In today's detail-oriented dining scene, it's not uncommon to encounter menus listing four or five entrees, a development that would have been unthinkable back when diners expected restaurants to cater to their every craving (for a vestige of that era, check out the 130-item menu at 13 Coins.) I love a short menu, since it significantly lessens the chances of a prep cook rifling through the walk-in for red peppers purchased two weeks ago so he can take his first stab at making risotto.
But what's even better about a short menu is it's feasible for me to eat my way through it. Obviously, the more food I sample, the better I'm equipped to assess a restaurant. But budgets and schedules rarely allow me to cover the card, as the Bingo players say, so I usually aim try at least one example of each course, protein and cooking technique listed on the menu. When a menu's an average length (judging from the menus sitting atop my recently-reviewed pile, 16 non-dessert items is the going standard), my goal's to polish off at least half of the dishes.
I don't do all that eating in one sitting, of course. I always visit a restaurant at least twice, since any restaurant can have an aberrant off night. But I can't possibly visit the five, six or seven times it would require for me to space out my orders so I might file them in normal person fashion. A review meal means salad, soup, appetizer, entree, possibly an extra side dish or two, and - if I didn't do dessert on a previous visit - something sweet to finish.
Ordering multiple items is trickiest at restaurants where every other customer observes a one-per-person policy. Servers aren't ruffled by a party of four ordering the whole of the appetizer menu, but it's just weird when two people order five burgers. When I reviewed Uneeda Burger, I relied on a hefty to-go order to round out the impressions I forged in the Fremont dining room, and I took music editor Chris Kornelis to Katsu Burger. As a man three times my size, Chris doesn't arouse suspicion when he asks for a double-decker burger, a chicken sandwich, milkshake and fries.
Since I shop in the children's clothing department, I always worry that I'll tip off servers by ordering so much food. But a server at Ray's Cafe, the subject of this week's review, was the first server ever to openly guess my motives. Since Ray's serves small plates, and since I had three men at my table, and since two of them had never before been on a review and were keen to try everything, we'd ordered very liberally: I can't imagine too many of Ray's patrons ask for an egg sandwich with their salmon filets. The server tactfully pretended not to notice until we asked for two desserts. "Are you guys starting a restaurant or something?," he ventured.
Nope. But Ray's is working hard to restart its iconic restaurant with a view. For my opinion of the many dishes I ate there, check out my review here. And the many Ray's guests who wield cameras in hopes of snapping a sunset won't want to miss Joshua Huston's accompanying slideshow.