When people think of restaurants, they most commonly think of cooking — emphasis on “cook.” The large majority of American meals are made up of cooked dishes, whether grilled or sautéed, braised or stewed.
But more and more consumers are looking for simplified, delicious dishes and are exploring uncooked options. Whether with vegetables, fish, or even beef, raw is on the rise.
So how do you incorporate raw into your menu? How do you stand out from other restaurants leaning into the same trends? We’ve got some ideas to help you brainstorm your next big menu addition.
Raw vegetable displays might be at the core of nearly any holiday or hotel buffet, but crudités do not have to be boring or commonplace. On the contrary – think of crudité arrangements as you would a bouquet of flowers or a still-life painting. There are so many ways to use the colors of raw vegetables to create an edible work of art!
If you need inspiration, go to your local farmer’s market and get a feel for the produce there. Look for heirloom varieties of tomatoes and other mainstream favorites – your guests will be more inclined to eat produce they already know they like, but you can still bring them new flare with more unique-looking versions.
Alongside your constructed crudité display, why not feature three different dipping sauces? A green goddess dressing, perhaps? A sesame ranch concoction? How about a delicious garlic aioli?
While you can go wild with the dips and dressings, consider making at least one of the sauces vegan, and label it as such. A good looking crudité display is going to catch the eye of any vegans looking for sure-fire vegan options, and seeing vegan-approved sauces to accompany the vegetables will help make the display a home run.
Taking on Tartare
Tartare is a simple dish concept (finely chopped or minced meat, served raw), but one that must be executed with precision to truly pull off. The meat needs to be of very high quality and the knife cuts must be tiny and consistent in order to get the right mouthfeel for the guest. Like with sushi, most home cooks don’t have the expertise to get the dish right, so if you can master tartare, those guests craving this delicacy will see your restaurant as a must-visit.
The basic idea of tartare can be adapted in many different ways, so while beef is the classic protein choice, don’t limit yourself. Tuna is another favorite, but what about lamb or goat?
Add new flavors to this steakhouse favorite. Instead of the standard raw egg yolk, how about some horseradish aioli or a gazpacho drizzle? Serving it on or with bite-sized crispy crackers can add that crunch to balance out the soft texture of the meat.
And again, it’s important that your tartare be chopped by hand – no machine grinding that will mash up the meat. This is a luxury dish and guests expect that extra level of expertise. If you want to test out the raw/rare meat craze but worry about those knife skills, why not start with Carpaccio (very thinly sliced rare beef) and if that’s a hit with guests, then expand into tartare.
A Hawaiian delicacy, poke is raw fish (usually Ahi tuna) that is chopped and mixed in a soy/sesame marinade and served with rice. Like with ceviche, the fish is never actually cooked but the marinade changes the texture of the fish.
Whereas ceviche’s marinade is a mild flavor component, poke’s marinade brings a big, bold punch of flavor to the protein. Because of that, it’s always best to mix the dish to order and avoid the fish getting overwhelmed by the sauce. While poke can certainly be incorporated in a fast casual menu, that means some parts of the dish can’t be done ahead of time.
While you can go outside the box with poke, this might be one of those cases where mastering the traditional flavors is the best way to go. After all, the idea is to use the best cut of fish you can and let the seafood shine. Over-piling the dish with combatting flavors is never a good idea. Stick with classic poke flavor combinations like chopped green onion, toasted sesame seeds, avocado slices, and some finely chopped macadamia nuts on top.
Want to expand your menu and keep it fresh and elegant, without overwhelming your kitchen? Consider tapas.