a huge difference between micro arugula and fully grown arugula but "Mezza" greens ???

What's next "Alto" tomatoes is early spring ?

Most likely locale : Somewhere in the AOL time warner center.

Next Topic :

Useless and gratuitous use of parentheses that allows you to charge more either by suggesting some special element or changing the language of basic foods from english to french.

Examples: and these are actual PerSe menu items from a recent deeeelicious dinner

Mascarpone enriched anson mills white polenta

Black winter truffles, "Parmigiano Reggiano"

and "just de Poule"

$30 supplement......over the 250 quid you are already paying.

As far as we know the "Parmigiano" was just "Parmigiano"

Basically a $30 bowl of polenta.

In all fairness they were quite generous with the truffles.

jus de poule was just brown chicken jus...

Was it tasty......absolutely............but still a touch shady.

Also noted on the same menu, all the following were parenthesized and they all turned out to be exactly what they were.

To clarify, I mean overuse of quotation marks for things that are exactly what they are, seriously what is the freaking point ?

lobster "Mitts" is a cheap ass lame way to sell leftover lobster claws.



"Foie Gras"




Most Likely locale : Perse, French laundry.

NEXT !!!

Creative misuse....

Tomato Confit

Cilantro Pesto

Squash Bisque


Textural or viscosity failures





TO ADD......

Simple bad spellling that means something else

"Loup de Mer" in a fennel Fume

as opposed to

"Loup de Mer" in a fennel "FUMET".......gee whiz....It's broth not smoke......damnit.

more later when I get bored....


Edited by Vadouvan (log)
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