I have replied to a few posts, but never started one, so first let me take this opportunity to say thank you to the folks who post on chowhound. It is both fun and educational to learn so much about new places (Sambamaster's sharing of Asia Cafe alone is worth all the time I've spent on Chowhounds) and to see how peoples' preferences converge and diverge from my own. So, a big thank you to to each of you.
Now my question, which came up at lunch and made me curious, do you have any standard meal(s) you use to judge a type of cuisine? Is there any such thing as an accepted benchmark for a type of food?
For me, I could only come up with one - for Vietnamese I always "test" the restaurant with an order of bun with charbroiled pork. As this is Austin, I'm most interested in what, if any, benchmark meals people use to judge Austin style Mexican/Tex-Mex.
Your Vietnamese benchmark meal is my order of choice, too. ;)
The benchmark meal at a Tex-Mex joint for me is cheese enchiladas with chili gravy. If a Tex-Mex joint can't do that dish right, then I'm completely skeptical about their ability to put out anything else that's decent. Queso's another test. If it's made with cheese whiz, then it's time to flee.
Hot and Sour soup is my test for good chinese. Oddly enough, my favorite, Din Ho, has my least favorite H&S soup...so much for my benchmark.