I’m dismayed and concerned about how vastly different my meal at Myron’s was compared to other people. It’s almost like I was talking about a whole other restaurant. I was going to keep quiet about it until I got this anonymous comment last night about Myron’s, which I reprint here:
Honesty, I’ve become quite careful of what you review, Lor. I think I’m captivated by the writing and the photos more than anything. One of the restos you reviewed called Sakae (owned by UCC) super sucks says my foodie friends. The Cello’s donuts were a disappointment too. It tastes day-old even when it’s fresh out of the oven. The latest is Myron’s which got terrible reviews from a good number of friends I have. In fact, a friend clutched my arm tightly to dissuade me from ever going there. At the end of the day, I know that food appreciation is personal… I still love your blog. Will just be careful though …
I was tempted to delete this comment because of its somewhat reproachful tone, but my blog opens me up to all kinds of comments anyway, so I let it stay. The more it sits there however, the more it irritates me, which is why I’ve decided to address it in this post. This is also a good time for you to understand the process involved in posting those restaurant reviews you see on my blog.
Reviewing a restaurant
1. I pay my way
In the six years that I was a contributor for two food magazines as well as the food editor of an online city-guide, reviewing a restaurant meant one thing: a free meal. It was always welcomed and appreciated by me since there’s nothing like being able to talk to the chef/owner/PR manager to really get a feel of what a restaurant is trying to do. I also won’t deny that it was a perk to taste so much food.
But dining in this way and then writing about it is not the experience of the average diner, whom I feel is the most important person in the dining experience. People open up restaurants for different reasons, but at the heart of it all is service, which is the sum of the restaurant experience. So when I started this blog, I decided to write about restaurants from the average diner’s experience, the average diner being the paying customer. I want to do my job well, and this means making sure that I’m getting what other people are getting.
I pay for all my meals, even when a discount or the meal itself, is offered to me free. I insist on paying because I want to be able to order what I want to eat and secondly, paying affords me the luxury of being able to be as subjective as I need to be. Hey, if the steak really wasn’t that good, I want to be able to talk about it. There’s really no such thing as a free meal, you know.
2. Dining is always a subjective experience
The thing about a restaurant is that it’s a different experience every time I go there. Somebody sitting at the next table ordering pretty much the same food as me could well be having a very different experience. Dining involves the head as well as all the senses.
Because I’ve been writing about restaurants for six years now, I try to approach criticism from the role of a diner. As far as judgments go, they are subjective and I have to have a certain amount of confidence in my ability to judge.
It’s impossible to objectify something as personal as eating in a restaurant. As much as I can describe it and critically analyze it in my posts, why I choose to eat the food I do is personal. I try to ”˜get’ the spirit of the restaurant, understand what it’s trying to be, but ultimately, it’s all about the food.
When I say a dish is good, I can only stand by what I ordered. If you order something else, then I can’t vouch for it. Everyone has their off days (yes, even you) and that includes line cooks and chefs. We all have different tastes. And expectations.
3. Why I write about restaurants
I don’t make it a point to feature new restaurants on my blog precisely because they need the time to iron out their kinks. Very few places could withstand a review in the first few months. They tend to be inconsistent or they start high and then it’s all downhill from there. New restaurants must be given time to set a standard for themselves that’s attainable, but more importantly, sustainable.
I write about restaurants because I like to eat and describe the food I’m eating. I write for people like me: terribly passionate about food, almost to a fault; and willing to have an open mind about food. I aim high and talk about the things that interest me in a restaurant. The resulting article in my blog is my way of sharing my experience, whether it was good or bad.
The bottom line
I believe that diners should have their own opinions based on their own needs and preferences. And this is why that anonymous comment above irked me so. I’m irritated by people who don’t go to a restaurant just because other people tell them not to. What are you, a puppet who only eats where everybody else does? This attitude of being scared off by negative reviews cuts directly against your chances of enjoying yourself at any restaurant. You will only be the hungrier for it.