Writing a descriptive restaurant menu that people can understand means a few simple things, here we’ll look at the best strategies on how to write a menu that describes the food you serve. Word choice will be very important here because confusing or unclear menus can often put people off or feel uneasy about ordering something they don’t understand. Also, different words for taste, texture, course, and spice level should be kept in mind. Here are some things to consider before you write your new menu.
Words For Cooking Method
Letting patrons know how something is prepared is important not only so they know what they are ordering, but also to understand the greater overall process of what went into a particular dish.When writing a descriptive restaurant menu, it will be very important to separate dishes with similar or the same style of ingredients, for example a braised pork shoulder or a blackened pork chop
- Baked: food that is prepared and then cooked to completion in the oven. Think a pie or baked clams.
- Blanch: food cooked in boiling water and immediately placed into cold or icy water. Think blanched chicken.
- Blackened: food dipped in oil, butter, or another sticking agent and then coated with spices like sesame, black pepper, to be cooked in a pan until the edges appear “blackened”. Think blackened chicken breast.
- Braised: food quickly cooked in fat or butter and then finished in a covered pot or pan. Created a tender yet firm coated texture. Think braised beef.
- Broiled: cooking with close proximity very high heat in a grill or an oven. Depending on the food, will be crisped. Think broiled salmon.
- Caramelized: slow cooking a food until softened and sweetened. Think caramelized onions.
- Fermented: foods that are cooked through time and bacteria or other organisms in a controlled environment which changes the flavor and offers a bit of preservation. Think kimchi or beer.
- Fried: food cooked fully submerged in a variety of oil, frying can be done using different oils and different temperatures. Think fried chicken.
- Marinated: food that has been cooked after spending time in a sauce or marinade. Think of marinated pork loin.
- Roasted: food cooked in an over or other dry heat environment, using higher heat. Think of roasted root vegetables.
- Sautéed: food that is cooked and stirred often in oil or fat. Think of sautéed onions.
- Smoked: food that has been cooked with low heat and enclosed, with wood-chips directly on coals or open fire, which produces smoke. Meats will be pink on the edges when cut into. Think of smoked salmon or smoked brisket.
- Whipped: food that is literally whipped together to change its consistency. Think of whipped mashed potatoes or whipped cream.
Having a well thought out and cleverly worded menu will give your diners the best insight into what dishes they would prefer. Whether it is with familiar flavors and textures or proper descriptions that give them a good idea of what to expect in a dish they’ve never had. Writing a descriptive restaurant menu can help people be more adventurous and try new things. Be sure to test your menu and ask diners how clear things were after the meal, or a server, can do this prior to taking an order.
Words For Texture
Texture is important to note because some textures are unappealing to some (think jellyfish) diners. Also, when writing a descriptive restaurant menu, having a good description of texture allows people to know what to expect when thinking about the way in which a dish and its flavors are delivered.
- Airy: light, feathery textures, think whipped cream, or whipped omelet.
- Buttery: silky, creamy and smooth like or tasting of butter.
- Chewy: food with some elasticity and that will have some bite too it. Think of salt water taffy.
- Crispy: crunchy but light textures, think well done French fries.
- Crumble: a texture that will fall apart or break to bits when chewed or cut. Think apple crumb cake.
- Crunch: like crispy but with a more firm crunch. Think thick cut kettle cooked potato chips. 4
- Crusty: hard exterior with softer interior, think of a cal-zone or good a good French baguette.
- Delicate: light and airy flavors that will break bend, or be cut easily. Think edible flowers.
- Flaky: a texture that will literally fall apart in layers when cut. Think of quiche or a croissant.
- Fluff: think of airy but with some more weight to it. Think a fluffy piece of cake or fluffy butternut squash puree.
- Hearty: full-bodied, rich, and filling; think a stuffed baked potato or chili.
- Silky: coating to the palette, this texture is refined yet rich. Think silky tiramisu.
- Smooth: a texture that is consistent without granules or pieces. Think whipped cream.
- Tenderness: texture that describes how easy something is to chew or its softness profile, think of tender filet mignon in comparison to a well done hamburger.
Words for Taste
First and foremost on a particular menu item, outside of the ingredients, will be taste and flavor profiles. Writing a descriptive restaurant menu that is well thought out can build anticipation and excitement in a particular dish, when used in conjunction with presentation, creates a complete from menu to taste atmosphere for your patrons. Here is the most common flavor words to use where applicable.
- Acidity: sharp, almost biting taste used commonly to describe citrus, tartness, or vinegar heavy flavors.
- Bitterness: a sharp (but not acidic) flavor that can be perceived as overpowering or harsh, think broccoli-rabe.
- Brine: salt heavy flavors often with seafood, think the ocean.
- Citrus: tart, acidic, sweet or bitter, and fresh. Think lemon or other citrus fruit notes.
- Cooling: often paired with spicy food the cooling flavor will cool the pallet, think mint or yogurt with spicy food.
- Creamy: heavy milk or thin silky milk sauce, think new England clam chowder, or ice cream.
- Freshness: crisp and airy flavor, often describes fresh vegetables, salads, herbs, or also seafood describing it’s time from fisherman to table.
- Full-body: rich and heavy on the palette, think beef stew or creamy pasta.
- Herbal: robust flavors that enhance the flavor of meat or vegetables served with, think mint, rosemary, green tea, etc.
- Nutty: flavor that is close to or containing any variety of nuts. Think of a powerful provolone cheese or different mushroom varietals.
- Rich: full flavor that coats the entire pallet and tongue, think butter cooked filet mignon.
- Sharpness: a powerful flavor that can out shine other flavors. Think extra sharp cheddar cheese or pungent raw red onion.
- Smoke: flavor profile that has clear notes of burning or wood, think smoked ribs.
- Sourness: tart and even puckering to the pallet, think raw lemon or powerful citrus flavors.
- Spicy: hot and even burning to the pallet, this flavor can be mild, medium, hot and beyond and usually patrons will either love it or hate, but most can always take a little heat. Think chicken wings, in various spice levels.
- Sweetness: fruity or sugary flavors (does not necessarily mean desert level sweetness), think cake or maple syrup pancakes.
- Zesty: close to spicy, a noticeable and powerful flavor that doesn’t overpower a dish, offers some heat. Think Sriracha glaze on wasabi encrusted salmon.