Exposure Tapas, née Exposure Tapas Supper Club, (sounds like “expose your top ass,”) opened last month in the South Loop to little fanfare, although it received a fairly glowing review from Denise O’Neal last week in the Sun-Times. It’s basically a New American small plates place with a pinch of nightlife and a dash of the international. The conceit is live performances, of which they have a whole lineup scheduled for this month - the next one is Friday, and features Typhanie Monique.
Our problem with the place is not the composition of the dishes (a little boring for New American, but we’ve seen worse) or the prices (full plates average $31), but the flagrant abuse of the past participle on the menu. In no particular order, ingredients in various dishes are described as caramelized, cured, smoked, shaved, wrapped, tossed, topped, buttered, grilled, braised, crushed, chilled, baked, marinated, mashed, and dried. This is not a crime committed exclusively by Exposure Tapas; in fact, a lot of restaurants that want to beat you over the head with the sophistication of their cuisine use this device.
Surely, the consumer must know every single painstaking step of the process of preparing each dish! But when the participle is overused to this extent, it becomes TMI and sticks out like a sore thumb. Consider the Ahi Tuna Pinot Noir, with toasted swiss chard, roasted red potatoes, wild mushrooms and a reduced pinot noir demi-glace ($32). First of all, aren’t all demi-glaces reduced by definition? Second, it really starts to sound silly, having all those participles in a row (“wild” is okay though), and when it’s in dish after dish, we get a headache.
This profligate use of the participle, furthermore, has steamrolled some perfectly innocent nouns into awkward adjectives. The lobster cocktail with fresh lobster and champagne granita with chive crème fraiche and gingered vegetables (market price); the baked oysters Rockefeller with spinach, smoked bacon, cream and Parmesan cheese and gratineed with hollandaise sauce ($11); and even the truffled hand cut French fries with sea salt, béarnaise sauce and sriracha ketchup ($6), ignore the fact that ginger, gratinée and truffle are a noun, adjective, and noun, respectively, and cannot be drafted into service as past participles (p.s. gingered is a word, but we still don’t like it). Cannot!
None of this should stop you from eating there, if you have that intention, but it may give you food for thought. Menu grammar is as key an insight into a restaurant’s soul as the menu items themselves, so don’t be surprised if you find that Exposure is trying a bit too hard to impress you.