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What one order will expose the expertise of the kitchen?

louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 12:19 PM

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. liza.calderon RE: louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 12:59 PM

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

    1. g
      gfr1111 RE: louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 01:03 PM

      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. r
        raleighboy RE: louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 01:09 PM

        Bobby Flay has potential chefs cook him an omelet.

        2 Replies
        1. re: raleighboy
          Soop RE: raleighboy Apr 13, 2010 04:49 AM

          so does Gordon Ramsey


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

          1. re: Soop
            AGM_Cape_Cod RE: Soop Apr 13, 2010 04:56 AM

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

        2. h
          Harters RE: louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 02:27 PM

          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. Phurstluv RE: louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 07:19 PM

            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. b
              bulavinaka RE: louuuuu Apr 12, 2010 10:51 PM

              +3 on the omelet.

              1. Soop RE: louuuuu Apr 13, 2010 04:51 AM

                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. bushwickgirl RE: louuuuu Apr 13, 2010 08:10 PM

                  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. re: bushwickgirl
                    bushwickgirl RE: bushwickgirl Apr 13, 2010 11:36 PM

                    That's "scrambled," like me.

                  2. j
                    j8715 RE: louuuuu Apr 14, 2010 05:43 AM

                    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
                      Soop RE: j8715 Apr 14, 2010 06:44 AM

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

                      1. re: Soop
                        gfr1111 RE: Soop Apr 14, 2010 02:09 PM

                        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
                          j8715 RE: gfr1111 Apr 14, 2010 03:18 PM

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

                    2. b
                      beevod RE: louuuuu Apr 14, 2010 06:56 AM

                      Meat loaf

                      1. b
                        Beckyleach RE: louuuuu Apr 14, 2010 07:25 AM

                        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. meatn3 RE: louuuuu Apr 14, 2010 08:22 AM

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

                          1. Karl S RE: louuuuu Apr 14, 2010 02:23 PM

                            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 brouillés - 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.

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