I went to try a new Chinese restaurant here in Boston Chinatown last week. I had heard that the best dishes were on the "secret" chinese only menus on the walls of the restaurant.
I tried my best to get any of the waiters to help me order from those menus. But, they kept insisting that I wouldn't like any of the food. They just did not want to tell me what was being offered off the English menu. I argued the point for a while, and I finally was able to have them suggest one dish which I ordered and it was wonderful (it was a stir fried eel dish with pea tendrils and garlic). But, the fight to get it was off-putting.
One time a few years ago, I went with a group of people to a Chinese restaurant, and one of the people spoke Chinese, so he ordered. The food was wonderful and I've wanted to try doing that again, but I don't have any Chinese friends locally.
Why do these restaurants insist on "hiding" these dishes from the general public? I understand that many or most of their customers are Chinese and it isn't an issue for them. But, what do you do if you are a poor American soul with a love of good Chinese food and a basic lack of Mandarin language competency? Is it really that hard to have another menu with English translations for these? If 5% of their English customers order those dishes, isn't that more business for them anyway?
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