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detlef

I always fear asking this sort of thing...

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OK, so for some of our vegetarian dishes at Jujube, we use a soy/TVP product that is, well, like chicken. We've always called it soy "chicken" on the menu, hoping the quotes around chicken would imply that it is not actually chicken. The primary problem is that, since we're an Asian restaurant, the thought that it could simply be chicken seasoned with soy sauce is a logical enough conclusion and, thus, cause for confusion.

 

At Dos Perros, we use the same product and just refer to it as "soy". Mind you, since that's a Mexican restaurant, nobody thinks we're talking about soy sauce, so the issue never comes up. The fear we have of just dropping the "chicken" part of the description at Jujube is that people might think we're just talking about soy sauce (even though it wouldn't actually make sense in the context of the description, but that gives people too much credit for figuring this sort of thing out).

 

Options we've discussed but are not happy with:

"mock chicken"- One customer whom we polled really thought we should avoid "fake" as a descriptor

"soy nuggets"- I'm really trying to avoid using the word "nuggets" on my menu at all cost

sticking with soy "chicken" and just having my waiters do their job and actually discuss the menu with the diners.

 

That's the list.

 

There's also vegetarian "chicken". That seems logical enough. Sure, there could be some confusion because when you buy eggs, one option is to buy eggs from chickens who are fed a vegetarian diet. Someone is going look straight past the seemingly obvious notion that, given the quotes around "chicken" and the fact that the word vegetarian is used in the description and go all the way to this secondary conclusion despite the fact that there are other chicken dishes that do not reference vegetarian. But it seems less an issue than the others.

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Seems that this is more of a legal issue.

 

I think that "soy 'chicken" (vegetarian)" would cover it from a practical standpoint.

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Seems that this is more of a legal issue.

 

I think that "soy 'chicken" (vegetarian)" would cover it from a practical standpoint.

Sorry in advance but this is a sore subject...

 

The legal thing is covered by something we print at the bottom of the menu. "Please inform your server of any dietary restrictions you may have". It would be a small consolation if someone were to actually die in my restaurant because they didn't bother to ask if a dish contains X, but these days, there are just so many things that people are allergic to. If it's that severe, I'd be amazed that you're still alive if you make a habit of going to restaurants and just assuming that the dish you are eating doesn't have whatever you can't eat in it. I've dined with people with severe allergies and, after they needless apologize to both the server and their dining companions, they begin to grill the server about whether there is any chance at all that there's X in their food. I can't imagine anyone not doing so. So, I include that little disclaimer to cover my ass and hope that people aren't idiots.

 

My wife raised the issue of not using the word "soy" because of soy allergies. However, being an Asian restaurant, there's no shortage of dishes that contain soy of some sort and it's not really feasible to mention it in all of them. What about gluten? Peanuts? Tree nuts? Dairy? Shellfish? (which is actually a bigger issue because people are used to peanuts and soy and gluten "hiding" in dishes but there are a bunch of curry pastes and other sauces in SE Asian cooking that use shrimp paste).

 

Hell, I've had people chide me for not announcing on my menu that we use latex as opposed to vinyl gloves in the kitchen. "After all, some people are allergic to latex". Essentially, everyone wants me to announce which dishes contain the specific thing they're allergic to but think I'm being argumentative for no good reason when I start rattling off all the things I would have to list on my menu if I was to do this for everyone who had an allergy.

 

At some point in the game, I think it should go without mention that, if you're looking to avoid a certain thing, be it because of allergy or choice, you should simply ask the server, "Does this dish contain X?". It's a simple question and all my servers are well enough versed in the menu and/or, we actually print out a few copies of the menu that contain only those dishes that conform to our more common allergies. I can't tell you how often someone has freaked out about not being warned about something, even petty things.

 

"I hate coconut and ordered the curry not knowing it contained coconut milk. You should have said it does. You do realize that not all curries contain coconut milk, right?"

 

So, you ordered a dish that you very well understand may include a particular ingredient that you hate. You're in a restaurant with a ton of Thai and Vietnamese dishes on it and, considering the attitude you're copping, you likely understand that those are the curries that are most likely to contain coconut milk. But, rather than simply saying, "Does this curry contain coconut milk?", you just rolled the dice?

 

Well, that's what I wanted to say. What I say is rather matter of factly, "Can we bring you something else?"

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Just make sure the waiters inform someone that orders that dish that it is not real chicken. I can't order a steak at a decent steakhouse without them repeating exactly what medium rare is. It shouldn't be that hard to drill it into your wait staff and leave it as is.

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I think the more honest you are about this, the more potential for turning someone off. For instance, which sounds better, Glazed Soy "Chicken" with Spring Vegetables or Glazed Tofu Pretending to be Chicken with Spring Vegetables?

 

However, if you were to rename the chicken part that may provide an answer. How about something like Glazed Soy Cake with Spring Vegetables?

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Just make sure the waiters inform someone that orders that dish that it is not real chicken. I can't order a steak at a decent steakhouse without them repeating exactly what medium rare is. It shouldn't be that hard to drill it into your wait staff and leave it as is.

That's where I'm leaning.

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I think the more honest you are about this, the more potential for turning someone off. For instance, which sounds better, Glazed Soy "Chicken" with Spring Vegetables or Glazed Tofu Pretending to be Chicken with Spring Vegetables?

 

However, if you were to rename the chicken part that may provide an answer. How about something like Glazed Soy Cake with Spring Vegetables?

But that's good as well. Much better than "patty" or "nugget".

 

And, btw, tofu is out because it's not really tofu. It's a soy and gluten product that is textured like meat. Very much not the same thing as tofu. Outside the veggie world, I understand that distinction may be insignificant, but it sort of is.

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I just looked at your menu online and I can see where a diner would get confused. Many restaurants somehow label their vegetarian meals as such and I don't believe the quotes around chicken are distinct enough. If you somehow labelled the vegetarian dishes as such, then I believe your current menu is fine, otherwise, I'd go with something similar to what mojoman recommended above: Vegetarian Soy "chicken".

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One idea to label the vegetarian items would be to get a Chinese symbol for vegetarian and place it by those items and at the bottom of the menu have the key as to what it means.

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I just looked at your menu online and I can see where a diner would get confused. Many restaurants somehow label their vegetarian meals as such and I don't believe the quotes around chicken are distinct enough. If you somehow labelled the vegetarian dishes as such, then I believe your current menu is fine, otherwise, I'd go with something similar to what mojoman recommended above: Vegetarian Soy "chicken".

To be honest, I'm trying to avoid such labels on the menu. Mostly because we're trying to define ourselves within a strata of fine dining, rather than ethnic or casual dining. When you go to smaller, high-end places, they don't tend to have symbols and such on the menu, it's just a list of dishes. It's at the Chinese place where you see things like peppers and such or at the chains where you see a heart healthy sign or some such. It's a subtle thing, to be sure, but because of our ethnic slant, we're more subject to the misrepresentation than most, so we have to avoid even the little things.

 

We don't put soy sauce or chili sauce on the table, we just bring them for you if you ask. Same with chopsticks.

 

The reason is two-fold. 1) We're not a large place, so if a bunch of people fill us up on Saturday night looking to eat Chow Mein and drink cokes, we lose money if we're turning away a table full of people who are looking for a fine dining experience with nice wine and such. 2) We're not particularly authentic, so we don't want people coming in looking for something and being annoyed at getting something else.

 

So, we don't want it to be, "Should we eat at Hunan Gardens or Jujube?" we want it to be, "Should we eat at Elaine's on Franklin or Jujube?"

 

Does that make sense?

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Makes perfect sense but I would say I go to a number of high end places with labels like those. Here are a couple of examples:

 

Stephen Pyles uses asterisks to indicate 'signature' dishes.

 

Fearings says that a vegetarian menu is available on request.

 

A number of others have no such labels. As a consumer, I know the difference between a Chili's and fine dining and I don't let a label on a menu define that for me but I do understand the desire to have a menu that is 'clean' without labels junking it up.

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Could you add a vegetarian section to the menu. The restaurant I design for did that and their food is pretty $$$. They labeled it vegetarian and raw.

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Makes perfect sense but I would say I go to a number of high end places with labels like those. Here are a couple of examples:

 

Stephen Pyles uses asterisks to indicate 'signature' dishes.

 

Fearings says that a vegetarian menu is available on request.

 

A number of others have no such labels. As a consumer, I know the difference between a Chili's and fine dining and I don't let a label on a menu define that for me but I do understand the desire to have a menu that is 'clean' without labels junking it up.

I understand that. It's not quite so cut and dry in terms of who does and who doesn't. Again, however, I think we're in a unique situation considering our ethnic slant. We get calls somewhat frequently from people ordering take-out and just spouting off a bunch of dishes we don't serve. "Hey can I get some moo-shu pork, two orders of shrimp-fried rice..."

 

So, it's something we have to be more sensitive to than other places. Stephen Pyles can do whatever the hell he wants, because he is absolutely established as what he is.

 

Could you add a vegetarian section to the menu. The restaurant I design for did that and their food is pretty $$$. They labeled it vegetarian and raw.

You know, this is a thought. When we started out, we had a larger menu and it was broken down into smaller categories (meat, poultry, seafood, vegetarian). When we shortened it, I got rid of the categories because I thought it looked sort of lame since some categories had like one or two things in it. I suppose I could just add "Vegetarian Entrees" category even though every other entree is lumped together.

 

Then again, I could just make the waiters do their freaking job and remind people that these dishes are vegetarian when they order. After all, I sometimes make things a bit ambiguous on purpose just to make it so the diner and waiter have no choice but to actually talk to one another, hoping that something good comes of it. Seems odd, but as I've been alluding to, you can't turn your menu into an ingredient list. And if you do a good enough job of describing something that the diner doesn't feel they need to ask the waiter any questions but not so good that you've truly insured that the diner is going to get exactly what he thinks he's getting, that could be a problem. If you can leave just a few glaring questions out there, the invitation to interact has been given and that might open up the door to more clarity and even get someone to order something more interesting than they normally would.

 

Mind you, there's a balance. I don't want every waiter spending 20 minutes at every table because my menu is cryptic gibberish.

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Why not just go with "mock chicken?" I realize mock does not really fit the Asian theme, but it is pretty clear that it is not chicken.

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It would be a small consolation if someone were to actually die in my restaurant because they didn't bother to ask if a dish contains X, but these days, there are just so many things that people are allergic to.

 

This sentence reminds me of that Chris Rock standup:

 

"We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic to sh!t You think anyone in Rwanda's got a f'ing lactose intolerance?!"

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This sentence reminds me of that Chris Rock standup:

 

"We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic to sh!t You think anyone in Rwanda's got a f'ing lactose intolerance?!"

It's funny. I see both sides of it. Some of it seems like mamby pamby BS, but I have a friend who's deathly allergic to tree nuts and her redneck dad still thinks it's in her head. Her husband has literally had to jab her with an epi-pen on a number of occasions and pops still thinks it's BS.

 

Not sure if I've related this story before but we had some lady explain that she was really allergic to shellfish, so we went through the whole deal about making sure nothing she ordered had any shrimp paste or what have you. Someone else at the table ordered the shrimp noodles. I go over to see how everything was and chick is eating off his plate.

 

"Ma'am! What are you doing?! That's got shrimp in it!"

"Oh, I know, it just looked so tasty. I'm avoiding the shrimp itself."

:wacko:

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It's funny. I see both sides of it. Some of it seems like mamby pamby BS, but I have a friend who's deathly allergic to tree nuts and her redneck dad still thinks it's in her head. Her husband has literally had to jab her with an epi-pen on a number of occasions and pops still thinks it's BS.

 

Not sure if I've related this story before but we had some lady explain that she was really allergic to shellfish, so we went through the whole deal about making sure nothing she ordered had any shrimp paste or what have you. Someone else at the table ordered the shrimp noodles. I go over to see how everything was and chick is eating off his plate.

 

"Ma'am! What are you doing?! That's got shrimp in it!"

"Oh, I know, it just looked so tasty. I'm avoiding the shrimp itself."

:wacko:

 

 

Sounds like a future Darwin Award candidate

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Label it soy protein, or soy bean protein in the description.

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is it the kung pao soy "chicken?"

 

i think i would change the description to read: faux chicken with blackened peppers, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and peanuts.

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I like the simple solution of just having a vegetarian section of the menu... even if it only lists a few/couple of options. That way, you have to be a complete idiot to not realize that it's not really chicken. Granted, somebody is bound to still get confused, but it's far less likely than with the other potential solutions. In other words, far less time spent by the wait staff, explaining the menu.

 

Plus, if I were a vegetarian (which I'm not), I would actually prefer that a menu be done that way... Don't have to browse the entire menu, looking for dishes that might work, but instead just go directly to that section.

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doesn't really address the question, but I really dislike the whole idea of "fake meat". if you want something that tastes like chicken, just eat f'ing chicken. if you're a veg for whatever reason, just call your tofu "tofu", or tempeh or seitan or whatever. it ain't chicken, and if you've made the choice to be a veg, chances are you don't really WANT it to remind you of actual chicken flesh.

 

I guess I'd go with that same line of thought as practical advice. just call it kung pao tofu, or whatever it is, take the word chicken out of play. you can probably get pretty specific, most veg's I know are pretty familiar with all of the various protein/texture type products out there, they'd probably appreciate the menu spelling it out specifically, rather than describing it as fake chicken. and then you don't have to worry about people who actually want chicken ordering it.

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