Postcards from Melbourne: A startling menu

MELBOURNE, Australia - I realize I'm a foreigner in a foreign land this week, and I'd like to think I make a solid effort to maintain a certain level of respect for how other people live in a different culture. That doesn't mean I have to totally understand it. Or even pretend to.

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A look at a startling menu choice at a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia.

Thursday night, after a long day traversing beautiful Royal Melbourne, our Golfweek gang decided to stop for a late bite inside the Crown, near where we are staying in the city. On the recommendation of Jeff Rude, our resident four-spoon dining expert, we headed to a quaint little Italian restaurant. The menu was in English. Or at least I think it was.

I'm all for descriptive menus, but hey, there comes a point when there is WAY too much information. Take the entree offering lamb's brains, for example. A Madison Avenue marketing team cannot come up with a catchy, enticing descriptive subtext to that one that is going to sway me to give 'em a try, even if they are "Parmesan crumbed" and served with spring onions.

Along the same lines, each steak on the menu not only listed the portion size, but the dining habits of the beast. It might have been enough to know I was ordering 8 ounces of aged marbled ox, but is it really necessary to tell me and other diners this poor animal was only grass-fed? Isn't there some contradiction therein, eating meat from an animal that was a vegetarian? And while we are at it, anyone got any guess as to what is "Pig's Trotter"? If you do, good on ya, mate!

There had to be, oh, 50 or so entrees on the menu, everything with some odd twist or listing an ingredient that even Alex Miceli, filled with Italian blood from Calabria, could not identify. Eventually, Rude and Miceli went with the rigatoni with pork sausage, and Jim McCabe went with a breaded veal cutlet (only after he was informed his yellowtail tuna would be raw, that is). Me? I basically looked at our waitress and said "Pass," going with a bowl of minestrone soup. As good as the conversation always is, I never was so happy just to get the bill and head on off to bed.

The bright side? I think if I moved to Melbourne, I'd be back at my high-school weight in two months. (How many "stones" that would be is some calculation left for another day.) Unfortunately, I have yet to see an Outback restaurant over here. Tonight, I'm sure some new dining adventure awaits. Kangaroo filet, anyone?

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