Looking at a menu and trying to get an idea of the course is tough when you have to translate every other word. Many of the unfamiliar terms you will find are French, because french cooking is the basis for most Chefs today. Here are some handy french words to have in your back pocket in order to decipher what your about to order.
Aïoli (ay-oh-lee): a garlic mayonnaise
Aillada: spicy garlic and oil sauce
Aillade: garlic and walnut sauce
Á la mode: a term to describe a dessert served with a scoop of ice cream.
Au four: baked
A la poêle: pan sauteed
Á l’etouffée: stewed
Á la broche: cooked on a skewer
Apéritif: pre-dinner drink, cocktail
Aiguillettes: long, thin slices (of meat)
Bavaroise: cold dessert, rich custard with cream and gelatin
Bisque: seafood soup
Billy Bi (or By): cream of mussel soup (who’da thought!)
Le coq au vin: chicken in red wine sauce
Crudités: raw vegetables
Digestif: an after dinner drink
Dégustation: a tasting menu (small servings of multiple dishes: good way to have a variety and often you get to taste some pretty unique dishes!)
Entrée – appetizer/starter (not to be confused with the English term: entree, which means main course)
Mariniére: served with a white sauce
Le plat du jour: daily special
Le plat principal: main course
Terrine: similar to paté, a forcemeat loaf served at room temperature. Forcemeat is meat that has been ground or finely chapped.
Foie Gras: liver of an animal, often duck or goose, usually served as a pate
Steak Tartare: made with raw, mashed beef ( :S watch out for that one!)
I suppose you could always ask the server if you didn’t understand a term, but why do that when you could show off your knowledge to your friends or date!