Three hours past lunchtime, I sashayed into a cafe at The Dubai Mall and as soon as a server came up to me, I said: ‘I’ll be having forest mushroom pasta and watermelon juice, plus original milk cake for later.’ A complete order from lunch to dessert — stated in just one breath, without taking even a split-second glance at the menu.
As if I own the place. As if I’m a loyal customer who has already tried everything they serve. “Who is that girl in ripped cargo shorts? Is she a friend of the owner? Is she a regular?” The truth is, I have never ordered anything from this place, not even for takeaway or delivery. But of course I know what I should be having. I have already stalked their Instagram account, brushed up on Zomato reviews, and besides, their social media ads have been chasing me for months now.
I get how this deluge of online ads could be annoying, but considering the huge amount of time I spend tapping, swiping and searching for food, the algorithms have started working to my advantage. I have always been on the lookout for cakes and pastries, and social media doesn’t disappoint. It brought me Crumb&Co’s fluffiest donuts; Baking Studio’s burnt Basque cheesecake with tiramisu; and Gato Dubai’s adorable Korean cube cakes.
With the infinite choices (and quintillion bytes of data) at our fingertips, who needs a menu? When was the last time you actually walked into a restaurant having absolutely no idea what they were serving there? Aren’t we all checking out eateries and bakeries after seeing them through #DubaiRestaurant #Delicious #MustTry #SomethingNew #CantDecideWhatToEat? Or is it just me? Sure, there were cases when I had to choose a dish from an actual menu — but only after checking out how it looked like on Instagram.
My husband took me to this Japanese place whose physical menu came in words: Raw Hamachi (sesame umeboshi soy + roasted almonds); Chilled Angel Hair Pasta (Mushroom duxelles + pickled kombu)… you get what I mean? So, I did what I had to do. I looked up the restaurant on IG and that was how I knew I needed their Truffle Udon in my life. And it’s all because I saw how the fat noodles were sitting pretty in a creamy white sauce, topped with chives and parmesan. A picture worth a thousand likes.
The need for ‘visual cues’ is not really a millennial thing. One time, my family and I went to this cheesecake restaurant and when it was time for dessert, my dad had a problem. After going through the entire list of cakes for 10 minutes, he couldn’t decide what he wanted.
Then, he finally admitted, “Sorry, I really need to know how these cakes look!” So off he went to the counter where all the cheesecakes were displayed in all their glory. (I wish I didn’t have to say this but after going through all the trouble, he got the plainest of them all.)