My husband has a great rule of thumb: When surveying the menu at an unfamiliar restaurant, ask yourself: “Do I believe this restaurant can really pull off this dish competently?”

Here’s the scenario. We are at a restaurant that, say, has TV screens playing sports, the kind men like to watch. The tables are bare. The napkins are rolled around the silverware and of an easy-care synthetic cloth. Somewhere on the menu is a “bacon ranch,” a “honey chipotle” or “chili-lime” something-or-other. America’s favorite flavor cliches reign supreme.

Which begs the question: Can the kitchen staff can actually pull off a perfectly cooked fillet of beef with a green peppercorn sauce?

At times like these, hubby’s philosophy is to get the hamburger. It’s safe.

The menu at Cinebistro Brookhaven, for example, comes to mind. It has a Korean cauliflower with a pineapple kimchi. It has a chicken with a spicy quince paste and guava sauce.

Kimchi? Guava sauce? Korean? Seriously?

On a recent visit, it seemed time for another burger. But both hubby and I would be rounder than we are now if we always went with the burger route. This time we had salads.

Hubby took the biggest risk by ordering the sesame seared tuna salad. This is not a restaurant at which the server asks how you’d like the tuna cooked. It came “perfectly adequate,” hubby says. High praise indeed.

I played it safer and ordered a kale salad with chicken breast. The salad came with almond slivers, dried cherries, sliced radish, pickled red onion and a kind of sweet pecorino vinaigrette. The chicken was obviously precooked and a bit dry. And pecorino vinaigrette? Huh? Wha? Where?

Maybe I should have ordered that hamburger.

The kale salad with grilled chicken at Cinebistro.
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