Today’s Washington Post elucidates an interesting menu issue: How far restaurants should go to alert vegetarians which dishes included meat-based proteins.
The eatery in question is ShopHouse, the brand new Asian fast-casual from Chipotle Mexican Grill. It serves a green curry that uses fish sauce. In itself fish sauce is scarcely surprising, because the popular seasoning is an essential ingredient in many dishes in Southeast Asian cookery.
In curries fish sauce is nearly ubiquitous; without it curries at Chipotle, which has long prided itself on serving whole foods, would be less than authentic.
Back to the Post. While Food Editor Joe Yonan makes a solid case for mentioning fish sauce on the menu board so vegetarians know not to order green curry, a Chipotle spokesman suggests that listing ingredients isn’t as simple as one might think.
I asked [Communications Director Chris] Arnold if, as at Chipotle, there might be plans at ShopHouse to label the curries as non-vegetarian on the menu boards and the paper menus.
“We try not to use our menus as ingredient declarations, because where does it stop?” he said in a phone interview. “There are lots and lots of ingredients in our restaurants, but at the same time we realize people have diet restrictions and issues, whether it’s philosophical or religious or because of allergens, and we certainly try to make that information available. And we try to train our crew to be knowledgeable about what’s in the food so they can provide information and answer qustions.”
Yonan inquires because on his second visit (prompted by a tweet from a vegetarian) he purposely waits to see if an employee informs him fish sauce is in the curry he’s ordered. The worker does not, and only after Yonan asks does he learn the dish includes the sauce. He’s left to wonder:
“Who bears more responsibility for making sure that a vegetarian diner, or one with any other restrictions, eats according to those choices? The restaurant, or the diner?”