I may be a bit odd in my approach to new restaurants, but here's the deal. For many cuisines, I have a "test drive" dish. This is the dish that I tend to order the first time I try a new place, on the theory that "If they do XXXXX OK, they're probably pretty good. Not always, but a good percentage of the time.
For example, in a Korean place, I usually order Bibim Bop as an opening shot. It's the sort of dish that every Korean place should have, it's popular enough that they ought to put some care into it, it's not all that difficult to do well, and if they screw that up, it doesn't bode well.
For a Chinse place, it might be hot and sour soup and Ma Po Dow Fu.
In a deli, a liverwurst sandwich might be first try - if they don't care enough to have good quality liverwurst, they probably skimp on other things, too.
So, my fellow hounds, what are YOUR "test drive" dishes?