Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Speaking of Typos. . .

Hello, Feed Me/Drink Me Readers! How honored I am to be the first guest contributor to Indy's dishiest foodie blog. As you know, writing for a publication like Nuvo doesn't always allow me the space and leisure to write about more of the random observations I make as I head out every week to see what victuals this city has to offer. So this is my chance to give you a little insight into what it's like on my side of the plate. Check back later in the week for details about my night on the town with Kisha of Radio Now 93.1 as we undertake a gustatory odyssey to try as many of the restaurants participating in Devour Downtown Winterfest in one night as is humanly possible.

Until then, here's my latest beef. Or pork belly, er, pork chop as it were. Menu typos: why are there so many and why do we forgive them? Sure, you can laugh about the "Engrish" on the menu at your local Chinese takeout, but those folks have had to negotiate all of the intricacies of this all-too-permissive and hodgepodge language we speak here in the land of the free. But when it comes to a restaurant with $50 entrees and $100 bottles of wine, you'd expect that someone at the restaurant would know how to spell the things they're planning to serve you.

No menus in the city are more notorious for their sloppy, careless editing than those at the eateries inside the Conrad Hotel. You'd think that with such a reputation at stake that someone there would be using a spellchecker--or even a version of Microsoft Word that would correct their mistakes for them. The last time I checked, "crustinis" wasn't accepted by either Microsoft or the Oxford English Dictionary. Even Giada knows it's "crostini." The menus at the Conrad have become such a joke that I even know folks who have made a game out of finding the mistakes on the menu. A full two months after I ribbed them in a review about the replacement of "neige" (the French word for snow) with the curiously un-culinary (and much more equestrian sounding) English word "neigh," it's still unchanged on the menu. Accents on other French words and phrases are employed, it seems, merely by caprice, and capitalization is utterly random and without reason. Some entrée descpritions use commas and periods; others merely use hard returns to separate accompanying items.

What's worse is that what is spelled correctly isn't what will necessarily come out from the kitchen. On a recent visit, a waiter only somewhat sheepishly announced that the list of wines by the glass was "all messed up" because of a mandated inventory. He was happy to fetch us samples, however, of nameless zinfandels and merlots. The braised pork belly on macaroni and cheese (7 + 4 dollars) was, make no mistake, a rather dry pork chop on top of some gloppy, poorly integrated corkscrew pasta with a bland cheese sauce. When I last dined at Restaurant du Soleil, the much-lauded "pomme croquette" and "whipped cauliflower cream" to complete my quite juicy pork chop were mysteriously translated into cauliflower and broccoli with a cream sauce. Delivering the dish, the waiter scurried off in a flash so as to avoid any questioning. What sounded remarkable on the menu was much more pedestrian on the plate.

Again, the point must be made that these kinds of errors and subsitutions could easily be excused when the cost of the meal could fit into a Rachel Ray $40/day budget (with tax and "generous" tip). But when you're not likely to get out of a restaurant for less than $75, you deserve a little more care in all aspects of the dining experience, the least of which should be 5th grade spelling.

So, what restaurant has the best menu in Indy? Do you like any that whet your appetite, make you want to try everything, or just plain look nice? Put your gastronomic grammar hats on, Indy diners, and report back here with your findings!

Note: Having amassed many reader questions from columns as well as general comments, I'd like to take space to answer culinary questions from Feed Me/Drink Me readers as well. I'll be adding a regular question/answer feature (with Braingirl) and encourage you to ask away! Email me or post your questions in the comment section.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but what the hell is wrong with the Conrad. They should be ashamed of themselves for putting out such a third rate product. And they want a five star rating?! Sounds like Golden Corral has a better chance.

braingirl said...

You're so right. And notice how we haven't heard them touting the five-star thing in a while?

My vote for favorite menu is Neal's at L'Explorateur. Sometimes it's a little too cute and clever, but my favorite dish was his foie with a red wine sauce from the summer: Liver, Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti.