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Cryptic Food Menus

I'm looking for examples of cryptic food menus. I mean those that describe dishes poetically, or just list the ingredients, or include only dish titles etc. Anything that makes a menu hard to decipher, for better or for worse.

I'd welcome any contributions: links to restaurant websites, images/photos of menus, reviews, personal anecdotes etc.

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      1. re: ferret

        squab inspired by miro
        scallops "acting like" something else….

        1. re: alkapal

          The scallop dish is pretty amazing.

      2. The same way I might have no idea what Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is, there are plenty of others who don't know the purpose of the three preceding adjectives of Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon, or what the contents of a Waldorf Salad are.

        Merely not knowing the language could make it a cryptic menu too, but that's also a horse of a different color.

        Then there's Engrish, but that's not an uncommon plot device on CH..."sauce sub-volume" anyone?


        12 Replies
        1. re: BuildingMyBento

          I agree, www.engrish.com is a treasure trove of mysterious menus.

          1. re: thingmaker

            I have previously mentioned dining in Beijing and looking at a menu featuring lurk.

            There is a vegan restaurant in San Francisco, Café Gratitude, where all the menu items were titled things like "I am Grateful".

            I think it's actually a chain of restaurants because they were in my local Whole Foods for a while.

            1. re: 512window

              There are several locations of cafe gratitude, but all on the west coast- here's the menu from LA, when ordering you seriously tell them you're ordering the "i am generous"......

              1. re: Ttrockwood

                Isn't there a vegan chain called Loving Hut started either in Vietnam or the RoK?

                1. re: BuildingMyBento

                  Yes there is, actually they have a location in nyc and another on long island. Not nearly as good as cafe gratitude and some pretty ordinary menu names...

              2. re: 512window

                "I am leaving." Gawd I despise that place. Everything about it. Take a WHOLE lot to make me say that, but if arson was illegal I'd burn 'em all down. Ugh.

                1. re: mamachef

                  How about "I am zonked out since I have imbibed the Kool-Aid and..."

            2. re: BuildingMyBento

              there is a thai place i frequent and one of their most popular dishes in the "evil jungle princess" - technically i still don't know what it is but it tastes like chicken, veggies and a spicy peanutty sauce.

              1. re: pie22

                keo's "evil jungle prince" ! http://thai.food.com/recipe/evil-jung.... IF you decide to make it, then be prepared for a big hit of searing pepper fumes to get caught in your throat as you start cooking the first aromatics in the hot oil. BUT it is worth it. we made the veggie version (see below at ***).

                (don't know about the "princess" LOL). i did find a recipe for "princess" but i believe it is a take-off on keo's creation. http://tollerfood.blogspot.com/2008/0...
                *** EDIT:
                from keo's cookbook:

                evil jungle prince with mixed vegetables

                ½ # mixed veggies, sliced into thin strips (pick as many as you like -- bell peppers, string beans, water chestnuts, tomatoes, bamboo shoots, miniature corn, asparagus, cucumbers, zucchini, mushrooms).
                6 small red chili peppers
                ½ stalk fresh lemon grass
                2 kaffir lime leaves
                2T oil
                ½ C coconut milk
                ¼ t salt
                10-15 sweet basil leaves
                1 C chopped cabbage

                grind the aromatics and then sauté in oil over med high heat for 3 minutes. (warning about fumes!).
                add the coconut milk, stir and cook 2 minutes
                add veggies and cook 5 minutes more
                drop heat to low, add basil and salt. serve on the chopped cabbage. (we also had rice).

                this dish is really delicious! -- esp. if you have some veggie cravings.

                1. re: alkapal

                  this is it!
                  i mixed it up between the chicken and tofu versions and it was delicious!
                  i am def making this - thanks!

                  1. re: pie22

                    have fun! it is really quite easy. we used a deep pot like you cook pasta in -- it helped contain some oil splatter from the initial hot frying.

                    before you start, be sure your vent is running.
                    as soon as you put in the aromatics, do a quickie stir to distribute them and immediately step away. do not stand over the pot (or put your face over it)!

                    those fumes will make you choke.

              2. Here's an entire menu of idiomatic dish names & descriptions that got translated literally by a computer program, with hilarious results.


                2 Replies
                1. re: eclecticsynergy

                  mmm i want me a big bowl of flavor pig livings bowel!

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Only with lots of ketchup, please !

                2. re: my post last night

                  I've put this link up before and one poster felt I was ridiculing whoever had the unenviable task of translating the menu into coherent English.

                  I do hope most folks will be able to appreciate the intrinsic humor in surreal dish names like "Carbon Burns Fresh Particularly Must" or "Big Bowl Immerse Miscellaneous Germ" or "Man Fruit Braise The North Almond" without reading any racism or insult into my posting the link.

                  There's a banquet of unintentional hilarity over there and some of the blogger's comments are pretty humorous too. Please accept the spirit of good-natured bemusement in which it was offered- nothing ugly was intended.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: eclecticsynergy

                    I will be laughing at F*ck the salt for weeks.

                  2. Atelier Crenn (2 Michelin-star in SF) is pretty good at cryptic + poetic:


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                      Oh, that kind of thing is so, so, so, not me.

                      All power to everyone who loves it but it's just a whole lot too precious for my taste!

                      1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                        very cryptic, because on the pdf age of the menu there is only the name and some graphic images!

                        1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                          why do I feel like I should be hunting for Easter basket between courses?

                          1. re: thegforceny

                            Shopsins menu, that's a WOW.

                            All I can say is "poor, no graphics."

                            They really need a good graphic designer and about four more empty pages.

                            1. re: Tripeler

                              i still want the famous duck gyro!

                              1. re: alkapal

                                I had a noodle bowl in the city which on the menu was purported to contain something called "hard head." I ordered it because the name fascinated me, and I figured it had to be tasty, because the waiter conveyed to me that it was one of their more popular dishes. Tasty it was, but "hard head" turned out to be a fish head; extremely bony and cartilaginous, hence the name.

                              2. re: Tripeler

                                Agree, but for mac/cheese pancakes and pumpkin pancakes, you can't do much better. :)

                              3. re: thegforceny

                                From what I could decipher (before I almost went blind from squinting) there's good stuff there! Well, other than the, what looks like, $17 soups? That better be some killer soup.

                                Holy toledo - are the rest of those prices normal for diner style food in NY?? Or is it a case of like Joe's Cable Car in SF where everyone knows it's crazy overpriced?

                              4. A bit to one side of your request, perhaps: but I notice that sometimes when I go to a fast food or other place where you stand at a counter to order, the layout of some wall menus is crazy. A chief offender around here, for me, is the burger chain Culver's. Part of the problem is that I seldom go there, so I need to remind myself what they offer. But there's little rhyme or reason to layout, color scheme, organization of types of foods. No "flow" that I can follow.


                                1. Here's one from a small plates place named Red Haven that opened up in the Lansing, MI area last year. http://eatredhaven.com/files/7213/798... The names of their items are single words like "Bake", "Pickle", "Mash", "Press", followed by a list of ingredients. They can't even be bothered to give the entire name of an item; brussels sprouts are simply "brussel", and yukon gold potato is "yukon". The Ravioli includes "capsicum" which could mean anything from green bell peppers to habeñeros, so it guess it's caveat diner.

                                  I find it a bit too precious.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                    I would really like to try them habeñeros, whatever that is.

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                      "I would really like to try them habeñeros, whatever that is."


                                      My own little hyperforeignism of a habanero. :-D

                                  2. not realllllllly cryptic but you are sort of at the mercy of your server or have a pretty good knowledge


                                    1. Years ago in NYC my husband and I liked to order an appetizer from a local Indian takeout place. I forget what it was called, but the description was "too complicated to explain, but delicious". It WAS delicious!

                                      1. Roy's Place had 200 sandwiches. You can't possibly read the entire menu, unless you want to kill some time between lunch and dinner.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: GraydonCarter

                                          Just checked a random page on that link- didn't need to know what "golden sauce" is! (it might be milk and velveeta)

                                          On an unrelated note, isn't there an ice cream place in Mérida, Venezuela with a massive menu? Yes, at least in 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes...
                                          Once hotels in Caracas average less than US$400 a night, I'd like to hit that place up too.


                                        2. When I ate at Compass in NYC a few years ago, the menu was divided into four sections: Fin Fish, Shell Fish, Flat Fish and Not Fish. There were four items in each category, two appetizers and two entrees.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: BobB

                                            At Le Bernardin in NYC the menu is split into Almost Raw, Barely Touched and Lightly Cooked sections, plus "Not Fish" or something like that.

                                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                              I had the pleasure of eating there once, not long ago. I also thought that was interesting.

                                              I looked in vain for a "The Bejabbers Cooked Out" section. So we had to make the best of things without that...

                                          2. Whatever about a menu, what about an entire restaurant? I went to a place recently (with a vegan friend) which was all about functional foods. Needless to say, I felt far away from my beloved steakhouse and understood little on the menu. I actually had to research to see what functional foods actually were:


                                            1. This is the most cryptic menu I have ever seen. It's from Allium in Ottawa.

                                              1. In Thailand, the pizza joint near me had decent pizza, and one item was Pizza SPICY (no description). I had no idea what to expect and it took me several weeks to work up the courage. It was delicious, just pepperoni and tiny red chili slices.

                                                1. Chinese menus that feature "XO Sauce," which has nothing to do with brandy and "lobster sauce," which describes a sauce which comes with lobster but has no lobster in it. The most common dish, I think, is "Shrimp with Lobster Sauce," which has nothing to do with lobster.

                                                  100 year old eggs, which obviously, are not. Duck sauce, which contains no duck.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: gfr1111

                                                    I once bought baby food that had no baby in it despite the picture of a baby on the label.