There is a popular chain restaurant in Boston called Legal Sea Foods.
People like it. They are #1 in Boston's Zagat survey. It's moderately expensive, but apparently the food is better than moderately good. I wouldn't know, because being vegetarian, I don't eat seafood, whether it is legal or not.
But I have ended up there no fewer than three times in the recent past, for special occasions in honor of non-vegetarians.
They have an item on the menu for people like me. It's called the Vegetarian Box. It's a Thai-ish stir fry, with tofu, cashews, and some veggies (mainly carrots and eggplant) served over rice. It costs about $15.
Sometimes, I think restaurants overprice vegetarian dishes just so the vegetarian doesn't feel left out. I wouldn't really feel like part of the occasion if my vegetarian stir fry were to only cost the $7 it would cost any other place, while others at the table munched on $22 plates of shrimp.
Ordering the Vegetarian Box is guaranteed to produce an awkward moment with the server. It seems they are required to ask whether you would like your Vegetarian Box with shrimp or scallops. All three servers have realized that this is a dumb question, yet have sucked it up and asked anyway. One of them offered a third option, "just vegetarian". So, I guess I ordered a vegetarian Vegetarian box.
Yes, I know that there are people who call themselves vegetarians and eat fish. They are not vegetarians in any meaningful sense of the word. But, if I were the kind of "vegetarian" who ate either scallops or shrimp, and I was at a restaurant full of them, I would not be ordering the Vegetarian Box. I am in fact ordering the Vegetarian Box because it is the only entree on the menu that does not have those things.
Don't get me wrong, it's tasty. I'm pleased that they offer it. But the real reason to order this dish is for the presentation. The title is meant to be taken literally. They bring it to you in a white Chinese food takeout box. With a flourish (one that I'm quite practiced at myself), the server inverts the box on your plate and carefully removes it, leaving a virtual Jenga(TM) tower of steaming coconutty tofu and cashew goodness. They take the box away and leave you to your meal.
But there's a problem. I have a thing about eating all of the food that I order at restaurants. Nine times out of ten, I finish everything on my plate. Ask anyone. The first two rounds with the Vegetarian Box, I followed through, though it was a challenge. But the third time, itching for some variety, I ordered a salad of Mixed Field Greens with Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette. This salad put the meal over the brink, and I couldn't finish it.
Left with the toppled and mostly eaten remains of my Jenga(TM) tower, I realized that I could actually use the takeout box. But of course, as part of the initial presentation, they don't leave it hanging around. I had to ask for another one.
So, Legal Sea Foods, three suggestions for the Vegetarian Box.
- Remove the option for shrimp and scallops. In the entire history of Legal Sea Foods, since the day in 1950 when George Berkowitz opened a fish market next to his father's grocery store in Inman Square in Cambridge, MA, I am certain that no one has ever ordered the Vegetarian Box with shrimp or scallops.
- Leave the box. I might need it.