My thanks to Jeromai who recommended Cook, Serve, Delicious! I have spent only an hour in this game, but it was one of the most intense hours of gameplay I have had. 75% off during the Steam summer sale.
I tend to be suspicious of cooking sim games because I have hated the entire Papa’s (Pizzeria, Burgeria, Pancakeria…) series every time I have tried one. So far, CSD! knocks out the annoying things like precise placement of mustard in favor of intense time management. Intense! With just four prep slots and four dishes, I am facing off against an array of demands with lots of time pressure, along with the chores that add more time demands. The game days are bite-sized increments of gameplay, and you need to be on for those days. If you want to get a perfect score for the day and the bonus, at least; I imagine you can play more relaxedly and have a pretty solid restaurant.
Filleting fish is surprisingly satisfying.
I am looking at the screenshots on Steam and thinking that the later days must get a bit more dicey with many options. My recipes right now are basic with limited variation. Do you want sugar on your sopapillas or not? There is exactly one way to prep fish or chicken. One of the screenshots shows 13 different toppings for nachos. Which: realistic, fair, but that is a lot to customize per order, as opposed to the six possible toppings on starter salads.
I do not know how long the thrill of cooking will last, nor whether it will still be fun at the higher levels, but even an hour of intense, quality, enjoyable play makes this worthwhile at 75% off.