In Tokyo’s pizzeria Sicilia, it’s the cucumber sliced very thinly and placed into a wooden bowl, hints of garlic and a tangy vinaigrette dressing. This signature dish makes people talk, and come back to show their friends the meticulous cutting.
A signature dish is often used to refer to a culinary region and foods that are best known and locally produced. In Florence, the T-bone steak is a signature dish, and many cases, restaurants will base their menu around it. Unique to the restaurant’s geographical location, Fiorentina, the Tuscan T-bone is very popular in and around Tuscany.
In contrast, in a large city such as Tokyo, a signature dish is more multifarious. There are so many cuisine varieties and competing businesses that a signature dish is sometimes less significant than the experience itself, which makes perfect sense.
In certain cuisines there is no one signature dish per say, and a chef relies more on the details and his clients overall enjoyment of the experience itself. Cuisine types in Japan are more defined by a chef’s singular focus, as a chef usually cooks one food type. That means that sushi is only fish, and no other foods, and so on. In this case, there is less dependence on one signature and the chef must compete on an equal playing ground by tweaking his rice, or by adding a certain touch. Ah, a chef’s touch! Is that a signature, yes but not a signature dish. For example, Tokyo’s sushi, some think the signature is tuna, but the real signature is the combination of ingredients, i.e. rice, fish, wasabi and shoyu.
A signature dish can be central to the focus of an experience or even abstruse although leaving the same lasting impression, i.e. a chef’s special roll, i.e. shiso-kuri-gomma, or kampio maki, a pickled gourd. Pictured below, cucumber, shiso and rice rolled in seaweed is not a signature dish but symbolizes the end to a meal.
The picture below is a signature dish in the heart of Tuscan cuisine, served at restaurant (Troia-Firenze), the egg and artichoke are regional raw materials, or are they?I am not sure they are grown locally but it really doesn’t matter because this is delicious and will make anyone return to try it again.
In many restaurants the signature is a not the local ingredient, and the dish can also have a national connotation, i.e. truffles, or cured ham, i.e. prosciutto. The signature dish should impress the client and leave a lasting memory, an association to return for one more try. This dish below is fantastic and beats the pants off of any experience you’ll have in Florence at a Michelin restaurant. Sometimes the simplest dish is a signature dish, or the smile of the chef’s hospitality.