What really makes an ethnic restaurant authentic, and why it’s so important?
Atmosphere is enormously important in any restaurant. Ultimately, if your customers cannot immerse themselves in the dining experience, they are not going to enjoy their time there or really remember you, so why would they come back? This is arguably even more important when it comes to ethnic restaurants. If you choose to go to a Chinese restaurant in Berkshire, for example, it is, at least in part, to truly experience China, so authenticity plays a very important role. Without a degree of authenticity, the joy of the dining experience is lost.
That said, it is important to cook for your audience and a truly authentic Mexican menu may not actually suit a Parisian pallet. A successful restaurant has to cook what sells, making ethnic authenticity abroad much harder to achieve.
There are, however, certain food philosophies associated with cooking from different countries that may allow you to maintain your credibility without putting your locals off. Italian cooking, for example, is particularly renowned for sourcing its ingredients from local farms and shops, so perhaps a more legitimate angle for, say, Italian restaurants in Dublin would be to use local produce rather than flying ingredients in from Italy.
Restaurants in Dublin such as toscana often do just that. It is these kinds of investments in traditional food philosophies that show a true passion for a nation’s culinary flair, leading to a more believable experience for the guest.
As with the food, good service that has a nation’s attitudes to etiquette at heart gives just as sincere an impression as a server from the country that you are representing. Whether it’s the informal “family dinner” style of Italy or the highly formal “fine dining” style of France, it is all about creating the right atmosphere so that you customer is transported overseas.
So what really makes a restaurant authentic is perhaps all in the customers’ perception. The more we convince them to suspend their belief in where they are, the more they’ll remember us. So the next time someone asks them to recommend a good restaurant, they might say that they know of a great little taverna in Torquay. It’s hard to put a price on authenticity when it comes to restaurants.