Esquire Middle East
A letter from the editor
The troubling case of the Black Cod Index
Everything sounds more important with an acronym attached to it. Although, there are always those people who tend to go too far and spoil it for the rest of us. The other week I was in a meeting where most of the sentences spoken were just a string of abbreviations and acronyms strung together, as if someone was trying to solve a particularly obscure Wordle answer. Most people in that meeting nodded along earnestly in a visceral show of understanding, each terrified to ask what any of it actually meant. I’m going to level with you, I judge both the abbreviators and the nodders—and the verdicts are rarely positive.
In general, language (and, importantly, acronyms) should be used to aid communication rather than to make it more complicated and elitist. So, for the sake of making a point, over the past year I created my own acronym:
BCI —the Black Cod Index.
Why? Well, February is when Esquire Middle East releases its annual ‘Food Issue,’ and central to it is the muchvaunted 50 Best Restaurants in the GCC list (pg.104), where we rank our favourite places within the region to eat in.
No, it is not Michelin or Gault&millau, but the process is thorough, considered and very Esquire.
The list’s decade-long life-span has given us some fascinating insight into wider hospitality trends over the years—both good and not-so-good. From celebrity-fronted outposts, to spates of entertainment-led supper clubs, and the rise of the catch-all bar/restaurant/lounge concepts, we have dined, delighted and dissected in equal measure. What is the current trend du jour? Well, this is where the
BCI comes into play.
Throughout our year-long dining odyssey, one thing became apparent: the worrying appearance of the same dishes on menus. Every menu. It seems that no matter the country, cuisine or classification, every fine-dining restaurant in the region will include at least one of the following: tartare/ceviche, burrata, a sushi-platter, cheesecake and—you guessed it—black cod.
At first it was amusing. Then it became annoying.
Now it is bordering on troublesome. Why is it that across the vast spectrum of global cuisine available in our cities are the menus constantly overlapping in a worrisome race to the middle ground? The answer, coming from the dozens of chefs and restaurateurs we spoke to was simply: the customers. Regardless of how cutting-edge and inventive a kitchen tries to be, the black cod still racks up the orders. The most ordered restaurant dish in the region? Sushi. The best-selling starter? Burrata. Such is the lack of adventure from us—the diners—that restaurants are forced to either bend to the banal or risk closure.
Internally, we use the BCI as tongue-in-cheek shorthand to assess comparable points when it comes to ranking restaurants. However, despite the dominant popularity of the aforementioned dishes, there is ample creativity on display from the culinary talent in the region who continue to adapt the same dishes and turn them into something unique. Ultimately, the standard has never been higher, but we— the diners—have a crucial role to play if we want to help shape the future. It’s best that we start that ASAP.