Bengaluru’s addiction to dining out knows no bounds. Zomato lists over 9300 restaurants in our city, and this number is growing with an explosion of new openings every day. It probably makes it difficult for the discovery portals and food bloggers to keep track of what’s new on every street, it does impose a lot of stress and confusion on namma janaru in deciding where to go for a good bite with a never-ending list of options. Speaking of options, as if we didn’t have enough trouble in deciding where and what time, now we are hassled with what to eat with intimidating menus.
In an effort to thrive in the competition, restaurants are getting more and more creative with their concepts, décor, and menus, with a long list of offerings and even weird names for drinks and dishes. If I didn’t take long to order before, I certainly do now, as it takes time for me to process all the information sensory and intellectual to make a decision. Who knew an evening out to relax would turn out to be so strenuous?
Most of the time that I’ve been at a restaurant, my tummy’s growled like a wolf, conversations flew across the dinner table oblivious to my hunger, and the steward has ignored our table obviously thinking we are not ready to order. As for the menu, quite frankly, I have always been perplexed. Do I want to eat healthy today or should I just indulge? Which of this fits into my comfort food category? I don’t know if I can afford it, so salad it is. What if I covet the food they are eating at the next table and I don’t like mine at all? Maybe I should have just cooked for myself at home instead of fussing over all this. The worst part of all this is, most of the time, after going through this entire process we end up ordering what we think is cool or popular instead of something we like, just so we are socially acceptable. Well, here’s how to overcome all that and have a lovely meal regardless of where you are, who you are with, and what’s on the menu.
- Forget about the pressure
Some things are personal. You don’t need anyone’s approval to order a dish you like. If you are craving for something totally unhealthy, go for it. If something appeals to you from the children’s menu, even if it is a Happy Meal, don’t hold back. In case you do not understand the language and want clarification, feel free to ask your host before ordering. This way you don’t have to smile, dine and come back home to raid the refrigerator. Trust me, you’ll inspire others to follow the lead. If not, you’ll be in food heaven so who cares!
- Stall with a drink
Take your time by first choosing a drink. Make up your mind whether you want a cocktail or a mocktail. If it’s alcohol that you prefer, then you must have an affinity towards a certain type. Let’s say you love Whisky. Do you like sweet, sour or spicy drinks? Look under drinks that have Whisky in them with your preference of flavor, and choose accordingly. Follow the same using flavor profile for mocktails minus the alcohol.
- Stay safe with a meal
Most restaurants offer set-menu options that include combinations of starters, mains, and desserts. It reduces the trouble of making decisions multiple times and offers you a reasonable number of options that don’t seem like a burden to pick from. After all, sometimes you are there for a soup, steak, and a brownie, and you don’t even know it until you see it. Moreover, why not opt for a meal when it is more affordable than ordering a la carte?
- When the classics jump out at you
If the menu appears like graffiti and you don’t know what it’s trying to convey, quickly try to scan and look for the classic dishes. Bacon & eggs, any kind of chicken or fish, steaks, rice, pizza, pasta, sandwiches and burgers are bound to be there. At a fancy restaurant, talk to the waiter, ask them if they have Seared Fish and order up. The more artistic they try to get with their menu, you know they try to dress up regular dishes and pass them off as sophisticated and completely alien.
- When nothing is familiar
This rarely ever happens, but there are restaurants that do not serve up any classic dish. It is more likely to happen if you are dining on an Asian cuisine meal like Vietnamese or Thai or Korean. Here watch out for the descriptions. They are quite detailed just so you don’t eat something you are allergic to. Make sure you like the sound of the flavor combinations as they trigger the sense of smell too. Order dishes that sound good to you and make you feel comfortable.
- Fancy language doesn’t mean fancy dish
Have you ever heard of Mulligatawny soup? Wondered what was so fancy about it? For those who know Tamil, it is actually Mozhaga Thanni translating into Pepper Water, which is actually Pepper Rasam. So, my dear friends, there is no need to be intimidated by language regardless of which restaurant you are at. If you do not understand the name of the dish, and even the description is not clear, then the restaurant has failed you. Again, ask the waiter to help you understand what’s in the dish or pick out a dish that has a core ingredient you like, and all will be well.
- Really, what is Chef’s Special?
I am always curious about the Chef’s Special. It often turns out to be something experimental and expensive. It is certainly a marketing gimmick, and it is a good experience. If you are adventurous enough, I’d suggest you pick the Chef’s Special each time and skip worrying about what’s in the dish.
This is a trick that is somehow practically true. Order a dish only when you can pronounce it right. You will have a great experience. Also, it’s just food. Go with your gut, it knows best.