top pick

I have a super power.

Well, ok, it’s not really a super power. Maybe a skill/talent. Maybe just plain good luck. Maybe I’m just smart.

Let me explain:

Whenever I eat out – be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even the in-between meals, brunch and afternoon tea – I have an incredibly high success rate when it comes to picking delicious menu items.

Even going to pretty average sort of places, I will, quite consistently, pick out the good dish. Other people, who order different things, may have certain issues with their meal, but, more often than not, I am very pleased with my choice.

Of course, this could also be (partly) because I’m not overly critical or harsh when it comes to judging the work of others, but if something is bland or out of balance or poor value or whatever, I’ll know it’s not a great dish. It just doesn’t happen that often.

I’ll admit, though, there are some tricks to what I do. Some things you can’t go wrong with (at least, I’ve never gone wrong with). For example, if we were to go to a restaurant and there’s a dish with scallops or lamb or pork (particularly if it’s slow-cooked), chances are I’m going to order that dish. Also, if there’s something on the menu that’s a bit unusual, like offal or bone marrow or just some unusual combination of flavours, I’m more inclined to order that item.

Sure, I eat a wide variety of food (and I love food in general) so I’m more likely to enjoy a dish than someone who’s more picky, but I feel like there’s got to be some logic behind these fail-safes.

Well, it’s no surprise why scallops and lamb work: my favourite seafood and favourite protein. (Pork comes in a close second to lamb.) As for the second group (I’m only thinking of this now, so I could be wrong), I reckon if the chef is game enough to put something a bit unusual on the menu, they’ve got to be very confident in the quality of it because it’ll probably only be the dedicated/adventurous foodies who give it a go. And they’ll post all over social media if the dish is phenomenally good or phenomenally bad.

(The assumption here is that dedicated foodies will pick a strange dish over a more traditional flavour combination. More people, in general, may choose the standard dishes, but a lot of these people won’t care enough to spread the word about it. Or, if they do, it’s not as important/critical because they’re not proper reviews…?)

I also like picking dishes that sound like they have a decent amount of vegetables, particularly if it’s for dinner. Now, I don’t need it to obey healthy eating guidelines about plate portions or whatever, but I will tend to avoid choosing dishes dominated by meat and carbs. Nothing wrong with meat and carbs (of the right variety) but I like to be a bit health-conscious.

Strangely enough, I find that I make the worst menu choices when I choose a dish because it sounds like it would be the healthiest option (or the least unhealthy). Ok, yeah, the nutritional value of a dish should be an important consideration, but if I’m eating out, it’s not going to be the main determining factor for this very reason.

To be fair, there are a lot of healthy foods that are delicious. However, I’m mostly talking about typical restaurant menus here – places that don’t have a strong health focus, just a taste/trend focus. Also, I don’t eat out very often. After all, it tends to be the weeks when I’ve been eating out too much that I start leaning more and more toward the “healthy” options.