It can seem that "restaurant mimicry" questions are requests for recipes. What is the difference, and how can we write restaurant mimicry questions which don't get closed?

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    This was intended to be a self-answered question from the beginning, as a few (bad and good) examples for mimicry question made it obvious that such a faq is needed. I wrote down my opinion on the topic, but I still invite the community to share their own thoughts on the matter. Your additions, disagreements and/or critique are welcome - it is the community which should decide such matters, as a moderator it is my place to enforce such decisions, not to make them unilaterally. – rumtscho Aug 13 '12 at 15:31

The community decided long ago that restaurant mimicry questions are allowed. But they were even then considered a "grey" category, because they can be framed as a recipe request. A restaurant mimicry question should be written very carefully, so that it doesn't have the problems normally associated with recipe requests.

The general idea is that you see a dish you like, and try to imitate it at home.

  • The recipe should not be for some dish in general (Wrong: "I ate a good onion soup at a French bistro on vacation. How do I make a good onion soup?"), but for the dish made in the special way this restaurant makes it. (Right: "I ate an onion soup at restaurant X, and it was unlike any other onion soup I have had. How do I make it" - but you have also to add details, explained in the next bullet point).
  • Tell us what is special about the dish. Even if you are trying to imitate something very popular (Wrong: "I want to make frappucino like at Starbucks"), don't assume that every reader knows it. Hint: this site has an international readership. If you don't describe the dish because almost everybody in your country has had it (typical for big chain products), then some of the readers who may have useful tips won't know enough to tell you. (Right: "I want to make onion soup like at this French bistro. It had a slight sweetness to it, but it wasn't a sugar-tasting sweetness. The broth was dark and tasted very rich, with a smooth mouthfeel").
  • The recipe for this restaurant dish shouldn't be common knowledge. For example, Pier Herme's chocolate éclairs are not a good fit. While they are a special type of éclair, the first Google hit gives you the exact recipe.
  • Be aware that you are asking for a replica and not "the original recipe leaked from somewhere". We will be trying to guess the technique based on the details you gave (see above). If the original recipe is available, then it is a bad question as per the last bullet point. (Wrong: "I have never tasted what a MRE is like. Please give me the recipe for the veggie burger MRE so I will know the real taste" No way we can help you create a perfect replica - such a thing requires lots of tweaking by somebody who knows what the end result is supposed to taste like. And if we have the exact recipe, we will close the question).
  • Make sure that you can't make it by using some straightforward methods. Try cooking your own version, starting from a recipe which seems like it is going in the right direction. If you want pizza like at a specific restaurant, look at the different types of pizza (neapolitana, romana, deep dish) and look for a recipe which creates a crust like the one you had, add the toppings you remember. If you fail, come and ask your question. (If you don't, bon appetit).
  • Tell us what you tried and what went wrong with trying. (right: "I had a white pizza with Neapol-style crust, topped with prosciuto and spinach. I tried making it from , but the crust got way too thick, and the creme fraîche tasted very differently from the base they had in the restaurant. They used some creamy sauce with slight garlic hint, no sour notes."). Be precise in what you tried, list the steps you took on your own, or, if you link to a recipe, tell us all the steps you changed and ingredients you substituted.
  • Have some patience. Restaurant mimicry questions are hard to answer, because many of us haven't had the food you describe, and have to give you advice "blindly", based only on the info you give. We don't feel too confident mentally tweaking a recipe for something we have never tasted, it is a very abstract process which requires some theory knowledge, and hard to get right. It is possible that nobody of us risks an answer, because nobody feels that they have enough information to base a reasonable guess on.
  • It should be clear by now, but to summarize the most important part: the more information you give us to go on, the higher your chances that you will get an answer.

We already have some examples for good restaurant-mimicry questions, take a look at them before posting.

I think the tag is misused a lot. Some RM questions are technique based. For example, my question on Risotto is a question about technique and time management. Another good example would be "How does the Chinese place down the street get the skin on their Peking duck so crispy?"

But, a question like "How can I make a Big Mac at home." would probably be more like a recipe request.

Generally, A good RM question should be a "How did they do that unique thing", not a "How do I make a dish like this one at that restaurant."

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