Wasabi isn’t exactly a cutting-edge flavor, especially now that most supermarket delis sell boxes of ready-made sushi with a dab of the fiery green Japanese horseradish paste. But, says today’s New York Times, diners at Eat’n Park, a chain of 78 restaurants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, balked at ordering trendy wasabi-encrusted salmon.
In “Wasabi to the People: Big Chains Evolve or Die,” (Wednesday, July 11, 2007, Dining In, pp. D1 and D4), Micheline Maynard says senior vice president Brooks Broadhurst was perplexed by customers’ reaction, “although he did wonder whether the fish, with its pale green coating and pale green sauce, looked unappealing on the laminated multipage menu, especially next to the sundaes and pies covered in whipped cream.”
Americans crave exotic, ethnic flavors, and mainstream restaurant chains are under growing pressure to come up with dishes that use trendy ingredients that appeal to palates piqued by Top Chef and other venues for celebrity cooks. But there’s a fine, often unpredictable line between “cutting edge” and “unacceptable.” At Atlanta’s Bread Company, goat cheese salad bombed, but a Cuban roast pork loin sandwich was a winner with Hispanic customers. Meanwhile Panera Bread is serving a grilled salmon salad with Meyer lemon dressing at its 1,000 restaurants.