I'm translating several senteces with that verb, such as: "Tú vienes conmigo y les cantas el plato a los clientes", "Yo no canto, que me da vergüenza". I know I could use another word ("describing", for example), but I would like to know how to properly say it in English.
Thank you, but it's not that. It's more about describing the dishes or telling the customer what he is about to eat. For example, the waiter gets to the table and says something like this: "This is cod in pil-pil sauce: cod loins in garlic and pepper sauce".
As someone who worked in the restaurant industry for years, I an assure you that we do not have a more colorful verb that you seem to be looking for. We use "describe" in this context. "Present" and "describe" are the two most common verbs used for the process of showing food to guests and telling them what they are about to eat in a detailed (and hopefully enticing) way.
I guess normally "cantar los platos" is not so much describing them, but yes rattling off the list, as Tonguingaround says, when no written menu is available, as happens often in small restaurants. Instead of presenting a menu card to the customer, the waiter comes and enumerates the dishes available, and the client chooses from this verbal list. Of course, the waiter will explain if necessary, but this is not always the case.
You haven't seen some Spanish waiters (Imagine a cheap restaurant where around 50 workers from the neighbourhood all pour in at exactly the same hour to get their lunch as quick as possible. It's not the waiter's fault).
Sometimes I just opt for stopping the verbal list at a random point and saying: That, please, without even knowing what it will be.
But the word as such (cantar los platos) is not dismissive in Spanish, whereas "to rattle off" of course is. And the chief waiter would not use a dismissive word here, explaining the job to the newcomer. So we need a better one.