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Old 08-08-2019, 10:37 AM
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Restaurant Authenticity FAILS


Obviously inspired by this thread, my mind turned to - well, a specific evening in Stockholm nearly twenty years ago. Two colleagues from a partner company took me out for the evening to sample the very latest thing - Stockholm's first Tapas restaurant. They were very proud of it.

OK, I'll cut to the chase. The highlight of the evening for me was a small bowl of mashed potato, across which an anchovy had been draped. That was it. Needless to say, it was unlike any tapa I have ever come across, before or since. A fascinating evening - a Swedish re-imagining of the cuisine. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but a quick search suggests that Stockholm now boasts TWO tapas restaurants; or rather two branches of the same (small) chain. Here's the menu in English. (Link to the parent page, just in case). Note the Buffalo Wings (in hot bad ass sauce) and the Tempura. I love Sweden, I love the Swedes, and I'm sure this is all delicious. But authentic?

Being British I am aware that this is rather a case of living in a glass house and throwing stones. I was going to mention the British Pub Curry. But it's too complicated. I'll let someone else try. Apples. *Shudder*

So what have you got?

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Old 08-08-2019, 10:47 AM
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When I lived in Europe in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find an edible hamburger in a restaurant that wasn't an American chain. I'm not sure what they put in them, but it wasn't beef.
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Old 08-08-2019, 12:44 PM
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I was made to go to an Italian restaurant in Beijing once. Another time, I ordered 'tacos' in New Zealand.

In both cases, the food was prepared as if no recipe or other description of flavor was available, only a picture of the food item in question. The food looked right, but that was all. The NZ tacos were edible, the Chinese Italian was a total horror show.
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:05 PM
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I was made to go to an Italian restaurant in Beijing once. Another time, I ordered 'tacos' in New Zealand.

In both cases, the food was prepared as if no recipe or other description of flavor was available, only a picture of the food item in question. The food looked right, but that was all. The NZ tacos were edible, the Chinese Italian was a total horror show.
In Japan, on the other hand (or at least in Tokyo), you can find a lot of western foods prepared well.
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:19 PM
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"Cajun" restaurants whose idea of Cajun is blackened anything and throwing a bunch of spices on anything that wasn't blackened.
They seem to have mostly died or the owners are chasing the latest fad.

I give a bit of a pass to Cajun restaurants who serve good Creole food on the grounds that most of their customer don't know any better.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:18 PM
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In Japan, on the other hand (or at least in Tokyo), you can find a lot of western foods prepared well.
have you seen what they do to pizza in Japan?
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:40 PM
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When I lived in Europe in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find an edible hamburger in a restaurant that wasn't an American chain. I'm not sure what they put in them, but it wasn't beef.
Did anyone else think that independent burger bars in Britain often smelled like actual shit, until around the mid 80s? The burgers as well, they actually smelled a bit like shit.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:17 PM
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have you seen what they do to pizza in Japan?
No, but after living in Micronesia and Indonesia no pizza topping would surprise me. Corn, shrimp and barbecue sauce are among the least odd non-traditional toppings I've encountered. Bananas and wontons may be the weirdest.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:38 PM
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I am always very amused when visiting an ethnic restaurant in the Upper Midwest and other extremely white areas (e.g. Maine, Montana) and are served by caucasians. Like that Indian restaurant in a town somewhere between Portland and Acadia National Park in Maine where I was the only actual Asian in the building, or that time I bought Chinese takeout from a blue-eyed, blonde-haired teenager in Missoula. Their "oriental" decor consisted entirely of a few Hello Kitty stickers on the wall.

That said, the food itself was fine. It wasn't "authentic" by any stretch of the imagination (and good luck getting anything actually spicy out of them), but it was edible. I've been served worse Indian and Chinese food by actual Indian and Chinese people.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:40 PM
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I went to some "Mexican" restaurant near Binghamton NY sometime in the 1990s, ordered a plate of nachos, and whatever the hell it was that I got, made me leave the restaurant immediately, without paying. Just. Left.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:50 PM
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My stick-in-the-ass uncle was visiting us in Knoxville, TN, and he was going through yet another health-food kick, this time Thai restaurants. Insisted we take him to the best Knoxville had to offer, the more authentic, the better.

Well, there were a few. Found one, not too far from our house. Kind of a hole in the wall, had cheap tables and chairs, and a paper menu, but every fucking person in that place was Asian-American, and the name of this place... for the purposes of this thread... was Real Fucking Thai Food Cooked by Thais for Thais.

Holy mother of God, did my uncle hate that place! Just complained and whined and did what it was that made being with him just such a delight and joy.

So my sister tried. Took him to Suburban Chain Thai. Well lit. Lot's of white people. No asians. Plastic menus, cute 20-something hostesses, the full suburban chain experience, complete with new tables and American beers.

"Wow. I am impressed. This is the sort of Thai restaurant you would find in New York City. This is truly nice. Look, Peg, they have <something that wasn't really Thai>."

I burst out laughing. "Holy Hell, Bruce, there's not a single asian person in this place, it's full of after-church white baptists. This is Americanized Thai food, not real Thai food like that place we went to last night."

BiL: "Y'all went to Real Fucking Thai Food Cooked by Thais for Thais? You have to be Thai to like that place."

Waving my hands, looking at my uncle, "To my point!"
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:54 PM
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Never pay to eat hot dogs someplace that does not have (a) an outfield or (b) at least 6 motorcycles in the parking lot.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:43 PM
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Never pay to eat hot dogs someplace that does not have (a) an outfield or (b) at least 6 motorcycles in the parking lot.
I've had some damn good hotdogs at golf courses....
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:35 PM
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The first Mexican restaurant in my hometown was opened by a family at the end of my street. They most definitely were not Hispanic. I don't know who they hired to work in the kitchen.

The food, Tex-Mex was similar to El Chico and very good. They were still open when I left for college.

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-08-2019 at 06:37 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:13 PM
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About the OP's mention of the incongruity of a Swedish tapas restaurant, I find the tapas concept very similar to a smorgasbord, which is very Scandinavian. The only difference is that the food is brought to the table by a server as opposed to being chosen from a buffet. Maybe the Swedish food sucked, but it wasn't inauthentic.

We have a few odd fusion places on Devon Avenue in Chicago. Italian/Chinese, Indian/New York Pizza...

As for inauthentic hot dogs, maybe some Dopers may remember when McDonald's tried to sell them?

Last edited by Two Many Cats; 08-08-2019 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:20 PM
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I was on a road-trip deep in the Heart of Texas, and stopped for Mexican food. They brought out chips and salsa (chips were stale and straight out of a store-brand bag, I saw it sticking out of the trash, same with the salsa I'm sure) and the entrée was some kind of microwave, flavorless crap. Dry, freezer-burned and just nasty. Worst Mexican food I've ever had.

Deep in the Heart of Texas.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:31 PM
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Don't order the "authentic American" cheesecake at Chili's in Riga. It has sponge cake instead of a Graham cracker crust, what would seem to be whipped cream cheese, and a coating of a Jell-O-like substance on top.

Haven't been to any other Chili's, so I can't vouch for its offerings elsewhere.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:42 PM
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I was visiting Akumal, Mexico several years ago and noticed a "steak sandwich" on the menu, so curiosity got the best of me and I ordered it. It was a large single piece of flank steak, served between two pieces of white bread. Well, they were technically correct.
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Old 08-08-2019, 08:03 PM
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A cappuccino in rural Australia - coffee-flavoured milk, with whipped cream on top.
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Old 08-08-2019, 08:52 PM
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I remember going to an *AMERICAN HAMBURGER JOINT* in Brighton, England, called Cagney's, where the decor heavily featured some 1930s Hollywood actor or other.

The food wasn't really bad, but it sure wasn't American, either.

On the other hand, one of the best pizzas I've ever had was also in Brighton: a simple little pie topped with anchovies and capers, absolutely delicious. This might somehow have been due to the proprietor-and-chef being Sicilian.
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Old 08-08-2019, 11:06 PM
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"Wow. I am impressed. This is the sort of Thai restaurant you would find in New York City. This is truly nice. Look, Peg, they have <something that wasn't really Thai>."
I'm having visions of Michael Scott visiting his favorite New York pizza joint.
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:51 AM
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In Japan, on the other hand (or at least in Tokyo), you can find a lot of western foods prepared well.
I had what was probably the best pasta I've ever had yesterday here in Osaka. A chilled carbonara with roasted sweetcorn, ham, and sliced truffles (not stingy on the truffles either). Ten dollars with a coffee and assorted bread hot from the oven.
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Old 08-09-2019, 01:16 AM
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Obviously inspired by this thread, my mind turned to - well, a specific evening in Stockholm nearly twenty years ago. Two colleagues from a partner company took me out for the evening to sample the very latest thing - Stockholm's first Tapas restaurant. They were very proud of it.

OK, I'll cut to the chase. The highlight of the evening for me was a small bowl of mashed potato, across which an anchovy had been draped. That was it. Needless to say, it was unlike any tapa I have ever come across, before or since. A fascinating evening - a Swedish re-imagining of the cuisine. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but a quick search suggests that Stockholm now boasts TWO tapas restaurants; or rather two branches of the same (small) chain. Here's the menu in English. (Link to the parent page, just in case). Note the Buffalo Wings (in hot bad ass sauce) and the Tempura. I love Sweden, I love the Swedes, and I'm sure this is all delicious. But authentic?
Congratulations, YOU just failed your own thread. Tapas is not a collection of specific recipes: it's a way of cooking, which does involve using local ingredients and reinventing the local cuisine. It should vary by location. I looked at the menu and the fact that it does include stuff based on Swedish food gets a big thumbs-up from me, whereas something which was all chorizo, serrano and pimientos would see me backing away. The best not-in-Spain tapas bar I've eaten at happened to be in Helsingborg; mind you, they cheat: the owners are a Swedish man and his Spanish wife, who is the cook.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:01 AM
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Once, while in Paris, my hotel was right next to a Chinese restaurant, so I decided to find out how French Chinese differed from American Chinese... or Chinese Chinese. The menu was, of course, in French and Chinese, neither of which I spoke very well. So I just found something in French that looked familiar and ordered it. Well, there were four small plates, with a tiny "structure" of food on each. I had no idea what they all were. They were in no way Chinese, but nevertheless delicious.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:31 AM
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I was traveling through Mexico years ago and was in the mood for a hamburger. Saw a market stall that had it on the menu, and I decided to order one.

It was literally a piece of ham with some breading on it served between two buns.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:52 AM
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There was this Greek restaurant in the Netherlands that had a portrait of Filipina actress Cherie Gil posted on their wall. Now she is quite the distinguished and well-respected actress in the Philippines, but relatively unknown outside the country. When questioned, the owner claimed that it was supposed to be a picture of opera singer Maria Callas.

Cherie Gil had previously played Maria Callas on stage and apparently the artist had lazily picked out a publicity photo from an internet search, not bothering to verify the picture's subject.

http://pinoyshowbizdaily.blogspot.co...allas.html?m=1
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Old 08-09-2019, 05:33 AM
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I am always very amused when visiting an ethnic restaurant in the Upper Midwest and other extremely white areas (e.g. Maine, Montana) and are served by caucasians. Like that Indian restaurant in a town somewhere between Portland and Acadia National Park in Maine where I was the only actual Asian in the building, or that time I bought Chinese takeout from a blue-eyed, blonde-haired teenager in Missoula. Their "oriental" decor consisted entirely of a few Hello Kitty stickers on the wall.

That said, the food itself was fine. It wasn't "authentic" by any stretch of the imagination (and good luck getting anything actually spicy out of them), but it was edible. I've been served worse Indian and Chinese food by actual Indian and Chinese people.
In the Southwest the long-running joke I've heard comedians make is that most Chinese restaurants are staffed entirely by Mexicans, who can make the food just as good.
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Old 08-09-2019, 06:11 AM
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Once, while in Paris, my hotel was right next to a Chinese restaurant, so I decided to find out how French Chinese differed from American Chinese... or Chinese Chinese. The menu was, of course, in French and Chinese, neither of which I spoke very well. So I just found something in French that looked familiar and ordered it. Well, there were four small plates, with a tiny "structure" of food on each. I had no idea what they all were. They were in no way Chinese, but nevertheless delicious.
When I was in Paris me and a few of the tour group went to the Parisian Chinatown for dinner. They did not speak English, we did not speak whichever Chinese language they did, and our respective versions of French were not mutually intelligible. At the time I knew just enough Chinese writing to pick out the characters for things like "chicken" or "pork". We ordered by pointing at the Chinese menu. I have no idea what we actually ate (other than two chicken, a beef, and a pork dish), but like you said, it was delicious.
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Old 08-09-2019, 07:52 AM
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I'd been on a trip in Rome for a while and was getting a little tired of the 'stand-up, espresso and a cake' breakfast, and was woo'ed by a sign outside a cafe offering 'cooked bacon and eggs.

WELL, the plate came. It had one fried egg, which was so undercooked that the egg white was still jelly, and drizzled in extra virgin olive oil. the bacon was pancetta, chopped into tiny cubes of the sort you might mix through a carbonara. I don't know who was in the kitchen, but they had clearly never even seen a picture of bacon and eggs.
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Old 08-09-2019, 08:10 AM
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have you seen what they do to pizza in Japan?
Actually, I became a fan of corn pizza. But canned tuna? Not so much.
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Old 08-09-2019, 08:12 AM
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"Cajun" restaurants whose idea of Cajun is blackened anything and throwing a bunch of spices on anything that wasn't blackened.
They seem to have mostly died or the owners are chasing the latest fad.

I give a bit of a pass to Cajun restaurants who serve good Creole food on the grounds that most of their customer don't know any better.
Agreed. Almost every place outside of South Louisiana that does Cajun, save maybe for the odd place in North Louisiana, East Texas, or Western Mississippi screws up Cajun bigly.
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Old 08-09-2019, 08:33 AM
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We were at a resort in Jamaica one year when they had a Super Bowl party, featuring hot dogs and hamburgers. The hot dogs were some sort of sausages, but not what Americans would call hot dogs, and the hamburgers were quite different, too.
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Old 08-09-2019, 11:22 AM
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When I lived in Europe in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find an edible hamburger in a restaurant that wasn't an American chain. I'm not sure what they put in them, but it wasn't beef.
Yeah, it's really bizarre for a food that is just so dead simple to make (though, to be honest, I know plenty of backyard cooks here in the US who can't make a good burger or make something that's more like a meatloaf than a burger. Just keep it simple and know your technique.)

I had perhaps the worst burger of my life in 1996 from some kiosk in Wolverhampton's city center. I have no idea what this weirdly pink, mushy/mealy sandwich was, but it was not a hamburger as advertised.

In Budapest c. 1999, there was a 50s American-themed diner on the Buda side that had all your typical rock & roll diner kitsch and served food to match. Except their hamburger came as an open-faced sandwich, for some reason. All the right toppings, just no top bun. Why this was, I don't know, as there were plenty of McDonalds as well as BK and Wendys in the city, so it wasn't like there weren't examples of American hamburgers around.

At any rate, in the mid-2000s, Budapest really stepped up its burger game and they became one of the local hipster foods for awhile, and the locals did do it in a way I would consider "right."

Last edited by pulykamell; 08-09-2019 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 08-09-2019, 11:33 AM
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In general, I don't give a wet fart about authenticity, and when I read this article "Yelp Reviewers’ Authenticity Fetish Is White Supremacy in Action" I felt obscurely vindicated. (I'm sure that article will be totally noncontroversial around here, but it's worth reading, even if just to figure out why you disagree).

But there were two times where authenticity came up. One was at my favorite sushi restaurant in town, this little place run by a kind of hippie dude from Japan. I had several friends who worked there, and it was great food. One evening the sushi menu contained BLT sushi. My friend who was waiting tables told me that it was basically a prank: the chef hated putting things like cream cheese in sushi, so he made up BLT sushi to make fun of people who'd order cream cheese sushi.

In 2003 I visited Norway. I was pescatarian, and goddamn if the seafood wasn't amazing. So much salmon, so delicious. But after awhile, I started craving vegetables other than potatoes, and had a helluva time finding them. I went to a Chinese restaurant in Bergen, figuring there would be greens on the menu, but couldn't find any, so I ordered an egg roll, thinking they'd have to put some cabbage or something in it.

Nope. My egg roll was a wonton wrapper surrounding a link sausage. Nothing else.
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:12 PM
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My egg roll was a wonton wrapper surrounding a link sausage. Nothing else.
<Homer Simpson drool sound>
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:15 PM
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My stick-in-the-ass uncle was visiting us in Knoxville, TN, and he was going through yet another health-food kick, this time Thai restaurants. Insisted we take him to the best Knoxville had to offer, the more authentic, the better.

Well, there were a few. Found one, not too far from our house. Kind of a hole in the wall, had cheap tables and chairs, and a paper menu, but every fucking person in that place was Asian-American, and the name of this place... for the purposes of this thread... was Real Fucking Thai Food Cooked by Thais for Thais.

Holy mother of God, did my uncle hate that place! Just complained and whined and did what it was that made being with him just such a delight and joy.

So my sister tried. Took him to Suburban Chain Thai. Well lit. Lot's of white people. No asians. Plastic menus, cute 20-something hostesses, the full suburban chain experience, complete with new tables and American beers.

"Wow. I am impressed. This is the sort of Thai restaurant you would find in New York City. This is truly nice. Look, Peg, they have <something that wasn't really Thai>."

I burst out laughing. "Holy Hell, Bruce, there's not a single asian person in this place, it's full of after-church white baptists. This is Americanized Thai food, not real Thai food like that place we went to last night."

BiL: "Y'all went to Real Fucking Thai Food Cooked by Thais for Thais? You have to be Thai to like that place."

Waving my hands, looking at my uncle, "To my point!"
That sounds more like a 'The Onion' piece, than a 'The Onion' piece.

Holy hell. The proud ignorance of some.
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:30 PM
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Quoth Morbo:

I was visiting Akumal, Mexico several years ago and noticed a "steak sandwich" on the menu, so curiosity got the best of me and I ordered it. It was a large single piece of flank steak, served between two pieces of white bread. Well, they were technically correct.
Cheesesteaks do not work that way!

But seriously, I've only ever found one place outside of the Delaware valley that makes a reasonable approximation of a Philadelphia cheesesteak (a sandwich shop in Bozeman, MT, just off of campus). Which is also the one place I've found outside of the Delaware valley that doesn't call their steak sandwich a "Philly steak". I asked the folks there about it once, and they said "Oh, no, we don't make a Philly style steak. We don't put lettuce and tomatoes and mayo on it.". Yes, exactly. The actual Philadelphia cheesesteak is really, really simple, and yet everyone still manages to get it wrong.
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Old 08-09-2019, 01:38 PM
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. . . the very latest thing - Stockholm's first Tapas restaurant. . . .
I was disappointed when my girlfriend took me to a tapas restaurant. I thought she had said "topless."
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Old 08-09-2019, 01:56 PM
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I was in a seafood restaurant once. The catch of the day was veal.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:01 PM
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Mexican restaurant in a small town we stopped in driving through West Virginia. The chef seemed to have an acute aversion to spices. The salsa was basically indistinguishable from a can of crushed tomatoes. The enchalada I ordered tasted more Italian than Mexican, because the only flavor was of tomato. We were in on off hours so I don't know who their usual clientel were, but the workers all seemed as white as wonder bread. I feel sorry for any poor kid who grew up in that town, and grows up thinking that that is what Mexican food is supposed to taste like.

Last edited by Buck Godot; 08-09-2019 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:07 PM
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I was in a seafood restaurant once. The catch of the day was veal.
Baby manatee?
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:18 PM
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That sounds more like a 'The Onion' piece, than a 'The Onion' piece.

Holy hell. The proud ignorance of some.
made me think of this one.

https://local.theonion.com/area-gran...ood-1819569894
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
have you seen what they do to pizza in Japan?
Pizza places in Germany provide decent pizza, though they aren't cut and you have to eat them with a knife and fork, but the thing that surprised me was finding a baked egg on top.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:24 PM
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No, but after living in Micronesia and Indonesia no pizza topping would surprise me. Corn, shrimp and barbecue sauce are among the least odd non-traditional toppings I've encountered. Bananas and wontons may be the weirdest.
Ahem. Barbecue chicken pizza is a THING in California
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:24 PM
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Cheesesteaks do not work that way!

But seriously, I've only ever found one place outside of the Delaware valley that makes a reasonable approximation of a Philadelphia cheesesteak (a sandwich shop in Bozeman, MT, just off of campus). Which is also the one place I've found outside of the Delaware valley that doesn't call their steak sandwich a "Philly steak". I asked the folks there about it once, and they said "Oh, no, we don't make a Philly style steak. We don't put lettuce and tomatoes and mayo on it.". Yes, exactly. The actual Philadelphia cheesesteak is really, really simple, and yet everyone still manages to get it wrong.
well, it was a steak sandwich, not a cheesesteak. I've had ones like Morbo described, though made with a strip steak and not flank (I think a slab of flank might be too tough?)

there's a place called the "Country Pub" in Gregory, MI. Middle of nowhere, a few miles west of Hell, kind of place that looks like it gets rowdy when the bikers show up. Their steak sandwich is awesome. slice of NY strip cooked how you want it on a toasted soft roll with mozz and grilled onions. It's a knife-and-fork sandwich, but it's really good.

OTOH if it's called a "cheesesteak" or "steak & cheese sub" then I'd expect thinly sliced beef.

Last edited by jz78817; 08-09-2019 at 02:25 PM.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:35 PM
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Baby manatee?
We have chicken of the sea. Apparently Steller's Sea Cow was so tasty sailors ate them to extinction.

Last edited by Ruken; 08-09-2019 at 02:35 PM.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post

Nope. My egg roll was a wonton wrapper surrounding a link sausage. Nothing else.
Now that you mention this, I remember getting a "sausage" egg roll like that once, although I can't recall where in the world it was served--US, UK, somewhere in Europe?
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:47 PM
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We were at a resort in Jamaica one year when they had a Super Bowl party, featuring hot dogs and hamburgers. The hot dogs were some sort of sausages, but not what Americans would call hot dogs, and the hamburgers were quite different, too.
that reminds me of the first time I was in Japan. our "chaperone" was an expat from Europe who was sick to death of Japanese food, and took showing us around as an opportunity to go to Western restaurants. I guess he was oblivious enough to (incorrectly) assume we'd want to stick to "American" food. One place we were dragged to was this "American style" diner in Iwaki. it was decorated in an ersatz '50s style, and their "steak" dinner tasted for all the world like a Swanson's salisbury steak TV dinner sans gravy.

the next day one of us finally got fed up and said "Ingmar, we didn't come to Japan to eat sandwiches. Get lost!"
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:55 PM
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I had "bibimbap" in a New England private high school cafeteria that comprised brown rice, scrambled egg bites, and frozen veggie mix tossed lightly with soy sauce.

The chef was otherwise excellent.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:56 PM
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Around 1980, in Westfield, Mass., I had a pizza topped with Kraft slices.
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