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Nov 15, 2007 11:03 AM

Carpaccio....... NOT! (slightly oversized rant)

My man and I gave the one local Italian resto its 3rd and probably last chance yesterday (on previous visits their pasta dishes simply didn't deliver = huge portions with forgettable sauces, while their appetizers are fairly reliable -- so we decided this time to go the antipasti & secondi route).

The place advertises itself as "Simple. Authentic. Seasonal." No problem with the 'simple'. 'Seasonal' apparently means changing a couple items on the menu twice a year, but in Central PA with no competition, that seems sufficient.

What really bugs me is the 'authentic' part: I ordered the beef carpaccio as my starter, described in the menu -- quite correctly -- as 'thin raw beef slices with cipriani sauce, parmesan,' etc. etc.

The dish arrives, and it is... very thinly sliced roast beef. When the waitress came by to ask how we liked our appetizers, I told her just fine, but this was not beef carpaccio. Beef carpaccio is RAW, not rare. She apologized profusely and said she'd ask the chef about it. She returned to inform us that "since many customers felt uncomfortable with the idea of eating raw beef, the chef had decided to slightly sear the beef before serving."

Here is My Beef ;-P with that, or rather: where I would like youz houndz's input.

1. Was the chef right in caving in to some customers' requests in cooking a dish that, by definition, is meant to be consumed raw? I am saying 'by definition', being quite aware that carpaccio doesn't necessarily have to be beef; any sort of fish, or even thin sliced mushrooms/vegetables can be called a carpaccio, BUT it is almost always (99.9%?) served raw.

So, if a customer isn't _comfortable_ eating raw meat, how about ordering another item from the 8-10 item appetizer menu instead?

2. Should the dish even be called carpaccio? I suppose the least they should change is the word 'raw' in the menu -- when it is in fact served rare.

Sorry. That was long. So what think you, my critical DCs?

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  1. "a carpaccio... is almost always (99.9%?) served raw."

    What's that fourth word there? Did you say it was served raw 100% of the time?

    Seems you answered your own question.

    Since you "liked it just fine" I assume to did not ask the chef to replace your dish with what you condsidered to be carpaccio?

    That was Carpaccio - thinly sliced raw beef, accent on "was"

    Today carpaccio in common usage refers to the fact that the flesh (or fruits or vegetables) is thinly sliced. As you note yourself, it does not always mean raw, although traditionally it did (it also traditionally referred only to beef).

    That's tradition for you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FrankJBN

      That still doesn't make it alright to advertise it as "raw", when it isn't served raw.

    2. The point is that carpaccio is defined (described) as raw ON THE MENU, so custom and common usage elsewhere are immaterial. If the menu says raw, it should be raw, and yes, the chef was wrong to deviate from the menu. Whether it should be called carpaccio or not, well, that's not for me to say...I'm still trying to get used to how many people call all Japanese food "sushi".

      1 Reply
      1. re: ricepad

        Agreed. Regardless of the correct definition of carpaccio, if the menu says raw beef, I would expect raw beef. Not seared. I also wouldn't expect people to order carpaccio and be upset when they get a raw piece of beef on a plate. Maybe next time I order steak tartare i'll send it back for being too rare.

      2. I agree that there are two separate issues: should it have been called carpaccio, and should it have been described as raw when it isn't.

        IMO, no for both. Carpaccio is by definition raw, so if it's not served raw, it's not carpaccio. Just like a ceviche isn't the same as marinated cooked seafood, and risotto isn't a pilaf.

        Just to be clear: it's because the rawness defines the dish that it's so important. To reuse the risotto idea, it can still somewhat be a risotto if you cook, say, barley using the same method and get the same texture. But if you use long-grain rice, you lose the trademark creaminess.

        So they should have called it "thinly sliced beef."

        1. "rare" is when a piece of meat/fish has reached an internal temperature of about 115-120 depending on what you allow for carry-over cooking. a piece of meat can be seared and would never reach "rare" assuming the chef is using a large enough cut to make it worth his time to cut so thinly. next, i would like to point out there are flavors in items that will not be noticeable unless heat is applied. thank God for maillard reaction. i'm with the chef on this one!

          2 Replies
          1. re: SiksElement

            I think if the chef had used that as his reasoning, as well as not called it "raw" (which is not "rare") on the menu the OP wouldn't have had an issue. It's the mis-labeling and the aiming for the less adventurous palate that is annoying. If the menu description read "Chef X's interpretation of traditional carpaccio, seared slightly to bring out the flavors" then there would be no issue.

            1. re: SiksElement

              Sorry, I don't buy that. It's not whether the beef was rare or not, it's whether it's RAW or not. If you sear something - ANYTHING - it is no longer raw, and it should not be described on the menu as raw. The chef was wrong to cook something that was described as raw.