We looked at some longstanding restaurant myths to see how these supposed diner don’ts hold up.
1. Don’t order fish on Mondays
This myth originated from Anthony Bourdain’s memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” which espoused his belief that restaurants serving fish on Mondays had to use old fish from the previous week’s deliveries. Since his book came out in the late ‘90s, advancements in technology have allowed restaurateurs access to fresh fish throughout the week, even if they aren’t located on a coast.
“Most restaurants utilize national vendors who are able to provide fresh, quality seafood, making purchase any day of the week an acceptable choice,” says Imran Sheikh, owner of hospitality group Milkshake Concepts. Even Bourdain himself has since said that his rule no longer applies.
2. Rare steak is unsafe to eat
The USDA recommends cooking steak, lamb and pot roasts to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees. Many chefs, however, argue that meat cooked for that long loses its flavor and becomes tough. “The safest bet is to order steak medium,” Sheikh suggests. This provides the best of all worlds in terms of maintaining flavor, quality, desired taste and more.”
3. Don’t put ice in wine
Many wine connoisseurs are against putting ice in wine, noting that melted ice will dilute wine’s flavor and change its temperature. Wine mixed with ice, however, has become a trend among fans of the grape—with frozen rose, or “frose,” popping up on menus in warmer months, as well as wine served with liquor-infused popsicles. Some wines on the market have even been developed with the intent of being served over ice.
4. Chopsticks should be rubbed together
Rubbing chopsticks together before a meal is believed to be customary in Asian cultures to get rid of splinters. In an interview with Bon Appetit, however, David Gelb, director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, says that chefs are actually insulted when guests rub chopsticks because it suggests they were provided with cheap eating utensils.
5. Soy and wasabi ought to be mixed
Mixing soy and wasabi to enjoy with sushi is a common practice in Western countries; however, Gelb and other sushi enthusiasts say that doing so will mess with the sushi’s flavor. Seasoned sushi chefs usually add their own soy or wasabi to sushi, and dunking it in the two will throw off the flavor balance. Furthermore, mixing wasabi with soy will destroy the flavor of the wasabi, especially if it was freshly ground by the chef.
6. Pair red wine with meat and white wine with fish
In order to make sure wine doesn’t overpower a meal, a common rule for wine pairings is that red wines go well with meat, while lighter white wines pair well with fish. Today’s sommeliers, however, say that the proper wine to pair with a meal depends on the individual dish’s flavor and texture. “In many cases, [the pairing myth] isn't true,” sommelier Eric Railsback told Serious Eats. “It is very important to look at the type of sauce that is being served as well as the texture of the type of protein, and how it is cooked.”
7. Waitstaff will spit in your food if you are rude
Restaurant staff spitting in an unruly customer’s food likely doesn’t happen as often as some diners assume, a 2014 study by Human Performance indicated. The survey of 438 restaurant employees found that only 6% of staff said that they have actually tainted a rude customer’s food, while 79% said they were more likely to vent about such customers with coworkers. “Food service employees generally do their best to provide a positive experience for customers," a co-author of the study said.
8. Don’t order shellfish unless the month has an "r" in it
For safety reasons, some patrons believe that shellfish should only be eaten from September to April. Supporters of the rule say that shellfish are unsafe to eat in summer due to the increased presence of a shellfish algae that’s toxic to humans. Advances in monitoring algae and toxin levels in shellfish, however, now allow diners to safely enjoy shellfish all year.
9. Traditional martinis can be made with vodka
While vodka martinis are popular today, they are not technically traditional martinis, as gin and vermouth were the liquors of choice when the drink was first created in the 1800s. Vodka martinis didn’t take off until after the 1960s release of “Dr. No,” where James Bond orders the drink shaken with vodka.