(Splash photo of Gyotaku Restaurant menu)
In the recent Gyotaku Japanese Restaurant review, reader Dean Masutomi brought up an interesting thought about their menu relying heavily on photos of the dishes. Dean said, “… personally I was really never a big fan of pictures in a menu. I always feel disappointed if the food doesn’t look like the picture. In culinary school we were taught how to write menus, how to describe the dish with our words. Pictures IMO, take away the mystery of the dining experience. This would make a good poll…how do others feel?” Well Dean-San, that’s indeed what we’ll do now.
(Photo of polls)
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Before we get to the polls, let’s go over this a bit more. As you know, Japanese restaurants actually typically take the visual presentation of their menu notches higher than just photographs, having what’s called “Sampuru”, which are 3-dimensional plasticized replicas of their signature dishes on display in the front to allure customers in. Which could be a whole blog in itself on the subject of “Sampuru”, as there’s certainly some bad representations out there, amongst some really great ones. Same of course for photos, which are much more cost-effective, as “Sampuru” dishes can run into the hundreds of dollars, vs. photos which in today’s computer age are a non-factor, cost-wise.
(Photo of island beach bikini babes on Oahu)
I do notice at least here on Oahu that most asian restaurants are photo-centric with their menus. On the other hand, European and American restaurants are usually just text-based.
Again, Dean notes when he went to culinary school, they were taught how to write menus, describing the dish with words. Here now I shall bust out my “chops” and present a sample menu, delivered in both a very descriptive, as well as to-the-point very concise presentation:
(Photo of The Tasty Island Burger combo with fries and shake)
The Tasty Island Drive-In
A combination of Okinawan Sweet Potato, Russet and Taro steak-cut, waffle-cut and string-cut fries.
$3.99 “only stay get you” size, $5.99 “ohana” size
Da’ Tasty Island Burger
100% Big Island Free-range Beef Patty, flame grilled on Kiawe, topped with Hamakua Mushrooms sauteed in Mac Nut Oil, melted over with Maui Surfing Goat Cheese, Crispy Manoa Lettuce, North Shore Farms steak-cut Tomato and Maui Onion on a buttered ‘n toasted Portuguese Cottage Bread Bun.
$7.49 “regalahz”, $9.99 “to da’ max” (deluxe)
10-SPAM Musubi Shake
No this shake isn’t made with SPAM, however it’s so, so ono, it’s worthy of 10 SPAM Musubi! Choose either Maui Vanilla, Big Island Cacao Chocolate or Oahu Guava.
$3.99 “only stay get you” size (16 oz.), $5.99 “Konishiki” size (32 oz.)
Sailing by Kualoa…57
Waialua Estates Decadence…10
Ulupalakua Sparkling, Gold or Red…10 glass, 30 bottle
What’s so funny about that example, is I go into serious detail with the cheaper drive-in take-out menu, while the fine dining version leaves everything up to the server to explain. Tough job working at the latter! I gotta’ admit, “Le Island” is a freekin’ RIOT! LOL!!!
Seriously though, have you ever been to Mililani Drive-In? Dude, the menu is f’n CRAZY. It’s like one of those “Why have 3 styles of chicken when you can have 100?” And do you think there’s detailed descriptions of each choice? Hell no!
Here, check it out:
(Photo of 1001 Chicken Plate Lunches)
Served with Rice and Mac Salad
Chicken or Pork Katsu
Chicken Katsu Curry
s/o Shoyu CK
(no rice or mac)
s/o Ginger CK
(no rice or mac)
Grilled Furikake Fish
Grilled Cajun Fish
Sweet Sour PK or CK
Sweet Sour Fish
Fish & Chips
(fries, cole slaw)
1/2 Fish & Chips
(fries, no slaw)
(+)1 egg / (+)2 egg
Spaghetti w/Garlic Bread
Beef Macaroni w/G.Bread
Pork Chop Onion
Pork Chop Tomato
Fish Stir-fry w/Veg
Shrimp Stir-fry w/Veg
CK/BF/PK Stir-fry w/Veg
Vegetarian Stir-fry w/Veg
CHINESE PLATE LUNCH
Served with Rice and Mac Salad, or on a bed of Chow Mien Noodles
CK/BF/PK Ong Choy
CK/BF/PK Black Bean
SHP Black Bean
CK/BF/PK Blk. Mushroom
CK/BF/PK Choy Sum
Shrimp Black Mushroom
Chicken Crispy Noodle
Served with Rice and Mac Salad
Mix Plate #1, 2, 3, 4
#1: Shoyu CK, Fish Tempura, Crispy WT
#2: Teri CK, Fish Tempura, Crispy WT
#3: Teri BF, Fish Tempura, Crispy WT
#4: CK Katsu, Fish Tempura, Crispy WT
Bento (no mac)
(CK Katsu, Fish Tempura, Teri BF, Spam
(CK & PK Katsu)
(CK & PK Cutlet)
(Teri CK & BF)
(Mochiko CK., Teri BF, Fish Tempura)
served with 2 eggs
Portuguese Sausage Fried Rice
Luncheon Meat Char Siu Fried Rice
Chicken Fried Rice
Pork Fried Rice
Beef Fried Rice
Shrimp Fried Rice
Dude, and that’s just their plate lunches. That doesn’t include the mini plates, saimin, soup and side orders. How in the bloody HELL am I supposed to choose from ALL OF THAT?!!! Talk about “Counter Freeze”! Man, good thing I’m not a chicken fan if I go here, that’s all I gotta’ say. LOL!!! And imagine all that on the menu board as just text, with no description, let alone a photo of what each dish looks like. Maybe they have photos now, as I haven’t been to Mililani Restaurant for a while. Yet if they do have photos, it would have to look like WALLPAPER in their restaurant, there’s so many dang choices. CRAZY!
Then there’s Alan Wong’s, who takes his menu to the next level and into the future, where not only are there photos, but it’s all on display on an iPad that each guest are given to make their choices.
What would be really cool is if EVERY restaurant had a mobile app module that loaded onto a universal RESTAURANT app on your smartphone. That way, instead of having all these different apps for every restaurant, you have just one app that loads each restaurant into its library. So say you want to eat at Liliha Bakery’s diner, you look them up on your RESTAURANT app, and it pops up their menu and other basic info such as driving directions and phone number. And the RESTAURANT app would automatically receive updates from each restaurant’s module as they send them out, so the menus you have in your master RESTAURANT app would always be current. And restaurants that are really high tech could also offer order through your restaurant app. So say you feel like some McDonald’s. You fire up your RESTAURANT app, look up McD’s, choose which location (GPS finds the nearest to you), select your menu items, pay through your phone’s debit system, then you just walk or drive-up, swipe your phone’s bar code on their scanner, and out you go with your McD’s grindz within just a minute, in and out. BAM!
(Photo of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs)
OK, I didn’t tell you that, as that’s my ticket to becoming the next big billionaire. Naw, actually, I’m sure Yelp or some folks along those lines are working on something like that.
Now for the polls, where we want to know your thoughts! Your thoughts being, if you go to a restaurant, whatever the caliber may be, whether fine dining, to the local plate lunch stand, are you OK with just a text menu, or do photos (or if available, “samupuru”) of the dish help you make your decision?
One final note, notice unlike every other post on The Tasty Island, this post is completely void of photography (however links were cleverly added just in case you need a visual). Which is yet ANOTHER poll we’ll have, as most feedback I get from private emails and fans of this blog is that they love the photography, yet they equally like my style of writing, which I try to be very laid back and fun. So also let us know how you feel about photography on blogs such as this.