The subtext behind complaints about multi-cuisine restaurants (see my mini-rant below) is not only that it’s incredibly difficult to get one culinary genre right, much less two or three. But that calling a place, e.g. an “Asian Restaurant” implies that there is such a thing as “Asian” food. And that implies the devolution of specific ethnic cuisines and traditions into a glob of fused, homogenous cookery that merely nods in the general direction of its various influences.

How much of so-called “Asian” cuisine, for example, is Japanese? And how much is Thai? or Cambodian? or Mandarin, Szechuan, Vietnamese? You see where I’m going.

If I drove by a restaurant that billed its specialty as “American cooking,” I would not only be confused, but I’d wonder what happened to, e.g. Cajun, or Chesapeake, or Texas-style, or California, or Southern. What I mourn in this postmodern, globalized environment is the details of specificity – in wine it’s called terroir. Those unique flavors, styles, histories, influences, ingredients, which distinguish this place from that, one climate from another.

When you globalize cuisine, you cheat every one of those powerful, unique and honorable influences. You neutralize them in the name of convenience, i.e. $$$.