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What one order will expose the expertise of the kitchen?

I recently asked the owner of two of manhattan's best Italian restos what one item she would order from an italian restaurant that would immediately let her knowl her how good the kitchen was. Without hesitating, she said the carbonara

Next I asked a chef at Escoffier, the French resto at CIA, what one dish would tell him how good a French restaurant is. Surprisingly he said the omlette.

Your choice? From any cuisine.

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  1. When it comes to quality Mexican, it would have to be the tortillas.

    1. Italian: seafood risotto. This is a real tough dish to make well because getting the rice to be creamy but still have the texture of individual pieces of rice requires precision. Then throw in getting the seafood properly cooked (not overdone or underdone) and you have quite a challenge.

      1. Bobby Flay has potential chefs cook him an omelet.

        2 Replies
        1. re: raleighboy

          so does Gordon Ramsey

          *edit*

          Woops, no, Gordon Ramsey does scrabled eggs. Sorry.

          1. re: Soop

            I studied cooking with Madeline Kammen and on the first day you had to get up before the class and make an omelet.

        2. Albert Roux is supposed to have required anyone applying for a chef's job at La Gavroche to fry him an egg. He wanted to see how care was taken over something so simple.

          1. I believe it is usually the simplest of dishes that can foil the best of restaurant kitchens. Therefore my vote would go to a cheese souffle or a sole meuniere. Each involves classic french teachings of cooking with using minimal ingredients but unforgiving technique.

              1. For the same reason many others have stated, I'd go for a margarita pizza.

                I think it's seen as "the cheapskate option" so they just chuck it in there and don't give a ****.
                If they take as much care with that as they do with another order, I'd say you're in safe hands.

                1. Absolutely it's eggs, omelet or scrambed, poached or fried. Or a steak, cooked to the chef's requested degree of doneness.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Caesar Salad. If you get croutons out of a box and dressing that is closer to ranch.... you can count on everything else on the menu being prepackaged frozen portion controlled institutionalized food.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: j8715

                      god yes - and it's not like croutons are hard to make.

                      1. re: Soop

                        I heard this story a while ago. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the names. A well-known French chef derided American appreciation of food. When asked why he was so dismissive of American tastes, he replied,"Because you BUY your croutons."

                        1. re: gfr1111

                          I think I remember that from Alton Brown's TV show... and I think he makes a caesar salad.

                      1. For a "mom and pop" cafe or diner, alway check the soup. If they give a damn, the soup's where you'll see that care in action. Most likely, alas, these days, you'll get a nasty bowl of "base" or cornstarch, instead of real, made-from-scratch soup goodness.

                        1. Another item that shows the expertise and food quality is fish.

                          1. You want dishes that reveal command of technique *and* artful judgment. Eggs and fish are territory that quickly reveal lacunae. Also, the dishes should be ones where bold flavors are not available to mask those lacunae.

                            For example:

                            1. Real scrambled eggs (oeufs brouill├ęs - not the lazy American broken omelet that typically passes for scrambled eggs). Omelets are kid's stuff.
                            2. Lean white fish (cod or haddock), prepared simply
                            3. Spaghetti carbonara
                            4. String beans
                            5. A variety of simple soups made from kitchen scraps (thrift is a fundamental kitchen technique - remember Jacques Pepin using his finger to get out all of the egg from the shell, and rebuking Julia Child's objection?)
                            6. A green salad, made entirely of one type of green, dressed only with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.