One of the big losers on the menu change is the ling cod with paprika marinated leeks and rosemary aioli. We're pretty sure it's because of the leeks. This is somehow related to a topic that has been churning around in my head for a while.
Years ago menus were simpler in some ways. Many restaurants served European (essentially French) classic cuisine and many diners knew what they were getting when they ordered say, Consomme Madrilene (bouillon with tomatoes and cayenne), Duck Alsacienne (garnished with sauerkraut, Strasbourg sausages and boiled potatoes), or Sweetbreads a la Toulouse (garnished with chicken quenelles, cock's comb and kidneys, braised lamb, mushrooms and shredded truffles, topped with a Sauce Allemande, itself an egg thickened veloute).
These days we have to describe everything on the menu, there is increasingly no shorthand. Even with dishes I consider to be classic in the American repertoire the expansion of our palate and insistence on uniqueness and novelty gets in the way. Take for example chicken & dumplings. Fix that in your mind. Now, go order that dish in a restaurant near us and you will be served a dish which has chicken, topped with sweetish biscuits and a generous amount of red bell pepper in the mixture. To paraphrase Bill Monroe, that ain't no part of chicken & dumplings. That ain't no part of nothin'.
When I put the leeks with the cod I was heartened to read this from David Lebovitz. Leeks vinaigrette is still alive in France.
The problem is multi-faceted. Our horizons as consumers have broadened and now include food from everywhere imaginable. The number of restaurants has increased amazingly. The cooking profession is now glamorous. Imagine that, the help is now out in the dining room and the majority of cooks at American restaurants are now learning their trade at a vocational school rather than prison. Food journalism, to say nothing of blogging, has exploded. Writers needing to keep a jaded audience interested tout new & interesting above all else. I understand the fascination, I like new and interesting. I also like classic and time-tested.
As an owner my needs are occasionally in conflict with my desires as a chef. The chef wants to feed people, make them happy, delight their spirits and takes any rejection of a dish personally. That's why we have an open kitchen so I don't have to fume like the poor chef in The Big Night, wondering what kind of idiot wants pasta with their risotto. The owner wants to pay the bills.
In this instance the chef is thinking, "eat your leeks people, you'll like them. I swear, this is a classic preparation. People in France are still eating this." The owner is thinking "the leeks are killing this dish. We've gotta lose them." The middle ground? Keep the leeks but don't tell people they are there. Among the many allergies on the increase I have yet to see leek. It won't be long I'm sure, but for now we're safe.
I have a lot more to say about this. It's part of what may be a paper written for a volume of Food and Philosophy to which I've been invited to submit an abstract. However, I don't think the guy who invited me likes my topic so I may not be asked to actually write the paper.
Oh, the other dish that isn't selling is the scallops with tuna tartare and lemon-pepper gelee. But I already knew that wasn't going to sell.