With restaurants sprouting up on every corner, it's getting harder and harder to choose where to dine.
And once you make it to the restaurant, the menu doesn't make things any easier. You’re faced with a multitude of appetizers, mains, and desserts to choose from.
Don’t fret. We asked some of Manila’s top chefs about what we should look out for on a menu. On the flipside, we asked them what kind of customer requests irk their kitchens. Some are surprising, and some are downright inconsiderate. Read on and remember, you’ve been warned.
1. DON’T ASK FOR HALF-AND-HALF PIZZA.
If you can’t decide on a pizza flavor, then get two of them, instead of having one split. Though some chains offer separate toppings, many authentic Italian restaurants prefer not to do so. Chef Karla Mendoza of Pizzeria Mozza Singapore explains: “Our pizzas don't really stay half and half because they constantly get moved around in the wood-burning over so the toppings shift all the time. That's why we don't allow it.”
2. SEAFOOD WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE SEAFOOD TASTE.
Pork tastes like pork, chicken tastes like chicken, and seafood should taste like seafood. One of the orders Chef Tina Legarda of Bamba Bistro cannot accept is when guests choose a seafood dish but ask that the “seafood” taste be removed. If you prefer not to have that fresh, fishy taste in your pasta, then go for a bolognese instead.
3. SOUP OF THE DAY OR SOUP OF THE WEEK
Here’s the deal with that special soup of the day: “It usually contains everything that needs to be sold before it goes bad,” shares Chef Tina Legarda. Ever wonder why some restaurants offer “carrot, corn, peas, celery, chickpeas, mussels, shrimp head” in one soup of the day? Now we know.
There are certain menu items that should be kept raw and are actually best consumed that way. They include fresh oysters on the shell, sashimi, or even an egg on some Asian dishes. Don’t be silly and ask for these items to be cooked. “We do a really nice steak tartare that’s beautifully prepared and seasoned really well. Then there was a time it got sent back to the kitchen to have it cooked,” shares Chef Cyrille Soenen, Resorts World Manila’s Director of Culinary Arts.
5. DO NOT
It’s affordable, easy to work with, and has a neutral flavor that can work for any recipe, but the use of creamy dory has been fraught with controversy. The way it is cultured, especially where it grows and what it’s fed, has always been in question. So Chef J Gamboa of Cirkulo suggests: “Avoid anything with the word dory in the menu, and opt for fresh local seafood instead.”
6. SALE CAN BE STALE.
Thought you scored a good buy with that cheese, bread, or seafood that’s priced at half its original? Think again. There’s a reason restaurants or even supermarkets want to get rid of certain items stat. Chef Sunshine Puey of Gourmandise warns: “Diners should never order sushi on sale because it means that it’s about to go bad and they are trying to get rid of it in a hurry.”
7. DON’T SWAP THE SIDES.
Side dishes are there for a reason. Chefs choose specific pairings because the sides can accentuate flavors, add heft, or provide texture to main dishes. So don’t just go asking for that risotto to be swapped for mashed potatoes because the flavors just might not match.
8. RESPECT AUTHENTICITY.
These days, many chefs prefer to champion authenticity rather than alter flavors and textures to cater to a particular palate. So it’s best to respect a menu item that represents the chef’s interpretation of an original. “Do not turn something into
9. THIS ISN’T YOUR PERSONAL KITCHEN.
As much as a restaurant would like to cater to a customer's every whim, special requests can totally ruin the flow of a kitchen. Be kind to the people who put time and effort into thinking of what goes on their menu. “We would appreciate it if they give a list of dietary restrictions or special wants ahead of time so the kitchen can prepare and let them know if it’s possible or not,” shares Chef Kalel Chan of The Raintree Group of Restaurants. Also, refrain from ordering a dish and adding many other ingredients to it, making it a whole new dish. This isn’t your personal kitchen.
10. WELL, WELL, NO.
Lastly, all chefs agree: Don’t order a well-done steak. “It just makes us sad,” shares Chef Tina Legarda.