Tak a Luke att Hour Spesh Als!
By Stett Holbrook
I'M A FOOD CRITIC, not a literary critic, but the misspellings, mistranslations and poor word choices I come across on menus are sometimes hard to ignore.
When a restaurant misspells "carp" as "crap" (I actually saw this once) that's funny, but it amazes me these things make it on to menus. The vast majority of menu malapropisms occur at Asian restaurants. I don't know why. I'd probably have just as much trouble with the language if I were to open a restaurant in China, but knowing my Mandarin was not a strength I'd be sure to run a draft of the menu by a native speaker, or least pass it through spell-check. But even then, I'm sure mistakes would be made.
One of the best food malapropisms I ever read was my own. In a review of Saratoga's Sent Sovi, I wrote of the restaurant's "amuse bouse" instead of "amuse bouche." An amuse bouche is a French term that translates as a "mouth amuser" and is a bite-size appetizer served at the start of a meal. An amuse bouse, I later learned, is altogether different. Bouse is French for cow dung. That's right, I described a dish at Sent Sovi as amusing bullshit.
Mountain View's Castro Point could use an editor with a sharp red pencil and a dictionary. Take these two examples from the restaurant's menu: The pan-seared "cube" [sic] beef is "sautéed with roasted garlic and partnered with watercress that is infused in a citrus vinaigrette." Molecular gastronomy is all the rage, but infusing watercress in vinaigrette would be quite a trick. The grilled octopus salad listing says the dish is "accompanied with caramelized onions, fennel and heart of palm transfused in a savory sweet sake vinaigrette." That sounds more like a risky medical procedure than a cooking technique.
Pho Nam in Milpitas is the place for "scripy fried noodles" while Cupertino's late A&J Restaurant offered "meat balls with begetable clay pot." Cupertino's fancy Dynasty Seafood touts its "curry chicken of slices."
I don't know if it's true, but someone told me a Chinese restaurant menu offered "cook's testicles" (instead of "cooked testicles"). I wonder if the restaurant had trouble hiring new cooks?
Of course Asian restaurants aren't the only ones to make mistakes. One of my pet peeves is the use of "demi glaze" instead of "demi-glace." The latter is a French term for a rich, gelatinous brown sauce that's used as a base for other sauces. I have no idea what a demi-glaze is. Half a glaze?
As long as the food's good, menu mess-ups don't really bother me. But playing "spot the typo" does provide an added source of entertainment while I'm waiting for the next course to arrive. If you've spotted a particularly humorous menu mistake, please pass it on.
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