Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Six Rules for Dining Out

 (photo by Leif Parsons) 

A few weeks ago,  I read an article by Tyler Cowen (economist and everyday foodie) in the Atlantic, “Six Rules for Dining Out.”  Prior to reading the article and unbeknownst to me, boy and I aced two of the six rules on a random Friday evening date.

Six Rules for Dining Out

Number 1- In the fanciest restaurants, order what sounds least appetizing.
Now unfortunately, the author is referring to dinner plates over $50, and as a struggling 20 something year-old, I can’t say I indulge in a lot of those meals! He instructs to look past the comfortable roast chicken, and choose a dish sounding less appetizing, since ‘fancy’ restaurants offer well thought-out menus with good reason for their specialty dishes.

As a girl who continually orders Spaghetti at any and every Italian restaurant, I can certainly use this advice!

Number 2- Beware the Beautiful, Laughing Women
Apparently, restaurants with great social scenes will often focus on creating a chic, energizing environment, rather than provide interesting recipes. So stay away from the yammering and high priced restaurants, and gravitate to where the sulking, not so attractive people are choosing to dine.

Number 3- Get out of the city and strip mall
Lower rent restaurants, which are likely to take residence in strip mall locations rather than bustling urban areas, are more probable to create higher risk dishes with daring ingredients.  If the dish doesn’t work out, then the owner isn’t left with ridiculous expenses. Who knew?!

This is one of two rules that we nailed on our date. After reading a little restaurant feature in the Washingtonian, we decided to get out of the city and make our way to Northern Virginia; the restaurant was hidden amongst a line of retail outlets and neon-signed restaurants.

Number 4- Admit What You Don’t Know
Basically, recognize when others know better than you do about certain restaurants, recipes and dishes. Your key target of people to ask are those who take pride in food and see cooking as an art. Reach out to those who have lived a life longer than you and not afraid to venture out to the inconspicuous corners of a city.

Number 5- Exploit Restaurant Workers
I promise this isn’t as bad as it sounds! When you see a valet, someone to take your coat, a host(ess), a team of waiters- beware that you are paying for the services, rather than the quality of the food. They seem to be there to make you feel ‘important’ rather than provide you with delightful dishes.

Number 6- Prefer Vietnamese to Thai
Thai is a trendy cuisine; did you know that? Apparently, eating Thai is way cooler than eating Chinese. And as Thai restaurants have become more popular, the level of taste has become more unreliable. While Vietnamese restaurants have sprung up more and more in the U.S., the usual patrons are Vietnamese.

We completely nailed this one! The restaurant we tried was Rice Paper, a Vietnamese spot, in Eden Center, Falls Church, VA. Upon suggestion from the waitress, I had the Bánh Hỏi Tôm Thịt Nướng, rice paper wraps served with grilled shrimp skewers served with steamed thin Vermicelli. It was an amazing combination of tastes and trying to perfect my rice paper wrapping was quite entertaining. If you live in the D.C. area or simply visiting, I highly recommend! 

(photo via Rice Paper)

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