Last week I was dining out with some co-workers and ordered the short ribs. I was last to order; the two before me both ordered fillets and had been asked how they would like them cooked. When she got to me she asked the same question. I was a little surprised and responded "braised" (I believe that this was also the full name on the menu -- "braised short ribs".) She paused and said "no, I mean do you want them rare, medium, or well-done?" I gave her my quick understanding of what I thought braised meant, and jokingly told her "I guess really well done." She looked concerned. This went on for about a minute before I got concerned myself that I would find myself with a plate of something totally unexpected, so I politely changed my order to the salmon.
So my question is this: Was I confused? Is there a beef short rib preparation that would require this question (assuming the menu didn't describe them as braised)? Or was it the waitress who needed a review session with the chef?
I would think any restaurant offering braised short ribs on its menu, would be presenting them as a sort of signature dish. Given that, I don't think you'd have to specify doneness.
I can't see preparing short ribs any way other than through slow cooking (long, slow dry heat -- i.e. BBQ or slow-roasting, or long slow wet heat -- i.e. braised). Therefore, there is really no way these could be anything other than very, very well done.
After being asked and then explaining that what I thought braised was, I would have ordered them rare stating 'I'd really like to see if you really can make rare braised short-ribs!'.
Re-reading your question, and assuming the waitress doesn't simply not know what braised means, is it possible she thought you were ordering a rib-steak not short-ribs?
In fact, BBQd short ribs are a staple food of carnivorous Rio de la Plata (i.e. Argentina & Uruguay) called "tira de asado". The braised variety is totally unknown in those latitudes. But given the fact that a) you were -I presume- in the US, and b) the menu clearly stated "braised", then only explanation here is the waitress was clueless.
So they would have had rare, medium, and well-done all prepared and on hand (given the long cooking time)? I bet the waitress was just clueless, and didn't want trouble with the kitchen.
They had short ribs on the specials menu last time we went to The Keg (lower end steak house chain) - almost two years ago - so I think they've gone beyond signature to bandwagon.
Hey everyone, thanks for the responses. Just to provide a bit of further detail, this was not a chain, but a rather well-reviewed formal restaurant in a hotel near the OC Convention Center in Orlando. I'd have to venture a guess that sous-vide is not in the kitchen's bag of tricks. I'm pretty sure the waitress was just used to asking that question whenever something involving beef is ordered -- the ribs were part of a special "anniversary" menu; she may have never seen them before. The food did turn out to be reasonably good. That being said, however, another waiter poured my wine into my empty water glass...
(Just an aside on the topic: The best short ribs I've ever had were at Mill's Tavern in Providence, RI. Perfect.)