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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?