A Travellerspoint blog

One thing

sunny 28 °C

When i was travelling in Italy several years ago i remember going to a wonderful pizza restaurant in Naples, with Mariana and her parents Pat and Bob. Real clay, wood fired ovens, fantastically fresh ingredients producing stunning pizzas. At the end of the meal i asked for a coffee in my very limited Italian. The waiter then launched into a long philosophical soliloquy in Italian; i had no idea at the time what he was saying but he was clearly speaking with passion. After he left, Mariana translated: in life you should just focus on one thing and make sure you are the best you can be at it. He said at this restaurant they don't do coffee, they don't do pasta, they don't do ice cream; they just do pizza and it is the best pizza in Naples! The place across the road only did coffee and it was the best coffee in Naples so the waiter told us to go there for our post lunch espresso.

At the time i thought this was pretty funny but the more i think about it and the more i eat at restaurants around the world the more truth i see in the waiter's solemn words. How many times do you go into a restaurant with a 6 page menu containing 100 different dishes, none of which turn out to be that good? Its just too damn hard for a kitchen to make that many dishes well. The exception i would say is some Asian restaurants, particularly Vietnamese, that does seem to manage to pull this off.

Generally the rule of thumb is this; the less things on the menu the better. Massive menus serving numerous cuisines are built on the false idea that what we want is choice. I don't think we necessarily either want or need choice - this falsehood is a result of mass consumerism providing us with a bewildering array of exactly that and this idea now seems to come up in politics with Blair and labour being major proponents (why do i care which hospital i go to, i just want a good service!) Now i'm not proposing a return to the 16th century or the war years rationing system but what i think we actually really need is not choice but quality. When quality is compromised for choice you end up with lots of things which are not as good as they could or should be. We experienced this throughout Asia. Be wary of any restaurant that purports to specialise in Thai, Italian, Japanese and Indian cuisine under one roof! The best food we ate has been at little market stalls or restaurants that just specialise in one type of food or even just serve one dish and every one of them has been bang on the money. Noodle soup restaurants in China and Vietnam, papaya salad stalls in Thailand, tofu stalls, a restaurant in Phnom Penh that only did a beef with egg dish, the list is endless. When we arrived in Jordan this trend continued with a falafel restaurant called Hashem. No menu, they just do falafel, humus, foul (a fava bean puree), pitta and tea. Every who goes there has the same thing. You know you are onto something good when ordering happens in reverse; they tell you what you are having rather than you telling them. The food was so damn good it made you want to weep with joy.

Posted by roblewis 04:04 Archived in Jordan

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So it's not about the quality of the sign then? Nice to see you doing some blogging. I am with you on this one. Don't want to see another 24 page menu in my life! Went to an obscenely good raw food restaurant in Bangkok. Never thought you could have raw lasagne and raw pizza .... Quite an experience! X

by livvyware

Totally agree, and glad to have a foodie-philosophy post up there. Whenever I look at one of those take-away menus with 1000 options on I have nightmares about freezers full of those plastic boxes, waiting to be microwaved.

But wow, can't believe you guys are in Jordan already. Feels quite close really! Enjoy the food, I want more food stories. xx

by robbieds

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