You don’t need a menu with fifty-three different food items on it. Hell, you don’t even need a menu with thirty-five different menu items on it. You know why? Because the law of averages says that more than likely half of those food items will taste like barf on a biscuit.
Don’t get mad at me. Get mad at the math.
There is no way you can convince me that a place that serves chicken tiki masala can also serve a respectable pasta primavera. One of those dishes, if not both, will truly, truly suck.
My JV basketball coach, Coach Heinlen, once told me, “Pynchon, don’t try to do more than you can. Play within yourself.” (This was after I stole the ball, tried to run a fast break, realized I wasn’t a point guard and dribbled the ball off of my foot and out of bounds.) Coach was right and this applies to restaurants as well. Cook what you know. If you don’t really specialize in Japanese cooking, then don’t try to spin that you know how to make Katsu Ramen. Just make me what you know will kick ass, serve it to me and go away.
And for anyone thinking, “Well, maybe they are just trying to cater to the widest range of customers possible in order to make more money,” that’s a good point, except it’s like making a romantic comedy/action buddy movie set in WW II with an all disco soundtrack starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Andy Samberg, Rihanna, three fourths of the cast of “Modern Family” and directed by Jason Reitman.
To prove my point, I give you a case study.
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY.*
This menu is the War and Peace of chain restaurant menus. It has twenty-five appetizers. Now, I enjoy a tasty appetizer to whet my pallet. But twenty-five? Come on, Mr. Cheesecake-Factory-Corporate-Division-VP-In-Charge-Of-Awful-Tasting-Food, are you telling me that all twenty-five appetizers taste great? Really? Because while I am sure that your Fire-Roasted Fresh Artichoke is perfectly acceptable, I would bet my right ear (not my left – that’s my faves) that your Vietnamese Summer Spring Rolls are as about as tasty as, to quote the cinematic classic “Weird Science”, “a greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray.” Pare it down.
Instead of having a restaurant making forty-eight average to below average dishes, how about having a restaurant that makes only one amazing dish? Cause I would go to a joint that serves only tuna tartare if that tuna tartare was so good that it made me wet my pants.
[*The one thing on Cheesecake Factory’s mind numbingly long menu that is actually really tasty? Cheesecake. Who knew?]