Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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The Dishes That Don’t Make It To Dessert Comes First

posted by in Restaurants

Eating out can’t be win-win all the time. Here are some of the misses.

My Bin once had an interesting conversation with a man who owns a slew of respected restaurants noted for their consistency and quality:

RO (Restaurant Owner): “Lori only writes good things about the restaurants that she features on her blog. She should write about some of the negative things too.”

MB (My Bin): “Well, she’s a food writer, not a food critic. She won’t waste time writing about restaurants that she doesn’t like.”

RO: “She’s regarded as a food critic. I personally would like to know about some of her not-so-satisfactory meals. If she and other food bloggers wrote about the things that need to be improved, it would help keep restaurants on their toes.”

Readers of DCF know that I’m emotional about what I like, it’s difficult for me not to be. And yes, though it might seem like all sweetness and light when it comes to the meals I write about, it takes a lot to find these diamonds. I wish that I could tell you about what my Bin calls my filtering system – a system that I have for “filtering out” the “bad” restaurants from the “good.” I eat out only about three times a week so I choose these restaurants very carefully, partly because I only have so many calories I can afford in a given week. But more importantly, eating in a restaurant is so special for me, and it will cease to be if I do it too often. Though I know it can’t be a win-win all the time, there are few things that make me grouchier than a lousy meal. I don’t pay too much attention to hype – what’s more important to me is how the restaurant performs after the hype has died down.

A blogger behind one of the very few local food blogs that I read sums it up for me: “You only write about restaurants that excite you, and very eloquently at that.” Having said that however, it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten in a good restaurant. Startling statement that might be, I know but it’s just been one miss after another for me for the past two months. Am I “ordering wrong?” Is Mercury in retrograde? I’m actually quite hesitant to step out to eat now.

To show you how subjective taste may be, and to give you an idea of how I write about restaurants, here are some photos of restaurant dishes from places that won’t appear on DCF, for one reason or another. I will not give any names so play along and don’t mention any either, even if a jolt of recognition urges you to do so.

eggs_Ben

Great name, clever interiors, inspired plating, but this place falters on the most important factor: flavor. I’ve been here three times and have tried almost all their dishes but flavor still falls far behind.

Nutella_hot_choc

Also from the previously mentioned place is a Nutella Hot Chocolate. That’s its name but it’s watery and insipid. See how the layers separate and the pock marks of chocolate mar the glass? That wouldn’t happen if it was given a whir in an immersion blender. Not much effort to do that but wow, what improvement it would be on this drink!

dimsum

Several DCF readers recommend this restaurant and I’m so impressed with it on my first visit. Though it’s a good 45-minute drive (on a Sunday) from where I am, I warrant a second visit and am hugely disappointed – it almost doesn’t seem like the same place. The dimsum is old, the taro puff (it was so good!) has been taken off the menu, and the soy milk, previously the best I’d ever had in my life, has been watered down.

CR_2

This Italian restaurant chooses not to serve pizza (???) but makes a big to-do about its osso buco on its menu: “Braised beef shanks slow-cooked for 3 hours in Italian tomato sauce” and tacks on a BESTSELLER in big red caps at the end. Result: tough and tasteless. Plus, I’m irked that they serve my white wine slightly warm. Can’t say I’m surprised when I find out that this restaurant is now closed.

pork_belly_9

Ah, I finally come around to trying this much-blogged about restaurant’s pork belly with crunchy skin. There’s hardly any crunch left in there and the meat (not to mention the saba [plaintains]) tastes like it’s been reheated to a fare-thee-well. This dish is an example of why I will never go to a restaurant when it’s hot and hyped about: like a new relationship, it’s all about showing your best face (food), but as time goes by, beauty (and flavor) fall by the wayside. As I mention earlier in this post, what matters most to me is consistency because when a restaurant is consistent across the board (food, portion size, service, etc.) I know it takes itself and its customers seriously.

ribs

A ribs place that hasn’t appeared on most people’s restaurant radar yet. I truly want to like this place for a number of reasons: the interiors are an ode to cows and meat; there’s a big-ass smoker outside delivering drool-inducing fumes; and the owners even brighten the lights so that I can take better photos. My Bin and I eat our pasta and buffalo wings and then proceed to wait 45 minutes for our full slab of ribs. It comes with much pomp and ceremony and we slice into it expectantly – only to be greeted by a rock-hard, frozen-solid center. Long story short, our two hours in this restaurant is occupied mostly by waiting time and no, we never do get our ribs that evening. Moral of the story: forecasting food quantity for the day’s service is paramount. Copious amounts of complimentary corn on the cob and pasta ain’t gonna cut it.

steak

I wish that the owners had remained steadfast in being solely meat distributors instead of diversifying into the restaurant business. Their place speaks volumes about passion, specifically the lack thereof, and the food isn’t representative of the quality of their meat. My steak is overcooked and my goodness, what’s a slab of Dari-Crème doing in the middle? Would butter be too much to ask for?

37 Responses to “The Dishes That Don’t Make It To Dessert Comes First”

  • I am sad to note that one of those featured above is a actually a favorite of mine. Maybe you got a reheated plate or something. My plantains were freshly fried and my pork belly had crispy skin.

    A case of bad timing perhaps?

    I guess that’s the reason why I have been waiting for DCF to feature it but have not yet seen the light of day.

    I’m sad…

    On another note, I agree with the first two photos featured. I was left unsatisfied with my Nutella Hot Choco the other day that I HAD to make one at home with my Bensdorp Cocoa and Nutella. Thick and rich. Nom.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Aji,
    I’m flattered when I get emails asking, “Why haven’t you featured Restaurant A, B, & C? Other food bloggers have blogged about it but I want to know what you think.” As you said, those restaurants won’t “see the light of day” on DCF for either of two reasons: I haven’t been there yet OR I didn’t like it. I so wanted to like that pork belly dish but it was reheated to death. I’m told this certain restaurant was quite the bomb when it opened but consistency has been slipping. I’ll probably go back again since I believe in second chances, just as long as the first visit isn’t nightmarish, which wasn’t the case with this dish, anyway.

    [Reply]

    aji Reply:

    Hi Lori,

    Maybe they need to improve on their consistency. I did notice that whenever the owner is around the execution is exceptionally better.

    Another restaurant that I am sad to see deteriorating is just a few floors down the Pork Belly resto. :( The bombolini is just disappointing. :(

    [Reply]

  • This is an interesting post! I don’t think I’ve eaten in any of your ‘blind items’ but I’m kind of having a blast trying to figure them out. I’ve discovered the answers to the first and second to the last item. I obviously have a lot of time on my hands. Haha.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Have fun guessing, Ana! :)

    [Reply]

  • Out of a dozen or so Philippine based food blogs I read, it’s only yours and Marketman’s that I truely believe.
    I’ve noticed that food bloggers get invites, some come in groups, and if you hop from one blog to another like I do, you would notice that most of them will write only the good stuff about food obviously because they were invited to do so. Im tired of reading “This is the best ______ (insert food name here) I’ve tried!” even if their photos scream the opposite plus the fact that they didn’t pay for it.

    So like you Ms. Lori, I also don’t believe with hype. Hype = more food bloggers would be invited = only the good stuff will be written about.

    I guess it all boils down to the fact that when you pay for your meals, you will be more critical and honest in expressing your opinion. Afterall, who doesn’t want to get the value of what was paid for right?:)

    I am not ranting btw.:)) Let’s just say, I’m tired of hopping from one blog to another reading the same restaurant/food features and almost the same opinion when just like you said, taste is very subjective. I’m thankful your blog and marketman exist!

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    I appreciate your comment, K. Thank you.

    [Reply]

  • Speaking of subjectivity, I actually really like the restaurant alluded to in your first two photos. For my money, I’d rather eat there than in the more famous breakfast place a few blocks away.

    [Reply]

  • This is a great post Lori! Yours is one of the few food blogs I read and totally respect. It is so apparent that you choose to write about the places you love, and are not “advertising” the places as some other bloggers do. There really is a big difference between a food writer and a food critic–and it really is your writing style about food that’s makes your blog so enjoyable to read. :)

    I have always said the key to good writing about food is honesty and integrity.

    and I always believe that us restaurant owners should encourage comments and constructive criticism–this is essential on the road to constant improvement both in the kitchen and the front of house :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Thanks for your comment, Ines! I’ve always admired your attitude as a restaurateur.

    [Reply]

  • I can’t count how many times I’ve been disappointed when trying out the raved-about-best-sellers in restaurants all over the city. Taste and preference are so subjective, and I appreciate that in your writing, you don’t make yourself out to be “the authority” of good taste, but you just write about food you like, and you write about it well. :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Thanks for your words, cris l! This post was a challenge to write because I prefer to write about things that excite me and it’s disappointing when restaurant standards slip and hype isn’t everything it’s made out to be.

    [Reply]

  • I totally agree with K! So, I wish you more food inspirations to write about on DCF! :) ????

    [Reply]

  • Very nice blog Lori! Different! Of course I won’t be able to identify them especially if they are farther than 2 kilometers from the house! Mama has a better chance. Now give me some on Jupiter! Love, papa

    [Reply]

  • And this is why I’ve been a loyal reader of yours for several years now. I truly admire how you’ve stayed true to yourself and to your blog. Because at the end of the day, you don’t have to please anyone but yourself. :)

    [Reply]

  • While I am not totally against paying for PR blogging (cheaper than a proper magazine or newspaper, I guess) perhaps readers should understand that of course, paid bloggers’ opinions may not always reflect the truth so they should veer away from them if they want posts that accurately describe the merits of the restaurant and its dishes. However, I for one, visit lots of shady (in the honesty department!) food blogs to get stuff like prices, menu options and the like simply because it is not available in most other “straight” blogs. I think it’s all about taking what you need from sources that provide them which is what the Internet is all about, really. :)

    [Reply]

    ed Reply:

    hence, bloggers should be honest if they were paid, sponsored, comp’d or whatever… as a matter of fact bloggers should also disclose if the restaurant owners or chefs they cover are their friends… I’ve seen how some would go all praises on one of their friend’s place, and go ballistic on another writer for having his own differing opinion.

    [Reply]

    Sanika Reply:

    in the US, it’s already common practice for bloggers to disclose the circumstances of their review. I’m not sure if it’s already law, though. however, in the Philippines, it’s not required. I agree that out of courtesy (and ethics), it should be done but at the end of the day it is the blogger’s choice. the bottomline really is to be smart about what you believe over the internet. I read this blog regularly but some people might feel that it is lacking because it does not showcase the entire menu and does not always discuss menu options. That, however, does not make this blog a bad one. It just caters to a different niche and readers are always encouraged to find theirs.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Ed,
    True, open-mindedness is key. What I think is important is that we let everyone have their own opinions.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Sanika,
    Nobody reads just one blog of course, and each one is there to provide the information that readers may need.

    [Reply]

  • You’re far too nice. And while I do understand your reservations about not naming the restos, I do agree with the RO that negative feeback, more so from an earnest foodie, should keep restaurants on their toes — and make adjustments on periodic failings.

    Save for the Chinese and Steak place (that is one ugly plate of meat, by the way), I actually know all the other restos you chose not to cite. Is the Chinese resto located in QC?

    Still, you should give the Smoked BBQ place another try. The owners are newbies — and forecasting is an issue. But when you’re actually served their lauded smoked pork ribs, they are juicy and succulent and, perhaps, even worth going through the previous disappointment. I live in Manila, and I have no qualms about driving all the way to Cubao for those pork ribs.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Sonni,
    Yes, the Chinese resto is in QC, but QC is very large, with many Chinese restaurants. As for the BBQ place, I went there on a Friday night. From Makati. Distance isn’t an issue for me when it comes to food, but it was the forecasting at the restaurant that was a problem. Still, I liked the vibe of the place and will return. I only hope that I’ll get to eat ribs this time!

    [Reply]

  • the first restaurant is ridiculous, horrible food, youre being too kind- service was awful, food was even worse, i dont believe in anyone that says their food was good

    [Reply]

  • I personally believe that you should feature your bad experiences as well. Although I agree that taste is subjective, sometimes knowing what to avoid according to a foodie is helpful.

    I don’t live in the Philippines and every time I go home, I consult blogs for restaurant choices. Unfortunately, most bloggers seem not to know what good food is. I mean, how can someone who dislikes anything green and loves only those that come from a pig or a cow or who only eats out upon the invitation of a restaurant owner give honest and credible reviews? My God, sometimes I think food bloggers do this for the free food.

    However, I do have this trust in you. I believe you can really help people who want to dine in good restaurants or those who do save money to eat in an excellent restaurant once or twice or thrice a year.

    Please do it, unless…

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Lostintranslation-
    I hear you. Let’s see what I can do.

    [Reply]

  • Yours is among the few food blog I continue to read (together with jinlovestoeat, shootfirstandeatlater,walkandeat and marketmanila) The rest are obviously paid hacks who cannot even construct a decent sentence or worse, whose idea of a food review is …”the food is quite good… the taste is alright.”

    i hope you continue writing about your food experience

    [Reply]

    K Reply:

    Please don’t forget the “Malinamnam” “Sulit”! Grrrrr! I hate reading these two words from the alleged BBB.

    [Reply]

    Ailee Reply:

    Don’t forget “Sarap!”, which to me conveys either sheer laziness or utter lack of creativity to describe a dish.

    [Reply]

  • Enough of the Blogger Bashing please.

    ENOUGH.

    I’ve been a blogger since 2006, and I know that most of my contemporaries,
    and many of the newer ones, are doing their best to improve their skills, and relate
    the most honest depiction, through text and photos, of their best dining experiences.

    Most of us blog for the reason blogs were invented in the first place~
    to log our love for good food on the web. Many of the best bloggers I know have
    invested tremendously, in terms of time and effort, equipment and education,
    to improve what has become, to a large extent, our craft. Many of us have
    since been rewarded with recognition, and the transition to traditional print media,
    as contributors for nationally circulated magazines and newspapers.

    While it is true that a minority of bloggers are guilty of regurgitating press kits as their own posts,
    and while some seem to blog only for the opportunity to eat for free and bring home some swag~

    majority of the food bloggers in the Philippines are very much aware of our responsibility to our readers.
    We strive to be as diligent and honest as possible. Not only to give a fair and accurate representation
    of a restaurant’s best dishes, but more importantly, to guarantee that, should our readers decide
    to follow our recommendations, that they have proper advice on what to enjoy, and where.

    While taste will always be subjective, most bloggers will always strive to be objective.

    Yes, we do write mostly about the good~ and not the bad and the ugly, because
    really, in the Philippines, small as it is, what’s the point of throwing an online hissy fit?

    To do so, in this age of Facebook and Twitter and hashtags and sharing,
    has the potential to ruin businesses and crush the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs.

    We’d rather provide feedback and inputs to restaurant owners and the chefs privately~
    as constructive criticism, instead of bashing them in public.
    It’s quite simply the proper, decent thing to do.

    Bad food, bad chefs, and bad restaurants will be outed, with or without blogs.
    No, we’ll never focus on the negative, because we’d rather promote the positive.
    Good food, good chefs, and good restaurants, will always be touted, with or without blogs.

    There now exists a symbiotic relationship between restauranteurs and bloggers, true.
    But it’s one that grows stronger not because we take advantage of each other,
    but because its built on our mutual desire to raise the bar for the local restaurant industry.

    We help each other ensure that the paying public always gets the best bang for the buck,
    and the best tastes on the plate. That’s it. Nothing too complex or devious, really.

    There will always be the great, the mediocre, and the downright awful
    kinds of blogs, but then again, ultimately, it’s up to the readers to discern
    which is which, who to believe, and eventually, whose recommendations to follow.

    So to generalize bloggers as “paid hacks” and portray them as blogging
    just for the “free food” is irresponsible, unfair, and very insulting.

    We love what we do, and we’re proud of how we’re able to help
    raise expectations, and raise the bar for the country’s foodies.

    Food blogging is about sharing good food, period.
    So that’s exactly what we write about.

    The Good.

    [Reply]

    K Reply:

    I beg to disagree. Food blogging is about sharing food, period. Imagine all food bloggers write about only the good things. This will be too misleading should your readers decide to try out your recommendations. Bloggers like you Mr. Spanky , as you said would rather provide only the good stuff to your readers, and the bad stuff shared privately with the owners or chefs. Do you really think owners and chefs would change their menu on a whim just because they got feedbacks? No. And of course, why would you bash someone who’s invited you for a meal? That would be very ungrateful of you right? You as a food blogger should welcome criticisms coming from readers like me because believe it or not, you are not helping “raise the expectations and raise the bar for the country’s foodies” when you only choose to write the good side. What’s left to raise when everything’s good anyway?

    [Reply]

    sunshine Reply:

    if you only write about the good and because you got to eat for free then no point glosssing over it… paid hacks thats what they are..what they churn out is no different from advertorials and press releases just that no money exchange took place

    [Reply]

    Ailee Reply:

    I don’t agree that bloggers should focus solely on the good and turn a blind eye toward the bad. How then do you “raise the bar” if you only heap praise and refrain from dishing out criticism? Doesn’t that only breed complacency?

    I’m not generalizing and saying ALL bloggers are paid hacks, but I AM leery of food bloggers who review dozens upon dozens of restaurants and rave about almost all of them, as it is highly improbable that each and every single one is, *ahem*, awesome. You can’t blame readers like sunshine, K and myself for suspecting these glowing reviews were paid for. Either that, or the bloggers’ standards are depressingly low. In any case, they do not strike me as entirely reliable.

    It IS possible to write a negative review without bashing the restaurant/restauranteur outright, or “ruin[ing] businesses and crush[ing] the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs”, if the blogger chooses his/her words carefully and composes the piece thoughtfully. But I suppose that would be difficult for those who have a limited vocabulary (and atrocious grammar to boot).

    Although Lori doesn’t post all-negative reviews, what I personally like about her blog (aside from her impeccable writing) is that at least she doesn’t even waste her readers’ time featuring restaurants that don’t impress/excite her, unlike other food bloggers who are all too eager to hype the newest eateries in town. I trust Lori as a discerning foodie, and if it’s not on her blog yet, it’s probably not worth checking out. And when she does write about them, she doesn’t always give a perfect score or recommend it to everyone. She calls a spade a spade (or perhaps more aptly, a spatula a spatula), and if something isn’t to her liking, she will say so, but in a tactful way. More importantly, I get the sense that she blogs because she loves FOOD, not restaurants, and it shows in her detailed descriptions of dishes, supported by an obviously in-depth, even intimate, knowledge of food. And sadly, the same cannot be said of all food bloggers.

    [Reply]

    Sheryl Reply:

    Thank you, Spanky for your comment. Food blogging goes two ways – there are good bloggers, and there are bloggers out there who only write for free food and then feel the need to write something positive about it because they ate them for free.

    I am not a food critic, nor am I a great writer. But I blog about food that I love simply because I love its taste. I cannot give an accurate description of the presentation, taste, etc etc, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t blog simply because our knowledge about food and food-making is limited than most.

    I mostly blog because I want to be able to someday look back at the places I’ve been, places I’ve loved at some point. It doesn’t mean we’re persuading other people to go and eat there or else… In the end, it’s always the reader’s choice if they opt to go to a restaurant based on a blogger’s opinion. Let’s just all remember that just bacause a blogger likes it, it doesn’t immediately mean that everyone else will.

    Let’s spread some blogger love? xx

    [Reply]

  • I’ve been a HUGE fan of yours and had the pleasure of meeting you during my early blogging days. I must say you and about a handful other ‘pioneer’ bloggers are still a cut above the rest! I know I’m generalizing but it seems to me that food blogging has become so uso because many would like to have their 15minutes of fame, to the point of offering themselves as guinea pig and posing as food experts just so as to attract traffic to their site. Advertising cum moneymaking/freebie scheme..

    I personally refrain from posting negative things on restaurants. My blog is my space, it is where I share what I like – and I don’t think that something I don’t like deserves a space on my page more so, time to create a negative post.. Well, not unless they’re Maynilad (I have a long standing issue with them)..

    More power to you Lori! :)

    Spanky – can you believe its been that long na? :)

    [Reply]

  • Woah. That escalated quicky. Hehe.

    Ok will try to see if I can churn out something insightful this night with an experimental cocktail swimming in my brain after a night of boozing (to those who know us, this is normal :P )

    To add to the thought that one should write about the good things only, it is the choice of the blogger. I can understand how readers can feel that it becomes a responsibility that a blogger write about negative things, too, but it is still a choice in the end. There is a certain theme in the content that they probably want to keep, and there are dozens more blogs out there that can give a more critical. But one thing needs to remain: truthfulness in the content. Because if you still say good things about a food/restaurant that obviously is terrible, that is just wrong.

    Following the thought of Spanky: Bad blogs, like bad restos, get weeded out inevitably. If the indicator for restaurants is that patrons begin to dwindle, to blog sites, it’s the traffic hits and readership. If the blog loses credibility due to the untruthfulness of its content, no one reads it, and sooner or later, gets drowned in obsolescence, stuffed down the bowels of Google search and bad word of mouth.

    Let’s face it. There will be some like that, but to those that love the craft and not use it for such gains as just getting free food, it will show in the way they write.

    I, personally, don’t read much (alcohol seems to trigger an ADHD gene in me), but I stalk this site to get inspirations on the food shots. The photography in this blog is fantastic :D !

    Hmmm… I think I need another glass of tipple now.

    – Ray

    [Reply]

  • Haters are always gonna hate. Just keep writing about the good stuff but sometimes it would be nice to read about not so good food or places.

    Keep eating!

    [Reply]

  • I will only trust food bloggers’ restaurant reviews who pay their own way.

    [Reply]

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