I’m not going to tell you what is going to happen this year in the world of cuisine. There are hundreds of sites out there that are looking into their crystal balls and finding trends, but I’m done with my preternatural palate prowess. It’s always a bit off-key anyway.
Instead, I’m going to tell you what I think should be popular, and what absolutely has to go. After all, nobody else can tell you what’s in my warped brain, can they?
So, let’s start….
- Wheelbarrows and bicycles outside restaurants – Are restaurants trying to suggest that they take the aforementioned rickety vehicle down to the local market and make purchases there every day? That all the purchases fit in the wicker basket? Especially with that bundle of herbs growing in there? I think not. Next time I see one, I’m going to steal it.
- Food trucks selling big kitchen food – If the complete kitchen is not in the truck, in my eyes, it’s not a food truck, just another food outlet with cheap rent. I love food trucks for their unique menus and ingenious recipes that figure their way around a kitchen the size of a postage stamp. If it’s pre-prepared and brought in from the mothership, we all know. Give it up and let the little guys have a go.
- Fancy restaurants selling fast food – yes, burgers are awesome, when they are less than $20. I don’t want a piece of chicko roll in my main (even though I did want this several years ago), fried chicken that looks like it should be in a polystyrene bucket, or shawarma done any way except how Antar does it (for 6 AED). I especially don’t want something that looks just like a Magnum but tastes half as good, particularly when it costs five times as much
- Fake ethnic restaurants – If something is labelled as Peruvian, I expect at least 70% of the menu to be firmly entrenched in unique Peruvian cuisine. I don’t mind the odd Argentine or Mexican dish creeping in, but restaurants should not believe they can pass off too many. The customer is too smart for that now. Same goes for Moroccan, Iranian, Vietnamese and anything else I suppose, even Australian.
- Jars for drinks, salads and desserts – Why anyone thinks it’s clever to drink out of something that looks like it should hold toxic moonshine or a urine sample, I have no idea. It’s uncomfortable, dribblesome and ugly. If they were actually recycled jars, I might understand it, but I know they have been bought new in preference of proper glasswear, which is probably cheaper and possibly even more environmentally sound. I’m less offended with salads and desserts,I’d just like to know the jar has a lid for a reason – to shake it up or take it away. And then I have to be able to eat it without having to upend the darn thing all over my front.
- Popping candy and popcorn – there are better ways to make a taste explosion. This stuff either hurts my mouth or gets stuck in my teeth.
- The smear – Say the word, and women think of the dreaded bi-annual health check. It’s ugly, and looks like someone has stuck their finger on my plate, or, heaven-forbid, in some cases, already licked it. I’d love chefs to take some time and give me a swirl, a dollop, a series of polkadots, or if all else fails, just hide the splat underneath something. Smears are for slides that go to the laboratory.
- Decimation of pretty desserts – especially before I have photographed them. If waiters are going to bring me a spectacular creation only to pour hot chocolate all over it and turn it into a muddy soup, expect me to be disappointed. I know the dessert will start to look terrible once I tuck into it – but I don’t want a waiter mucking it all up before I am ready. While I’m at it, I’d also like to see an end to dessert splats – you know when they come and cover your table with paper only to smash meringues and chocolate eggs and stuff all over it? What a debacle – bring back the old ice cream sundae.
- Ipads as menus – They’re heavy, impersonal, confusing and my kids drop them. I’m not a fan unless my order can be synced directly to the kitchen, or the entire menu can appear magically on my iPhone upon entering, to save me waiting 20 minutes for a waiter to realise I am in their section.
- Street food influence on fine dining restaurants – Show me food with a story. It reminds me why I pay so much to eat out of home. I don’t mean the fast food as described above – I’m talking about a chef travelling somewhere exotic, tasting something out of the box to him/her, but mainstream for the region, then bringing it back with a personal twist and presenting it to me. I love to see the personal connection they make, and it inspires me to try the original.
- Salting sweet stuff – And, anything that takes a whole-palate perspective. I love to see chefs send out unusual combinations that marry in the mouth like childhood sweethearts. I want more clever food. Salt and sweet, sour and spice, viscosity and heat. Just keep it subtle please. I don’t want any biscuit tacos, caviar and chocolate or jelly with mayonnaise.
- Kitchen gardens that are actually used – Herbs are pretty, carrot tops look lovely in hanging baskets, tomatoes climbing up a wall smell great and look deliciously rustic. But what looks even better is when the produce on the plate matches what is in the garden. And it tastes amazing too.
- Ethiopian food – I’ve been reading about this in my work, and it sounds really, really good. There are a stack of Ethiopian restaurants in old Dubai, which may as well be in Sharjah as far as Dubai traffic goes. They are also all super cheap, which while fantastic in some ways, suggests there is not much range. I hear Ms Frying Pan knows which are the best though, so might have to hit her up for some advice, at least until I can get a fix in my hood.
- Trashless take away – I’ve been ordering dum biryani from Biryani Pot for some time, and it comes complete in the terracotta cooking pot. This can then be used again to cook in (not for biryani, because I can’t get mine as good as theirs, but it is perfect for a shakshouka), or for planting herbs, as a dog’s bowl, bird feeder and more (granted, I am running out of uses now I have six of them). It does however make me think. All those stupid jars they feed us in organic vegan paleo places – couldn’t they be used for milk-shake delivery, and returned for a discount for subsequent deliveries? How about tiffin containers? So much better than all that non-reusable stuff with unimaginable half-lives. I’d be happy to pay extra.
- Ingredients – Can’t get enough of eggs. They are healthy, cheap, reasonably sustainable in some cases, full of flavor and body, vary wonderfully in texture and are malleable in ways that so few proteins are. Next, I’d like to see more alternative citrus – bring on yuzu (flavour that makes me melt) and finger limes (caviar texture).
- Beachside dining – I love what’s happening down at Kite beach. Casual, cheap(ish) eats, unattached to hotels and clubs, that are accessible to all at any time. Keep it up. But not too much – It’s always good to retain a bit of sand for beach play.
- Classy ladies nights – why do all restaurants and bars seem to assume that the best way to get ladies in is to offer them vast quantities of free drinks of dubious quality on a school night? I’d much rather a cheese plate, a three-course food and wine experience, a discount on champagne or a series of tapas with matching mini cocktails. I mean, sure, the ladies are probably not going to hook up with dodgy blokes like they might after 23 cosmopolitans made with rocket fuel, but is that really the aim for venues?
- Flavours – Smoke is number 1. For some, I know, it’s getting a little over the top with all the glass bells being lifted at the table with a waft of smouldering goodness-knows-what. But I still love it. You can smoke just about anything and I’ll eat it, even if it is presented sans smoking bell. And for number two, a word that might have been overused – umami. But I’d like to see applications in mainstream cuisine. Bring on fermented products, aged and salted proteins, anything that makes you want to smack your lips together.
So. Do you think I’ll get my wishes? What are yours?