French restaurants

Old Nov 7th, 2023, 03:47 PM
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French restaurants

What do you do if you do not understand anything on the menu and the waiter only speaks French?
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 04:05 PM
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Download Google translate app onto your phone. Put on camera mode and hover your phone over the script on the menu... the French will show up in a (rough) English translation on your screen.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 04:31 PM
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Before there were smart phones, there was the Marling Menu Master... Out of print for decades, but there are used copies on Amazon for $5. It helps to familiarize yourself in advance with some basic stuff, like the words for different meats, fish/seafood, common sauces, etc. But it's been a very long time since we dined anywhere in France where there was no one in the place who could speak at least a little English.

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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 06:25 PM
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Thanks so much!
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 08:21 AM
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Restaurants post their menus outside, so you can take a look before you commit to a restaurant. You can do a quick translation while you're on their doorstep of anything on the menu that you think you might be interested in.

It's even better if, before your trip, you learn the French for your favorite foods--meats, for instance.

Vegetables are an afterthought in France. You won't get a choice of side dishes the way you usually would in the US; there'll just be a sprinkle of a few photogenic vegetables on the hunk of meat or fish.

I remember misunderstanding things a few times. Ris de veau, for instance, which I assumed was a rice pilaff. That's how I discovered I love sweetbreads. Luckily my mistakes have always been good ones.
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 09:14 AM
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App translator is best option. But check the menu first before get in the restaurant.
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 09:36 AM
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Close my eyes and point!!
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 08:02 PM
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It is becoming rare for restaurants not to have an English translation, even if it was only computer generated with the inherent mistakes (like 'fungus' instead of 'mushrooms')
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by kerouac
It is becoming rare for restaurants not to have an English translation, even if it was only computer generated with the inherent mistakes (like 'fungus' instead of 'mushrooms')
I agree!!. We dine in "nice/Michelin recommended" restaurants about 30-40 times a year in sometimes remote regions of France. In several places where we have dined, there were "few/if any Americans". And we were very often offered an English menu. Just make sure you know what "cuisson" you prefer (cooking "doneness" for meats - rare, medium-rare, etc).

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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 12:56 AM
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Start with the "entrées" (starters). Entrées are typically small dishes, such as soup, salad, or pâté. Then order the "plats principaux" (main courses). Here you've learned some new prases)
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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 03:01 AM
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After a year or two of night classes in French I took my 10 y.o. (at the time) daughter on a driving trip through France. The menus were only in French, and I don’t recall making any disastrous mistakes. On an earlier trip with my then girlfriend we stopped at several roadside cafes (les routiers) where there was no menu, you ate what was prepared that day. When we sat down at the table the waitress brought bread and a bottle of wine, already opened and probably refilled from a barrel. Don’t eat too much bread or you won’t have room for the wonderful food brought to your table.
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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 05:45 AM
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Mike, this is going to be a culinary adventure for you!

Helmdall, that brings back memories and not just old ones. Peter Mayle said to look for white vans at lunchtime and you'll get a good meal there. When we're somewhere we don't already know, that is always worth a try. Sometimes you order the main course but there's a buffet for starters and desserts. We came across a doozy this September. There was a buffet of at least 20 starters.

In big cities, sure, you can find menus in English and plenty of English speaking staff. But out in the country, forget it. We visit a few small cities and even there, the restaurants we've gone to have no English-speaking staff. It's often the husband in the kitchen and the wife in the dining room. They are French, nearly all their customers are French, and we aren't, but we really enjoy being surrounded by happy French diners.




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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 11:38 AM
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Any guidebook that you use in advance for your planning or to take along with you and I always take a Fodor's guide with me when I travel will include a vocabulary section that would include menu items as well as important words/phrases to know
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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 12:44 PM
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My unfortunate wife thought she could translate things okay on our first trip. She ordered a raspberry dessert because she thought it sounded perfect. Expected raspberries in fresh whipped cream. When it arrived, she was disappointed with the creme fraiche version. We still kid about that one.
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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 12:49 PM
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I was horrified by crème fraîche as a child. I only learned to appreciate it as an adult.
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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 03:07 PM
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I agree with Coquelicot. This could be an adventure !! Because we do not go to large places we do not come across many menus in English. We have enjoyed some menu du jour where what is on offer is not listed and you just get what is available that day. But then, we will eat most things, so it is not a problem. I have read of people doing a menu degustation and being unpleasantly surprised when given pigeon or rabbit or similar. Not an issue for us, but I can appreciate some people not feeling the same. We also enjoy the ' buffet au volonte ' as entree, but did not have any this last trip.

I remember being surprised first time I bought what I thought was 'fresh cream ' , but love creme fraiche now. It is a fixture in the fridge of our gites. If a cheese course is on the menu, sometimes ' fromage blanc ' is one of the choices for that or dessert. I ordered it for dessert on our very first trip back in 2004 and did not get what I expected. Now we often have a tub when we are in France.

Just do a bit of research, keep an open mind, and you will be fine. Enjoy it all.
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Old Nov 9th, 2023, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mike_b12
What do you do if you do not understand anything on the menu and the waiter only speaks French?
Believe me, Mike, a mere hour invested in Googling "french menu words" (with English default) will pay for itself 100X over.

You won't be surprised by a pizza with a fried egg on top; you won't get liver (if you dislike it); you won't get roast pancreas; etc etc

You will get the best meals of your life, before and after.

Spend the 60 minutes, print it off for referrence on your trip, and enjoy.

I have a friend who, when visiting Paris, would only eat hot dogs or brats. Took a lot of work to find, and he missed out on a lot of good food.
A couple other friends equally taste-challenged.

Now, apparently some folks have only 3,000 taste buds, and some folks have 10-12,000 taste buds. Maybe food means nothing to you.
But, if you're blessed with an above-average number of taste buds,prepare yourself for a treat, by investing those 60 minutes so as to best enjoy the blessing to come.
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Old Nov 10th, 2023, 12:27 AM
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i guess the same question could be asked about the wine

A Chablis will have no advice on the label and often nothing in the menu but colour.

I was in Vouvrey one time and asked the waiter to describe the wine, the guy on the table behind me was kind enough to step in, he had produced it.

if in doubt ask the waiter if the house wine is ok
or ask him to recommend one
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Old Nov 10th, 2023, 03:22 PM
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I think the only time I've ever only had a French menu with a server (who happened to be quite attractive) that only spoke French was in the 1990s in, I believe, Bayeux. Not wanting to be a stupid American (and perhaps being slightly flirtatious ... yes, I was too old to do that), I ordered ris de veau in my terrible French accent (think of a bad Pepé Le Pew imitation), which I confidently told Tracy was some sort of veal dish accompanied with rice. Needless to say, it wasn't. Tracy has never let me live that one down. I also ordered a dessert in Paris on that same trip, but my French translated to "Chocolate Cat." I'm sure that server was laughing with me.
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Old Nov 10th, 2023, 09:10 PM
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Far too many years ago, with one whole year of high school French behind me, I was the linguist in my tour group. It was then that I discovered exactly what Tartar Steak on the English menu was. I did eat it. Not too inedible. As for your ris de veau, that is quite a good dish, so I hope you enjoyed it more than I did raw hamburger with a raw egg, raw onions and capers.
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