Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I'm Back

Selection of butter, Eastside Inn  (photo courtesy, The Grubworm)
I'm back but before I dive in, I just want to let you know of some changes that I'm planning. Restaurant reviews can get a bit formulaic so I'm going to experiment in how I present mine. I'm not sure what direction I'm going to take but one decision I've made is to use Chinese characters in my reviews where appropriate.

I'm doing this because Chinese food can be inaccessible with the same dish having a number of different names in English. It can be confusing and it often deters non-Chinese speakers from being adventurous. In the past, I've used Mandarin pin yin and transliterated Cantonese to describe dishes but unless you speak Chinese, it isn't entirely helpful. By using Chinese characters in my reviews, you can print them out and show staff the dish you want to order, no matter which restaurant you end up in.

If you want to learn more about reading Chinese menus then I can recommend the excellent Adventures in Kake. I'm also hoping to use native languages for my write-up's of other Asian cuisines. Although this will be trickier, as my knowledge of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese etc is non-existent.

Back to the photo of the butter at the beginning of the post, this was from the Eastside Inn. I was lucky enough to tag along with The Grubworm, who had been invited by co-owner Justine to check out their new bar snack menu. I thought the bar snacks were brilliant but who'd have though that the butter would be the star of the evening. My favourite was the seaweed butter in the middle of the photo.

My outing here was an unexpected pleasure and this post is a belated thank you to Justine (and Bjorn) for their kind hospitality, fine cocktails and excellent bar snacks. For a proper write-up of the evening, please click here.

{Update - a few short days after writing this, Eastside Inn closed for business. It's always sad when a decent joint closes and I'd like to wish Bjorn and Justine, the best of luck in their future endeavours.}


  1. I've looked at that awesome blog on deciphering Chinese menus before and really enjoyed it.

    I still think I want to understand the food and the way it works and interlinks before I understand the menus (as whilst I might be able to recognise something, knowing in what context to order it is potentially more important) before turning to the characters themselves. However, I aplaud and thank you for using Chinese going forward.

    I now regularly print out others reviews, pull them up on my phone or have pictures of dishes to show to waiters.

  2. Great idea about using Chinese characters for your reviews. Welcome back and looking forward to some new posts!

  3. Aw, thanks to you and Tom for the kind words about my blog. As I said over there, I'm delighted with your plan to use Chinese characters in your posts, and I'm even more delighted to hear that you're extending this to other Asian languages too.

    Tom: I'm definitely with you on the idea of understanding the context, but I've found that knowing even just a handful of characters helps a lot with Googling to find out about a dish or style of cooking. When I search using both Chinese and English in my query, it seems to pull up people who (a) know what they're talking about and (b) are writing primarily in a language I can actually understand :) It can also help you make connections between dishes on different menus — as Sung says, these may have very different English translations while still being the same dish.

  4. Great Idea Mr N! Having just returned form Japan where a lot of the great food (not to mention places) are completely inaccessible without any understanding of the local lingo. This will make your blog very useful to anyone who is interested in Asian food.

  5. Good idea! I hope you don't change too much though. You are one of the few food bloggers who seems to remain down to earth, giving proper reviews of interesting places, rather than including write ups from blogger food events etc which have very little appeal for readers!

  6. Welcome back! and I think the chinese characters sound like a very helpful move

  7. Thanks for all the positive feedback. I'll try my best to incorporate as much Chinese as possible. The thing is though my reading and writing skills are pretty crap so I will be relying a lot on 'copy & paste'!

  8. Welcome back! How interesting. I've seen some of the new reviews now and love the use of Chinese characters. Good idea.

  9. GDiva - one thing I am finding is that it helps a lot if a restaurant has a Chinese menu, I can 'copy and paste' from!