Menus, Locavorism & keeping fresh

The Spelling Adds To The Charm

Every good restaurant I’ve encountered will have 3 menus: Regular, Set and Verbals. Here’s what I like.

The regular, a la carte menu is for people who crave predictability or feature dishes that were so successful that people (regulars!) will protest if you take it off the menu.

Sets are prix fixe meals of which there may be two versions: degustation or full-courses. I usually choose these because this is where seasonal ingredients are featured in their fullest glory.

Verbals as the name implies are specials which are “whispered” to the customer to provide a sense of “special treatment”. Possibly an amuse bouche or a Chef favor, a verbal is usually for people who are bored or are uninspired by the regular or set menus. The extra special special.


How much emphasis to place on each category is up to you. But right now, I am very keen on seasonal ingredients.

Singapore does not have any special local ingredient to offer and we don’t have agricultural diversity because of scale, so locavorism is out of the question, hence restaurants have to leverage on our strategic geography and the prowess of our ports to obtain seasonal ingredients from all over.


Having a specialty cuisine like bak kut teh or the multitude of steamboat restaurants works for a while but then bandwagonners will jump in and drown you out with cheaper offerings. And you’ve been reading this forum long enough, you’ll realize that a lot of people are essentially budget conscious. While this is not a bad trait, it’s not good for business because people will tend towards cheaper alternatives while you are diluted, i.e. become common.

I try to avoid menus that offer all things to all people. You have a limited budget and if you try this, you will be forced to cut corners while desperately trying to keep everything fresh especially if you do have a good turnover. Dodgy…

In a nutshell, I feel using seasonal ingredients is what keeps a restaurant menu fresh and keeps you ahead of the crowd; infinite variety multiplied by infinite ways to coax the flavors to tease the tastebuds. And you don’t need a large menu; small selection, done perfectly.

You don’t need a lot of customers to be a successful restaurant, just the right ones.


Posted on 21st May 2009 in Food and Drink, Musings


There Are 2 Comments


ladyironchef commented on May 24, 2009 at 3:50 pm

We shared the same sentiments, a place doesn’t need to offer that many variety, just some very good ones, with the occasional new tweak and surprise.

“…leverage on our strategic geography and the prowess of our ports to obtain seasonal ingredients from all over.

Prowess of our ports, nice one 🙂


[…] crispy pork was presented as a verbal but we hesitated from ordering it because of the Star Anise. This hesitation can be explained […]

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