1. Dimly-lit restaurants
Maybe it’s a sign of the times. Or of our advancing years. But we really can’t do the candlelight-only restaurants anymore. Nothing creates atmosphere like deep shadows, or casts a warm glow to our faces like fat candles encased in frosted glass. But for those who have exchanged their youth for myopic middle-age, dining out in the dim can highlight all that they’d rather not display. Peering at fancy fonts by candlelight is rather an excruciating exercise, frequently resulting in diners throwing up their hands and asking the waitstaff for their recommendations. Which may be spot-on, but that’s not the point, because, when the food arrives, one could well be as hard-pressed to distinguish Granny Smith from granola. When it comes to the menu, the better restaurants frequently provide discreet reading lights—the not-so-well-off ones make do with a torch—but we just need someone to shed some light over the dinner, chef!
Back in the 1980s, it was a perfectly innocuous vegetable. Exotic, even. It made the occasional appearance in Chinese stir-fries and pasta bakes; we ooh’d and aah’d over its cuteness and crunchiness. Then we figured out that this was a veggie that held its shape, absorbed flavours and was freely available. And so began the bastardisation of the babycorn. Try googling babycorn today, and you’ll be bombarded with recipes for babycorn masala, babycorn pulao and babycorn manchurian—all on the first page. I’m all for innovation, but this is not about experimentation; it’s about mutilation. Ban the babycorn now. Please?
Enough already. Seriously! We understand dining options in India have multiplied enormously from the days of the Udipi and the ubiquitous Chinese eatery. But the co-opting of the fine-dining label by every wannabe, upcoming and middle-of-the-road restaurant that can afford cutlery gets our goat. Gastronomic historian Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who traces the birth of fine-dining to pre-revolutionary Paris restaurateur Antoine Beauvilliers, listed four essentials of a truly superior meal experience: An elegant room, smart waiters, a choice cellar and excellent cooking. Definitions of all four may have changed with time, but low lights, oversmart waitstaff, beer lists and chocolate ‘soil’ do not equate fine dining. Oh no!