Menu Talk What Now?
What’s new in food? Nothing, really. Every new-to-you term on a menu is almost certainly based on a centuries-old classic cuisine or technique. So we’re using the term “new” with our chopsticks firmly in our cheeks. We’re thinking not just of this year but of the past few heady years when menus seemed to be changing faster than Google homepage artwork.
Below are some fresh trends and, in some cases, where to find ‘em.
Lotus root is the new potato: as a pizza with cheese on top at Yuzu, braised as a side with short ribs at The Grove.
Deep-fried vegetables are the new potato chips: Gobo chips at Ojiya, deep-fried spinach leaves, singed choi alongside grilled fish or atop chicken in many kitchens.
Quinoa is the new brown rice; ditto barley, couscous and other grains.
Rustic is the new sophisticated: a plain burger of house-aged beef with braised red onion slices and some garlic aioli at The Whole Ox.
Nubbly terrines are the new pate; The Whole Ox, again, and elsewhere.
Braised is the new stewed.
Caramelized is the new browned.
There isn’t, sadly, a new “crusted”; chefs are still crusting away (people like it).
Panna cotta is the new tiramisu (and way harder to do right than it looks). Town, Fendu Bakery, The Grove.
Lunchtrucks and picnic table lunch shops are the new white tablecloth restaurants.
Value is the new splurge (see lunchwagons, above).
Pop-up is the new struggling restaurant: Just do something out-of-the-way for a short time and no need to worry if you’ll succeed long-term.
Twitter is the new word-of-mouth advertising.
Kale is the new broccoli or asparagus or whatever ignored green they used to put on your plate. Yes, it grows locally and is at your farmers’ market!
Dry-aged in house, grass-fed is the new well-marbled, grain-finished beef.
Hawai’i-made butter and cheese are the new … well, butter and cheese.
Local aquacultured tilapia is the new ‘opakapaka.
Local acquacultured abalone is the new canned top shell.
Jam is the new marmalade. Remember that tantalizing bacon jam on “Top Chef”?
Gastrique is the new coulis (caramelized syrup sparked with acid–vinegr and such–and laced with fresh fruit, a million variations).
Five-spice is the new cinnamon.
Pork is the new white meat again, only now it’s local, got some marbling and doesn’t dry out if you look at it wrong. Go anywhere the menu says Shinsato’s pork.
Chutney is the new fruit garnish: and it doesn’t need to cook forever or have anything to do with mango. It might be green papaya, some rare tropical fruit or even take plain old apple to new heights.
Risotto is the new soup: seeping juices (the correct way to make it, as any Northern Italian will tell you): simply made; not overloaded with protein; from Canarole rice, not Arborio.
Farm-to-table is the new “regional cuisine.”
Ingredient lists are the new menu titles: Roast pork is (farm name) pork, braised in Hamakua mushroom jous, with (farm name) pak choy, (farm name) tropical fruit marmalade. Sometimes, it takes a long paragraph just to convey the information that used to be telegraphed in “roast pork.”
“If you require gluten-free choices, consult your server” is the new “we’re happy to make substitutions.”
Grow-your-own is the new vegetable shopping.
Temari (round sushi) is the new sushi. Yuzu and elsewhere.
Tamanishiki is the new Hinode.
Table-at-the-farm will be the new farm-to-table, a trend famously popularized by Michelle Obama, not to mention guests at Kualoa Ranch and Ma’o Farms.
Black garlic is the new garlic.
Green or black fine tea is the new smoke rub.
Humanely raised is the new free-range.
Sustainable is the new we-do-this-right. Ditto GMO-free. Ditto organic. Ditto fair trade.
TV and apps are the new cookbooks.
All of which proves we still need the old food or tool on the block, because it’s got to cycle back sometime.