Easter is less than two weeks away. Have you made your reservations for the day? No matter where you live, OpenTable can help you find the right food and a restaurant with the right mood for celebrants. Visit our international Easter reservations page to search for tables where you are — or where you’ll be, if you’re traveling for the holiday. From locations across the U.S. to Canada and the U.K., let us help you plan a special day.
* The Boston Herald spotlights local chefs Oscar Alvarez of Via Matta and Guillermo Machado of Lala Rokh along with Shelley Som, general manager of Beacon Hill Bistro, who have worked their way to the top at some of Boston’s top restaurants. [Boston Herald]
* Joey Campanaro, who has wowed downtown Manhattan diners at The Little Owl and Market Table as well as opening-any-minute and much-buzzed-about Kenmare, may be setting his sights westward. [Grub Street Los Angeles]
* It’s “Cribs: The Chefs Edition” as Florian Hugo, executive chef at Manhattan’s Brasserie Cognac (and great-great-great grandson of author Victor Hugo), shows off his family’s stylish Upper East Side digs. [New York Post]
What people are talking about when they talk about restaurants this week…
* Critic AA Gill reveals his version of the golden rules for a perfect restaurant — sort of. [London Times]
* Having a power lunch in London? Find out where you should dine. [Business Insider]
* Wimbledon is getting an ace of a chef for this year’s The Gatsby Club, who promises to be worthy of Roger Federer. [Event]
* New York restaurants must display their cleanliness grades, and not everyone is happy about it. [The New York Times]
* It’s the awful side of offal as Rocky Mountain oysters show up on more menus. Blech. [The Atlantic]
* Move over green eggs and ham: Fish is getting in on the action as well. [Chicago Tribune]
* A restaurant asked Cake Bible author Rose Levy Beranbaum to fork over cash for a “forkage” fee for a — you guessed it — cake. [Chowhound]
* Some restaurants have secret menus that anyone can order so long as you know the secret names. Trust me when I say you’ll probably be better off if you don’t indulge in any of these things. [Coupon Spy]
* Cold weather has killed a lot of tomatoes and they’re in short supply at restaurants. [CNM]
* Restaurants in Dallas are going green. [Dallas Morning News]
* Restaurants in Chicago are serving pretzel bread. [FortWayne.com]
* It’s patio season in Beantown. [Grub Street Boston]
* Garlic goes green — literally. It’s already a vegetable, so it’s not like it’s not “green,” but some varieties are also actually green. [Los Angeles Times]
* Want to find sustainable fish? There’s an app for that. [Miller-McCune]
* More restaurants in New York are going green with rooftop gardens. [New York Magazine]
* It’s tough to keep kosher in Connecticut. [The New York Times]
* Restaurants have better house wines. [The Reporter-Vacaville]
* You can take a nap in Napa after you dine on first-rate cuisine, thanks to top-notch inns with equally impressive restaurants. [San Francisco Chronicle]
* Bars and booze are bringing more business in to restaurants. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
* The Star Tribune has had a food section for four decades and in that time, they’ve, admittedly, endorsed some pretty silly trends. [Star Tribune]
* Taiwan restaurants take sustainability a step further. [Trendspotter]
* Our diners up north have the skinny on what’s going to be trendy in food in the future, which has already arrived, apparently. [Vancouver Sun]
* A DC restaurant goes dark but not in the bad way. [Washington Post]
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.
* 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]
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.
The latest of the greatest restaurant reviews…
* 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]
* 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]
The latest news about top restaurants on OpenTable…
* 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]
* 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]
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: