When the chef takes your favorite item off the menu


It never fails. You head to your favorite restaurant, anticipating your favorite dish which you’ve been craving for days, only to scan the new menu with increasing dismay. It turns out that your favorite item is no longer available. Now what? According to The Wall Street Journal, it may not hurt to ask if the chef can make it for you.

The article begins with an example of a menu change at Le Bernardin in New York. For years, one of the favorite appetizers has been a raw tuna and foie gras terrine. Chef Eric Ripert is in the process of getting rid of the dish. Starting last year, it moved to the lounge-only menu. Ripert hopes it will soon be history altogether. “We’ll do the dish until [diners] stop complaining,” he says.

Restaurants have always faced a delicate balance of incorporating new dishes to make things new and exciting versus losing favorite items that kept customers coming back time and again. And often when a menu item is removed, the chefs will keep some of the ingredients on hand so it can be prepared for loyal customers who are deeply disappointed to learn their favorite meal is no longer available.

An extreme example of this is at the 32-year-old Gotham Bar and Grill, in New York City. Customers will regularly request roast chicken with shoestring potatoes-a dish that has been off the menu for nearly 20 years. “People have long memories,” says Alfred Portale, Gotham’s chef-owner. The restaurant has an updated version on the menu, a free-range chicken with morel mushrooms, spring onions and asparagus. But it can be hard for customers to let go, he notes, stating that it can take decades for a restaurant to fully wean patrons off a particularly popular dish. 

The article offers several other examples of “off-menu” items still available at restaurants, along with stories of menu items that were tweaked to keep up with modern tastes. If you have any difficulty with the link above, a quick Google search  for ‘restaurant took dish off menu Wall Street Journal” should get you a link that doesn’t require a subscription.

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