By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
Menu Blues: A few weeks ago, I received a call from someone complaining about a dish he'd had at Citrus Cafe, a wonderful French restaurant out in the wilds of Chandler.
What was the problem? He didn't like his steak. This got me thinking about something I see plenty of: people ordering dishes that the chef probably has little interest in.
Citrus Cafe is run by a French couple. They don't have a printed menu; they prepare a daily list according to what's fresh and available. Over the years, I've enjoyed a variety of authentic French entrees there: rabbit, veal kidneys in Dijon sauce, leg of lamb, bouillabaisse, loin of pork, sweetbreads in puff pastry.
2330 N. Alma School Road
Chandler, AZ 85224-2489
Tell me, who would come to a homey French cafe for a slab of steak? It makes no sense.
I've got lots of similar examples. Check out the menu at Razz's. The small entree list includes creative efforts like black-bean paella (a South American bouillabaisse) and bah mie goreng (an Indonesian-themed noodle dish). Why, then, would you come here and order a grilled New York sirloin for $18.95?
Let's look at Ventura Grill (see Cafe review on page 79). You don't need a Phi Beta Kappa key to figure out that this place is a grill. Just about everything on the menu is grilled. A big sign over the kitchen says "Grill." Unlike Citrus Cafe or Razz's, this is exactly the kind of place I'd come to order a New York strip, grilled fish or grilled poultry. But would I come here for the steamed mussels, which appear to be a menu afterthought? No way.
Or look at Morton's, a high-end steak house which features prime cuts of beef. Along with steaks, it offers swordfish, shrimp and lemon-oregano chicken. My question is: Who in his right mind would come here for seafood or lemon-oregano chicken?
Lots of restaurants put stuff on the menu to lure the one member of a group who otherwise wouldn't be willing to come. That's why the Salt Cellar serves teriyaki chicken, why Cafe Terra Cotta has a vegetarian plate, and why Austins Steakhouse serves fried catfish fillets.
But common sense should tell you that these dishes aren't getting high priority in the kitchen. My advice: If you find yourself in a steak house, eat beef; in a seafood restaurant, eat fish; in a French restaurant, eat something that's spelled with an accent mark.
Safe Mex: What keeps people out of Mexican restaurants? Calories. In this health-obsessed age, many diners shrink before tacos, burros and enchiladas the way vampires shrink before a crucifix.
Blue Burrito Grille, though, has raised a following by offering lots of Heart Smart dishes--dishes that derive fewer than 30 percent of their calories from fat. I revisited the place recently and liked what I ate. The green corn tamales, machaca-chicken burros and blue corn enchiladas prove that there is life without lard. (However, I'm still not crazy about the fish tacos--there's barely enough fish in them to bait a hook.)
Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,