Critical Question: Do You Rely on Professional Restaurant Reviews?

Do You Rely on Professional Restaurant Reviews Critical Question: Do You Rely on Professional Restaurant Reviews?There’s been a lot of talk lately about the relevance of restaurant critics. The Wall Street Journal recently eliminated their restaurant reviews, putting Raymond Sokolov out of a job. TIME and Josh Ozersky have come to his defense and that of his fading profession, opining that even though the critics of reviewing’s heyday lacked influence, they had perspective — something today’s bloated corps of food writers and bloggers do not possess.

Personally, I enjoy and trust professional restaurant critics (who seem to constantly have to defend not just their jobs but also their opinions). I believe they write more holistically and less fetish-y about restaurants and the dining experience than your average food blogger. Also, most professional critics must visit restaurants more than once, with a rotating cast of dining companions, so their assessments of a restaurant are not based on what might be the odd off night at a normally wonderful restaurant. Rather, they have dined multiple times, come into contact with many staffers, sampled several specials and numerous regular menu items, and seen how the restaurant operates on different days of the week. If so great a number of amateur reviewers or bloggers will condemn a restaurant based on a single unsatisfactory experience, can you really trust these negative reviews? Sure, OpenTable offers up ratings and reviews, but they can only be submitted by diners who have been confirmed to have dined at a restaurant. The vast majority of review sites will let anyone post a review — even a scathing one — without knowing whether that individual ever even walked through the establishment’s door.

We reached out to OpenTable diners on Facebook and Twitter, and a lot of people trusted their fellow diners’ opinions far more than that of professional critics. Michele Stanley says, “Actually I tend to take amateur reviews more to heart.” Mike Fahrenkrog concurs, stating, “For me nothing beats word of mouth, i.e. amateur reviewers in my social network.” Some folks do depend on the pros, though. Cheryl Davis Holman says, “My husband and I read the professional reviews all the time and we have found some diamonds in the rough just by reading them. Places you never would have thought you would like or prices that were too off the charts. They do a service for a lot of people and find places you never thought you would want or could go to. Yeah for the pros!!” George Anthony Harvey, also a fan of professional critics, points out, “There’s no accounting for public tastes. I give much more weight to a TRUSTED pro’s opinion.” Felicia Berke commented on a previous post on this topic, writing, “I question whether first-person reviews are written by the owners of the restaurant or a marketing agent instead of by actual customers. So, yes, restaurant critics (professional ones) are still important. Presumably they have qualifications as well. For all I know, ‘taysTmama’ has never ventured beyond the drive-thru for cuisine.”

Are you sad when newspapers shed their restaurant criticism? Do you rely on professional reviews or are amateur opinions what influence your dining decisions? Join the conversation here or on Facebook.

Chef Watch: José Andrés Gets a Prize; The Obamas’ Favorite Chef; Michael Mina’s New Venture, and More

* José Andrés (The Bazaar by José Andrés) will receive the 2010 grand prize from the Vilcek Foundation, “which annually honors the contributions of foreign-born Americans in the areas of art, culture and science” on April 7th at the Mandarin Oriental in New York. [Washington Post]

* Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia (Mia Donna) can cook. No, really. She’s got a book coming out and everything. [The New York Times]

* Dan Barber (Blue Hill at Stone Barns) discusses sustainable fish at TED. [Daily Blender]

* Mario Batali (Lupa) and Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s Restaurant) dined at The Publican. [Grub Street Chicago]

* The POTUS is a foodie, and Chicago chef Rick Bayless (Topolobampo) is one of his faves. [The Guardian]

* “No Reservations” Anthony Bourdain (Les Halles) dishes on his latest pursuits to Jennifer Heigl. [Daily Blender]

* Washington, D.C. chefs Mike Isabella (Zaytinya), Art Smith (Art and Soul) , and Bryan Voltaggio (VOLT) work hard to extend their “Top Chef” fame. [Washington Business Journal]

* Chef Michael Mina is set to take over Aqua, where he first made a splash years ago. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Chef Michael Psilakis (Kefi) has ended his association with Anthos in Manhattan and is rumored to be looking to open another restaurant in Brooklyn. [The New York Times]

* Reality-TV star/chef Gordon Ramsay (Gordon Ramsay) at Boka in Chicago [Grub Street Chicago]

* “Top Chef” season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio, chef de cuisine at The Dining Room at The Langham, talks about his future and what he plans to do with his prize money. [Food & Wine]

* Hoss Zaré (Zare at Fly Trap) is preparing a feast for the Persian New Year, which begins on March 20. [San Francisco Chronicle]

How to Be a Good Diner (or How Not to Wind Up on ‘Waiter Rant’)

How to be a good diner How to Be a Good Diner (or How Not to Wind Up on Waiter Rant)CNN.com recently ran a story about restaurant service with advice from our friend Steve Dublanica, the former professional wait staffer behind the snarky Waiter Rant blog and author of the book Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip — Confessions of a Cynical Waiter (HarperCollins). In it, he provides some tips for being a good patron, including not treating a restaurant as if it’s a day care center (Clean up after your kids.), not requesting an off-menu dish unless you accept the consequences (It might not taste great.), and refraining from showing up sans a reservation yet expecting the best table in the house (Use OpenTable.).

A few diner don’ts that come to my mind are things I’ve seen very recently. First, don’t ask a waiter to go through the entire menu with you. Use your reading comprehension skills and then ask specific questions. I saw a couple make a very patient server walk them through a five-page menu. It took 15 minutes on a busy Saturday night. This was not Daniel, mind you — just a lovely, unpretentious Mexican restaurant with entrees under $20 apiece. Next, if you have a food allergy, ask if certain ingredients are in a particular dish instead of giving your server a graphic explanation of your allergy. S/he probably doesn’t care, and it’s an overshare. Also, if you’re a picky eater, don’t make a face when the server explains the specials and they sound unappetizing to you. It’s not polite. Finally, if you don’t like your meal, speak up immediately (and kindly). Don’t wait until it’s too late to fix it and then simply rant about it later online. Give wait staff and managers an opportunity to serve you something you’ll enjoy.

What are your don’ts for diners when they’re out at restaurants? What have some of your past companions done to drive your server (and you!) crazy during a meal? Share your suggestions and stories here or on our Facebook.

Well-Reviewed: Barbacco in San Francisco; Bistrot Bruno Loubet in the UK; Madhatter in DC; The Wright at the Guggenheim, and More

The latest of the greatest restaurant reviews…

* Michael Bauer reviews Barbacco, sibling restaurant to successful Perbacco, happily awarding it three stars. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Miami’s Barolo Ristorante has reinvented itself, earning a couple of stars from Victoria Pesce Elliot. [Miami Herald]

* Bistrot Bruno Loubet in London is serving up deep-fried pig, and critic Giles Couren loves every bite at this terrific new restaurant that is “exactly what a bistro is supposed to be.” [London Times Online]

* The food and the service — not the scene — are the real stars at Bistro du Midi in Boston, according to Mat Schaffer. [Boston Herald]

* S. Irene Virbila makes an early visit to Culina, the new restaurant at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, and she’s pleased with what she sees and eats. [Los Angeles Times]

* Madhhatter in Washington, D.C., offers great food and great fun, according to Tom Sietsema. [Washington Post]

* Leslie Brenner of The Dallas Morning News reviews The Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and writes that “The Mansion matters,” thanks to chef Bruno Davaillon. [The Dallas Morning News]

* Chef Neela Paniz’s newest restaurant, Neela’s, is serving up authentic Indian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and bright flavors in Napa. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Preston’s in Dallas is turning out dishes that are super in more ways than one. [NBC Dallas-Fort Worth]

* Mexican restaurant Rustico Grill in Chicago gets a visit from critic Phil Vettel, who finds comfort and value in its menu. [Chicago Tribune]

* The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan has a masterpiece of a restaurant in The Wright. [Toronto Globe and Mail]

* Troy Unruh, former executive chef at Del Posto, has taken his talents to New Jersey’s Zylo, much to the good fortune of Garden State diners. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Restaurant News Roundup: 1834 Bar & Burger Means Business; The French Laundry Is Memorable; Cecconi’s Does Sunday Suppers; Le Gavroche Kicks Off Lobster Festival, and More

Restaurant News Round Up Restaurant News Roundup: 1834 Bar & Burger Means Business; The French Laundry Is Memorable; Cecconis Does Sunday Suppers; Le Gavroche Kicks Off Lobster Festival, and MoreThe latest news about top restaurants on OpenTable…

* It’s not the world’s biggest burger, but 1834 Bar & Burger in New York’s Financial District is serving a 10 pounder for $75. [Eater NY]

* Is Absinthe in San Francisco considering moving to bigger digs? [Grub Street San Francisco]

* Brother Jimmy’s BBQ restaurant is opening a branch in New York’s Union Square because, well, you can never have enough good barbecue, really. [Eater NY]

* Did you ever wish you came from a big Italian family that still ate big Sunday suppers together? Wish no more: Cecconi’s in West Hollywood has added family-style Sunday suppers. And they won’t break the bank at $50 for four people. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Double Crown in New York’s Noho is ready to reign supreme again with a new menu and a nip tuck. [Eater NY]

* Chef Scott Conant’s newest hot spot Faustina is now serving lunch. [Grub Street New York]

* The French Laundry cooked revered San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer’s most memorable meal, which is really saying something. [SF Gate]

* Home Restaurant & Bar in Atlanta (where “Top Chef” contestant Richard Blaise once worked) is closing at the end of March, opening next month as Coast Seafood & Raw Bar. [Front Burner]

* Lobster Festival returns to Le Gavroche in Vancouver for five weeks, serving a three-course lobster dinner for just $35 per person. [Scout Vancouver]

* On April 1, Manhattan restaurant Matsuri will host a festival honoring, er, um, let’s just say “manhood.” [Grub Street New York]

* Porta Via in Los Angeles has added a swanky bar and lounge. [Eater LA]

* New York City owns the rights to the name Tavern on the Green. The name will carry on, but let’s hope the cuisine does not. [The New York Times]

Best of New York Food 2010: New York Magazine Annoints the Elite

It may only be March, but it’s never too early for a list! After all, who wants to wait until December to learn what the best New York restaurants of the year are? Find out now, and start dining out at these notable eateries, courtesy of New York Magazine‘s Best of New York Food for 2010. Included, among others, are:

OpenTable for iPhone 3.0: For Diners Who Know Where They Want to Go (or Not)

iPhone 3.0 update OpenTable for iPhone 3.0: For Diners Who Know Where They Want to Go (or Not)OpenTable is pleased to announce the latest and greatest version of OpenTable for iPhone. That’s right, diners. We’ve hit the big 3.0! The new features in the OpenTable for iPhone 3.0 update were created specifically for diners like you — mobile enthusiasts who often know exactly where they want to go “without reservation” (pun intended). Of course, the application still remains essential for diners in search of suggestions and reservations on the fly.

With OpenTable for iPhone 3.0, you can now:

* Search for and book OpenTable restaurants by name — around your current location or in another city.

* Save and manage favorite restaurants right from your iPhone.

* Reserve further in advance (more than 30 days).

* Scan recently viewed restaurants plus detailed restaurant profiles, including photos, parking options, etc.

* Find 1,000-point restaurants in the search results easily, so you can earn free meals faster.

Download OpenTable for iPhone 3.0 today to enjoy all these features and others, including enhanced maps, in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. To visit iTunes, click here.

Continue reading…

Which State Has the Most Food Bloggers? Should Critics Cook? Culinary Questions and Answers from Around the Web This Week

Questions and Answers Which State Has the Most Food Bloggers? Should Critics Cook? Culinary Questions and Answers from Around the Web This WeekI don’t have all the answers, but I’ve seen some interesting food and dining questions this week. Thankfully, either experts have answered them — or you (not I) will have to.

* Do you know which state has the most food bloggers? Warning: This is a trick question.  [The New York Times]

* Should critics have to cook to be qualified for their jobs? [Denver Post]

* Why do Chinese food and doughnuts go together like peas and carrots in California (and my tummy)? [The Atlantic]

* How do you know if you’re a foodie? [Serious Eats]

* Which restaurant has the nicest restroom in the U.S.? [America's Best Restroom]

* Are you the next “Vacation Food Dude”? [Eater PDX]

* What should diners do when seated next to a boisterous table? [SF Gate]

* Why don’t servers write down orders? [Chow]

* Did the weather keep you away from chain restaurants? [Nation's Restaurant News]

Celebrity Spotting: Bateman and Arnett; Kelly Bensimon Cooks with Scott Conant; Katie Couric and Matt Lauer Lunch; Where “The Bachelor” Wed His Bride, and More

A round-up of where some of your most (and least) favorite stars have been dining recently…

* A pregnant Amy Adams (Julie & Julia) dined at Napa Valley Grille. [EaterLA]

* Celebrity chef Mario Batali (and his Crocs) greeted fellow diner Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight) at Comme Ca.  [EaterLA]

* “Arrested Development” costars Jason Bateman and Will Arnett took a meeting with Hollywood execs at Lure Fishbar. [US Magazine]

* Kelly Bensimon of “Real Housewives of New York” got a lesson in making pasta from New York chef Scott Conant of Faustina and Scarpetta fame. Doesn’t Sam Talbot (“Top Chef”) know how to make pasta? [US Magazine]

* Actor/director Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullen) and supermodel wife Christy Turlington hit up Napa’s Bottega. [Tablehopper]

* Someone gave singer Tracy Chapman one reason to dine at DOSA on Valencia. No word on whether or not that someone had a fast car.  [Tablehopper]

* Anchor Katie Couric broke bread midday with former “Today” colleague Matt Lauer at Le Caprice in Manhattan. [NY Post]

* Megastar Tom Cruise dined with CBS/Viacom boss Sumner Redstone at Il Piccolino in Beverly Hills. [NY Post]

* Gitane hosted Green Day’s Mike Dirnt. [Tablehopper]

* “Sex and the City” director/producer/writer Michael Patrick King ate with friends at Chaya. [EaterLA]

* “Parenthood” costars Peter Krause and Lauren Graham made an appearance at Quince in San Francisco. [Tablehopper]

* Super skater Michelle Kwan tucked into a meal at Legal Sea Foods. [Grub Street Boston]

* ABC’s “The Bachelor” lovebirds Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney got hitched at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes.  [South Bay Foodies via Eater]

* Oscar winner Mo’Nique attended a luncheon at Philippe. [US Magazine]

* Johnnie’s on the Side hosted the musicans of Muse. [Grub Street Boston]

* Audrina Patridge (“The Hills) and Julie Benz (“Dexter”) supped at Katsuya in Hollywood. [US Magazine]

* Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was spotted at Scampo. [Grub Street Boston]

* On-again couple Pink and husband Carey Hart stopped in for a bite at Geoffrey’s in Malibu. [People]

* Former American Pie ingenue Tara Reid’s beau popped the question at The Little Door in Los Angeles. [People]

* Actor Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island) lunched at Manhattan’s Brasserie 44. [New York Daily News]

* Precious costars Gabourey Sidibe and Lenny Kravitz attended a luncheon at Asia de Cuba in West Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel. [US Magazine]

* Anything-but-square designer Christian Siriano (“Project Runway”) was spotted at Upstairs on the Square. [Grub Street Boston]

* Michelle Trachtenberg of “Gossip Girl” sampled the guac at Dos Caminos. [Grub Street New York]

* Kanye West and muse Amber Rose were seen at Lure Fishbar. [Grub Street New York]

* Everyone’s favorite “Golden Girl” (sorry, Rue) and future “Saturday Night Live” host Betty White was spotted at Scala’s Bistro in San Francisco. [Tablehopper]

* Actor-cum-mobile spokesperson Luke Wilson was recognized dining at the Bay Area’s Slanted Door. [Tablehopper]

Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.’s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobu’s Rise to the Top; Ed Brown’s Loves; Susur Lee’s Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sona’s Shuttering, and More

Chef Watch1 Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobus Rise to the Top; Ed Browns Loves; Susur Lees Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sonas Shuttering, and More

Chefs making food and news…

* San Francisco Chronicle executive food and wine editor Michael Bauer and his colleagues select the Bay Area’s Rising Star Chefs for 2010. Included are John Paul Carmona (Manresa), Perry Hoffman (étoile), Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry), and Charlie Kleinman (Wexler’s). [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Wolfgang Puck, whose restaurants include 20.21, Chinois, CUT Las Vegas, Spago Beverly Hills, and many others, details of his ascension up the culinary ladder — and reveals he almost ended it all when he was fired from his first kitchen job as a young man. [Los Angeles Times]

* Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu London, Nobu New York, and others) shares his similar success story, which also includes suicidal thoughts after his first restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, burned down, leaving him in serious debt. [ABC News]

* Ed Brown of eighty one in New York reveals a few of his favorite food-related things. [The Daily Beast]

* Susur Lee thinks that New Yorkers, like parents,”just don’t understand,” and we’re not ready to embrace chicken feet at Shang. Oh no, he didn’t! (Totally kidding, Chef Lee. You’re probably right!) [Grub Street New York]

* Laurent Tourondel (BLT Fish, BLT Market, BLT Steak) is ending his partnership with Jimmy Haber. They will, essentially, split the BLT empire. All I care about is who gets the bacon. icon wink Chef Watch: Bauer and Co.s Rising Star Chefs 2010; How Wolfgang Became a Brand; Nobus Rise to the Top; Ed Browns Loves; Susur Lees Chicken Feet; David Myers on Sonas Shuttering, and More [The New York Times]

* David Myers discusses shuttering Los Angeles restaurant Sona (temporarily) in May while he scouts for and sets up shop in a new space. [Los Angeles Times]