Whether you’re dining in a popular tourist area or a local neighborhood restaurant, you can find yourself lost in translation thanks to Miami’s multicultural makeup.
If your grasp of Creole, French, Portuguese, Spanish, or even Russian is limited or nonexistent, you may have difficulty explaining to the wait staff what you want.
A menu in English may not help if your server is not truly bilingual. You can’t always be sure that your server understands a simple order. Although the food you are served frequently is quite good, it may not be what you requested.
Health and aesthetic issues
Receiving the wrong preparation becomes even more complicated for vegetarians, vegans, and others with diet preferences and health concerns.
A smiling friendly waitress is not your best friend if, for instance, a vegetarian diner orders by number and even points to the number, and still receives something else that’s inappropriate for his/her diet. If that happens, tell a manager what happened and send the dish back.
Food choices are great in greater Miami and exist in neighborhoods you might not expect. They are not necessarily in guide books, and cab or uber drivers may not want to take you off the beaten path. Once you find such restaurants, getting your order taken correctly is the challenge.
Tasca de España
A case in point is Tasca de España, a venerable Spanish restaurant at 8770 SW 24th St. in Westchester. Today it also serves authentic Indian fare.
The Sariari family from India purchased the restaurant several years ago, learned Spanish, and built a separate Halal kitchen in which the Indian food is prepared to Muslim religious standards.
A separate sign on the roof announces the Indian cuisine in English and Spanish, but it’s relatively small and easy to miss.
Sharuk Sariari, 59, manages the restaurant. His wife, Simindokht Shokrekhoda, is the owner. Sharuk hired a Hispanic chef to make traditional Cuban and Spanish food, and hired and trained additional staff to make his family’s Indian recipes, most of which are meat and chicken dishes from all over north India, though some vegetarian entrees also are on the menu. (South Indian cuisine is primarily vegetarian and rice-based.)
The food is well worth a visit, but the staff’s linguistic inabilities caused a real problem. My husband, George, doesn’t eat mammals and birds. He and I both tried to tell the waitress what he wanted. George speaks enough Spanish to place his order in the waitress’s language, but she still didn’t bring the vegetarian dish he ordered.
On an earlier visit to Tasca de España, a manager helped us with our order and got it right. Getting an order right the first time on a first visit is important. The server and restaurant may not get a second chance. Getting an order right the second time is equally important. Otherwise, there may not be a third time.
Here are two common-sense suggestions for dealing with this linguistic stew. First, ask for someone to take the order who understands English. Second, carry a note pad, write out the order, and hand it to the serving person.
If you take these precautions and the order still comes wrong, send it back, and don’t return. Believe it or not, greater Miami does have restaurants that train staff to listen carefully and work with English speakers.