Joshua Johnson, a loyal MR (and TCEDG) reader, asks:
If you are going to a new ethnic
restaurant, what staple items do you order that for you, let you know
if the restaurant is worth coming back to and trying more of their
offerings? It would be nice if you could make some sort of list for
Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Turkish, etc.
Japanese: One bite of the tempura tells all.
Chinese: Ma Po Tofu, or for some kinds of Chinese places Hainan Chicken with Rice.
Thai: Almost any dish shows the true colors of a Thai restaurant immediately.
Turkish: Doner Kebab, taking special care to ponder the tanginess of the yogurt and how it interacts with the meat.
Vietnamese: Anything with lemon grass, which is hard to use well.
Ethiopian: Kitfo or barring that lamb tibs.
Peruvian: Lomo saltado, taking special care to check for the right amount of cilantro in the sauce and the correct sogginess of the french fries.
Bolivian: Silpancho, and check the liquidity and consistency of the egg on top.
Afghan: Kadu (pumpkin) and is it too sweet?
Korean: Seafood pancake and in general the quality of their kimchees.
Indian: Most dishes will do (see "Thai"), although avoid the Butter Chicken as a metric of quality. Lamb with spinach is my do-or-die default judgment dish for an Indian restaurant, if only because you get to taste both the lamb (less likely to be tender than the chicken) and the spinach.
Restaurant, general: How's their chili crab? If it's not outstanding, or not on the menu, press eject immediately and get yourself to a different country.
Can you think of others?