Lettuce wraps are more than just garden-variety appetizers; they're flavor-spiked starters whose contents hold great appeal.
This article first appeared in the 1 June 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com.
By Allison Perlik, Senior Editor
Aqua Tacos (pictured above)
Señor Frog's, multiple locations. This Mexican-bred, casual-dining chain imparts south-of-the-border flair to iceberg lettuce boats carrying grilled chicken mixed with cactus (nopales), panela cheese and tomatoes tossed in cilantro vinaigrette. Customers can spoon salsa verde atop the crunchy mixture sparked by spicy serrano chiles and garnished with fresh cilantro.
Buffalo-Style Lettuce Wraps
The Cellar, University of Richmond, Va. Romaine leaves help students scoop up grilled chicken-breast strips coated in Buffalo-style hot sauce at this campus casual-dining pub, which also features an extensive carryout menu. Blue-cheese or light-ranch dressing helps soothe the wraps' heat, as do accompanying diced cucumbers, celery and baby carrots.
Roasted-Duck Lettuce Wraps
Mainland Restaurant, New York City. Duck lends richness to a shareable starter at the upscale Chinese restaurant, where Chef-partner Brian Young stir-fries meat with shiitake mushrooms, onions, water chestnuts and scallions in soy-hoisin sauce. The addition of dried cherries and toasted pine nuts introduces sour notes and extra crunch.
Smoked-Chicken Lettuce Wraps
The Spyglass, Westport, Conn.