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Sado Sushi: Is Joanne Kates insane?

Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 12:26 PM

In today's Globe, Kates rips apart Sado Sushi AND chowhound.com. Predictable, no?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servle...

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    FlavoursGal RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 01:25 PM

    Oh no! I feel terrible. Having been one of the original posters touting Sado Sushi, I feel like I've betrayed the restaurant by drawing Ms. Kates's attention to it.

    She seems to be more cruel than usual in this review. I don't think anyone on Chowhound referred to Sado Sushi as a pure, authentic Japanese restaurant. We adore it BECAUSE it's different and imaginative, no?

    Ms. Kates, since the secret is out about your appalling faux-pas 34 years ago, your credibility has dropped hundreds-fold. And, as a "refugee from Montreal" who grew up in that city of culinary greatness, I think you're wrong to claim that Sado Sushi's popularity is reserved for ex-Montrealers. Seems you have a chip on your shoulder towards us, as well.

    4 Replies
    1. re: FlavoursGal
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      Yongeman RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 01:27 PM

      " the secret is out about your appalling faux-pas 34 years ago"

      Do tell....

      1. re: FlavoursGal
        pinstripeprincess RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 01:45 PM

        Flavours Gal, i read her final remarks and felt a twinge of pain to her obvious references for yourself and others on this board.

        she was much crueler in this review than in the past and specificially chose to try to debunk the credibility of this board. me thinks she feels some competition and is growing insecure of how we may pick apart her own reviews. she blithely attacked the board and its contributors, who don't get paid to review or attend a restaurant multiple times, and perhaps she should stop reading our postings if she believes us to be so inept at judging a restaurant.

        i'm incensed enough to write a letter to the editor regarding the faults of her own review due to her inability to approach a restaurant without any biases from food lovers who may not hang on her every word. i invite others to do so as well.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess
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          FlavoursGal RE: pinstripeprincess Jan 13, 2007 01:52 PM

          As someone who's written the occasional restaurant review, I endeavour to start out with a carte blanche. Prior to reviewing a restaurant, I make it a point to NOT read (or re-read, as the case may be) any other reviews beforehand, so that I will have a more objective, unbiased view of the establishment when I enter it.

          1. re: FlavoursGal
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            Suresh RE: FlavoursGal Feb 7, 2007 10:34 AM

            Thats great,
            Good for you Flavoursgal. :)
            I admire the unbiased approach, and highly respect it.

      2. spades RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 01:38 PM

        OUCH! She really tore CH and the poor restaurant apart. Not having been there myself, I can't comment on the specifics of anything she wrote. However, hats off to JK for finally devoting the vast majority of her column to the food itself, as opposed to some other meaningless meanderings.

        The question to me is, how could patrons have such wildly different experiences?

        1 Reply
        1. re: spades
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          FlavoursGal RE: spades Jan 13, 2007 01:45 PM

          A VERY good question, spades. I just re-read some of the CH reviews of Sado Sushi which, for the most part, were extremely favourable. These patrons, like me, enjoyed the inventive creations and were not necessarily frequenting Sado Sushi for traditional sashimi and sushi. Where Miss Kates criticizes the restaurant for its sauces, I've always found the sauces on the dishes to be fresh, flavourful and home-made, not out of a jar as she suggests. On one particular evening when I'd ordered the omakaze, the chef and I had a discussion about one of the sauces that he'd just concocted. This young man is definitely developing his own recipes and sauces.

        2. f
          FlavoursGal RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 01:47 PM

          On another note, we chose Sado Sushi for our family's New Year's Eve meal this year. I was greeted by the chef/owner, who told me this was his first day back after having surgery to donate a portion of his liver to his mother.

          I'm just guessing, but it is very possible that Ms. Kates visited Sado Sushi during the time that the head chef was in hospital.

          2 Replies
          1. re: FlavoursGal
            spades RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 02:22 PM

            That's entirely plausible... surgery like that could knock a guy out for weeks! If that's the case, then it's really unfortunate that Sado couldn't put their best foot forward while she was reviewing their restaurant.

            1. re: spades
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              FlavoursGal RE: spades Jan 13, 2007 02:24 PM

              I know...they say a restaurant should be able to perform whether the chef is in-house or not. In this case, however, a newly opened restaurant, it probably put quite a strain on the place.

          2. nummanumma RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 03:10 PM

            can we get the dish on the 34 years ago remark?
            My husband and I were reading this morning and ended up wondering if she was writing a review or picking a bone with the CH community- she has embarassed and belittled herself with childish jabs, imho.

            4 Replies
            1. re: nummanumma
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              FlavoursGal RE: nummanumma Jan 13, 2007 03:19 PM

              Read through this recent "Food Media and News" board thread:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358709

              1. re: FlavoursGal
                nummanumma RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 07:55 PM

                ohhh. what a delicious and satisfying tidbit.

                1. re: FlavoursGal
                  icey RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 01:51 AM

                  I actually started that thread not knowing much about Joanne Kates. I mean, I had never read her reviews before, however, as a first time reader, it very much seemed as she was attacking the board and that Sado was caught in the crossfire. Perhaps she saw some of the comments about herself, and her "faux pas" years ago, and grew very bitter. In any case, that was an AWFUL review. I mean, even Toronto Life, who I was criticizing in the thread try to show all the positive aspects of a restaurant, even if they score only 1 star. Kates just seems really unprofessional and its very sad that a restaurant who has received such praise here has to get their reputation tarnished. I am taking pinstripeprincess advice, and seriously thinking about writing to the editor.

                  1. re: icey
                    Robert Lauriston RE: icey Jan 14, 2007 05:37 PM

                    The editor's not likely to believe that Kates made up those problems, and given the severity of the problems, a pan was the only appropriate review.

                    Not all the reports on Chowhound were glowing:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              2. orangewasabi RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 03:52 PM

                That was a hurtful review, no doubt. But do local Torontoians really take JK seriously? When I see her positive review at a resto, it always gives me a twinge of concern. To put it kindly, she & I do not have the same palate.

                1. t
                  TexSquared RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 03:55 PM

                  I looked at that thread. Pay close attention to the two posts by Vinnie Vidimangi and then ask yourself, if someone wrote that about you wouldn't you want to get even?

                  1. j
                    jcanncuk RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 04:36 PM

                    Why is JK taking her angst against ONE CHer and venting in a NATIONAL newspaper? I also wonder why she is trying places and writing reviews after completely biasing herself ahead of time. I agree with many that I personally have no faith in JKs reviews - restos she loves, I often hate and vice versa. She typically comments more on if she feels pampered or not rather than on the food.

                    It's too bad she had such a bad experience at Sado, but I really do NOT understand why she took a chunk out of CH (& the taste of Montrealers! Is she jealous???). I get a LOT more out of REAL people's opinions than I do out of her usual rants.

                    Go CH go, real people live (& eat!) on :-)

                    1. foodyDudey RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 04:51 PM

                      Does it really matter what Kates writes?

                      read this article http://www.rrj.ca/issue/1987/spring/42/

                      and you will read:

                      For her part, Kates offers no defence. She says none is necessary. "I write to entertain myself. If people don't like it, they don't have to read me. I don't think food deserves 800 or 900 words. There are more interesting things to write about. I try to capture the semiotics of a place, the social signifiers."

                      1. e
                        estragon RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 04:55 PM

                        Oh, get a life, you people who are offended by Kates's jab at Chowhound. Stop taking yourselves so seriously! This board is entertainment, nothing more. We exchange opinions -- sometimes laughably off-base ones -- about food. We're not writing novels or deeply personal memoirs.

                        Somebody wrote: "she blithely attacked the board and its contributors, who don't get paid to review or attend a restaurant multiple times."

                        And so what? Are your opinions so sacrosanct? We dish out criticism all the time. If you can't take it, don't post.

                        As for Kates herself, who cares? She's kept her job for 25+ years because she sells papers. That's her job, and she does it well. Just think of her as Margaret Wente with an appetite.

                        1. Robert Lauriston RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 05:02 PM

                          The review mentions the following problems:

                          - uni with ammonia odor
                          - curdled chawan mushi
                          - overcooked salmon
                          - ? presented as salmon trout
                          - cucumber presented as seaweed salad
                          - grossly incompetent service

                          Unless Kates has her facts very wrong, that's an awful restaurant.

                          Most of her Chowhound quotes come from this topic:

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334159

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                            FlavoursGal RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 13, 2007 06:07 PM

                            Robert, I can't respond to her claims of foul uni, curdled chawan mushi, overcooked salmon, salmon trout presented as trout, or cucumber presented as seaweed salad.

                            However, take a look at this link to Sado Sushi's menu (opened to the chef's specialties listing), and you'll see that the restaurant does NOT misrepresent surimi as real crab. They refer to it as "crab stick" on the menu.

                            http://www.sado-sushi.com/chefspecial...

                            As to claims of grossly incompetent service, I have had only extremely polished, professional service on each visit.

                            1. re: FlavoursGal
                              Robert Lauriston RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 06:23 PM

                              Actually she didn't say the surimi was presented as real, so I edited my post to remove that. But calling surimi "crab stick" is false advertising, since it contains no crab.

                              Reviewers don't make stuff up. If her experience differed that radically from yours, the place must be quite inconsistent. Maybe things fell apart because the chef was gone, but if the place is that dependent on him, he should have closed it.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                adroit_minx RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2007 12:17 AM

                                Is there an appropriate English name for surimi, other than "imitation crab"? Just wondering...

                                1. re: adroit_minx
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                                  FlavoursGal RE: adroit_minx Jan 14, 2007 04:42 AM

                                  I think surimi is, by now, a commonly used word, as is kamaboko. Or are they words that only Chowhounders know?

                                  1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                    Atahualpa RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 05:19 PM

                                    Sorry FlavoursGal -- Only us CHs know those word. Processed Alaskan Pollock might be more widely understood. Perhaps adding: 'as imitation crab'.

                                    1. re: Atahualpa
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: Atahualpa Jan 14, 2007 05:37 PM

                                      Or "crab-flavored fish cake."

                                    2. re: FlavoursGal
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                                      embee RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 06:37 PM

                                      I would consider "surimi" a common word among food people, though not necessarily among the wider public. Not so "kamaboko".

                                      I would assume "crab stick" to mean fake crab. The first time I had Japanese food was in the sixties, at an amazing place in New York called Saito. It seemed to cater to Japanese diplomats. They had something that, in hindsight, must have been fake crab. It seems to have a long term, honourable context in Japanese cuisine (much like msg). Can anyone who is Japanese confirm this?

                                      I ran into it in several other Asian cuisines over the years, typically just called "fish cake". The other context in which I encountered it was when it first appeared in kosher stores as "I Can't Believe It's Not Crab". In all of these cases, the fake crab seemed to be quite proudly itself.

                                      It's only more recently, in restos catering to mainstream North Americans, that I began to see surimi masquerading as the real thing.

                                      1. re: embee
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: embee Jan 14, 2007 06:50 PM

                                        I've seen bad sushi places passing off surimi as crab for at least 30 years.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                          embee RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 15, 2007 02:03 AM

                                          That sounds about right. I didn't actually run into really bad sushi until much more recently, when it became a mainstream food. But I do recall surimi turning up in "crab" salads about that time.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                FlavoursGal RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2007 03:59 PM

                                Actually, Robert, I just took a look at NOW Magazine's rave review of Sado Sushi. Although I rarely read NOW (a weekly tabloid available free of charge) and have no idea who the critic is, he does mention that Sado Sushi's menu indicates that the fish in the trout sashimi may vary.

                                Here's the NOW review:

                                http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2006...

                                1. re: FlavoursGal
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 05:42 PM

                                  If the fish varies, then the server needs to let the customer know before taking the order.

                                  1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                    embee RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 06:47 PM

                                    Now's reviewer has been writing up Toronto restaurants for something like ten years. I suppose I come across as the Grinch, but I have even less confidence in his "N" ratings than I do in Toronto Life's star ratings.

                                    That said, I have consistently found Now to be the best source of info about interesting sounding places that I might want to try. Much more useful to an adventurous eater than the Star, Globe, or Toronto Life.

                                2. f
                                  FlavoursGal RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 05:04 PM

                                  For an interesting story on being the restaurant critic for a daily paper, read this article from The [Montreal] Gazette's Lesley Chesterman.

                                  http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette...

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                    BLM RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 08:20 PM

                                    Flavours Gal, I just re-read this Lesley Chesterman piece(I'm in Montreal). She made some interesting points, although I've had my disagreements with Lesley over the years. At the beginning of her piece, she mentions about speaking with an angry female restaurateur in Montreal, after she panned another of her restaurants(the third one she either owned or managed). I have an idea who she is refering to(there are not many female restaurateurs in Montreal of fine dining establishments & etc., so it wouldn't be too hard to figure out). I noticed Lesley made a mistake in referring to Ruby Foo's as 'Ruby Foods.' One thing Lesley Chesterman & Joanne Kates have in common, is that they both have serious crushes on Toronto chef Susur Lee.

                                    Flavours Gal, did you know that Joanne Kates wrote around 5 years ago in the Globe & Mail a long feature, about her long career as the Globe's restaurant critic(along the same vein, as what Lesley wrote about)? If you haven't seen it, I'm sure you can get hold of it. If you can't, I can even find it, & send it to you.

                                    1. re: BLM
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                                      FlavoursGal RE: BLM Jan 13, 2007 08:51 PM

                                      Thanks, BLM. I, too, noticed the "Ruby Foods" goof, and wondered whether it was Ms. Chesterman who got it wrong, or the gremlins that sometimes attack one's writings.

                                      Interesting about the Susur Lee crushes. He IS rather cute...

                                      I don't recall reading Ms. Kates's autobiographical feature (although, I guess we are all reading mini-autobiographies of her every week, n'est-ce pas?). I'll try to get hold of it.

                                      My husband, who (gasp!) does not read restaurant reviews, asked me earlier about what Joanne Kates is all about. I summed it up very succinctly when I related a review she did years ago about a Moroccan restaurant (it may have been Boujadi, in its original location) in which she was horrified and unhappy to be eating a main course that (and, here I can't remember exactly the common-in-Moroccan-cuisine ingredient) contained cinnamon and/or prunes.

                                      1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                        BLM RE: FlavoursGal Jan 13, 2007 09:07 PM

                                        Come to think of it, Joanne Kates wrote her long piece about her years being a restaurant critic in 1999 or 2000(time flies). I'm only going by memory however. BTW, if you didn't know Maiko Sushi at Bernard in Montreal, has a second location in the West Island.

                                        1. re: FlavoursGal
                                          LindaWhit RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 02:25 PM

                                          "a review she did years ago about a Moroccan restaurant (it may have been Boujadi, in its original location) in which she was horrified and unhappy to be eating a main course that (and, here I can't remember exactly the common-in-Moroccan-cuisine ingredient) contained cinnamon and/or prunes."
                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                          I know nothing about Kates; only what I've read on this thread and from her review linked above. But this is one person who should NOT be reviewing restaurants, if she was unhappy about something like this!

                                          1. re: LindaWhit
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                                            FlavoursGal RE: LindaWhit Jan 14, 2007 02:42 PM

                                            Exactly.

                                      2. re: FlavoursGal
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                                        Ben Reiner RE: FlavoursGal Jan 15, 2007 03:34 AM

                                        Interesting article. Don't know if I completely sympathize with Lesley - I can think of tougher jobs :) but I could see how she might be susceptible to the occasional annoying encounter.

                                        Funny you mentioned her though, because as I started reading this thread, I thought of her specifically because she regularly posts on eGullet and sometimes posts on Chowhound. In my mind at least, this gives her a certain amount of instant credibility, and integrity. On the other hand, each of the Toronto critics seem far more interested in telling a good tale (or tall one, as the case may be) than providing the public with a tool for determining a restaurant's worth.

                                        1. re: Ben Reiner
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                                          FlavoursGal RE: Ben Reiner Jan 15, 2007 03:41 AM

                                          We moved here from Montreal 10 years ago, before Ms. Chesterman started at The Gazette, so I'm not very familiar with her work. But I was in Montreal when this article came out, and I enjoyed reading it (the content also happened to be very timely for me, personally).

                                          Does Ms. Chesterman post under her own name?

                                          1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                            BLM RE: FlavoursGal Jan 15, 2007 04:16 AM

                                            Lesley has posted twice on the Chowhound Montreal board under the name 'Lesley.' She's 'Lesley C' on eG. If you want to read her Montreal Gazette restaurant reviews from 1999 to around mid-2004, check out her Flavourville book(it's basically a compilation of her previous Montreal Gazette reviews). Any review that gets at least 2 stars(out of 4) from her during that time, is reprinted in the book(the reviews are slightly reworked a little bit, to make it easier to browse).

                                      3. HarryLloyd RE: Dimbulb Jan 13, 2007 05:30 PM

                                        My problem with Kates is that she seems to be making two points with her article. one that the food is bad and two that you cant trust chowhounds. I'm ok with the firt point but not the second.

                                        I always thought that if your a public figure you will always have critics of your work. right or wrong. but that you should never focus on them. that it makes more sense to focus on those who love you.

                                        I for one have lost more respect for her. and am now searching for reviews from FlavoursGal ;)

                                        Good luck in the future JK! I'm sure other CH look forward to her visiting their favourite restaurants. as some of them may even work there.

                                        Chow!
                                        HL.

                                        1. e
                                          embee RE: Dimbulb Jan 14, 2007 03:05 AM

                                          Oh my!

                                          As the one who "outed" her, I'm startled to realize that we have so much collective power. For someone who has built a whole career persona as one who takes no prisoners and doesn't give a damn what anyone else thinks, this is one thin skinned babe.

                                          If the old saw "love me or hate me, just don't misspell my name" holds true, her column should bring many new hounds to the Toronto boards. Welcome to you all :-)

                                          To Mara: my sympathies! It must have been awful.

                                          To Sado Sushi: my apologies. I've never been to your restaurant and, for all I know, she got a poor meal, but to skewer you because she's mad at us is a disgrace.

                                          To Joanne: I guess everything I heard at PWAC was true...

                                          And remember everyone, it was the Star that publicized Chowhound in Toronto.

                                          1. f
                                            FlavoursGal RE: Dimbulb Jan 14, 2007 04:32 AM

                                            embee, are you going to share with us what you've heard at PWAC? Pretty please, at least some of it?

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                              embee RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 07:17 PM

                                              Aw c'mon FlavoursGal, you know I can't do that ;-)

                                              Catty gossip passed around a non-food related association has no place on any Chowhound board and would be killed almost immediately. You'll just need to let your imagination run wild.

                                              1. re: embee
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                                                FlavoursGal RE: embee Jan 14, 2007 10:01 PM

                                                Or join PWAC and attend the local meetings, which I've been considering for awhile now.

                                                1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                                  embee RE: FlavoursGal Jan 14, 2007 10:27 PM

                                                  I don't know whether or not she is still part of that organization. When I last dealt with them, it was the "Periodical" Writers Assn. My recollection is that she had started it. They seem to have expanded their membership in a big way.

                                                  1. re: embee
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                                                    FlavoursGal RE: embee Jan 14, 2007 10:37 PM

                                                    It seems to be an interesting association. In the spring I'll be attending a conference that takes place annually in West Sulphur Springs (just love the name!), West Virginia, and I've been thinking that belonging to a writers' organization at the local level would be a nice complement.

                                            2. p
                                              Prabhakar Ragde RE: Dimbulb Jan 14, 2007 03:08 PM

                                              I'm no fan of Joanne Kates (estragon's "Margaret Wente with an appetite" remark is brilliant) but, as someone who was underwhelmed by Sado Sushi, I think many of her criticisms of the restaurant are justified, even if they're harsher than usual. (My daughter points out, though, that Kates seemed to be deliberately making poor choices, saying "If you order something called Bagel [smoked salmon and cream cheese maki], what do you expect?".)

                                              As for her criticisms of Chowhound, again, they are exaggerated, but there is a germ of truth to them; I felt a certain disappointment when my experience at Sado didn't come close to matching the descriptions on the Chowhound thread, and that wasn't the first time. We're all prone to validating our own experiences and puffing ourselves up by hyping things to others who don't know about them. The worst "professional" critics succumb to that temptation; the best ones reject it, and try to frame their own subjectivity in an appropriate context. --PR

                                              14 Replies
                                              1. re: Prabhakar Ragde
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                                                embee RE: Prabhakar Ragde Jan 14, 2007 07:13 PM

                                                Which is exactly why Chowhound has no relevance to her review. If her meal sucked, than it sucked. As her Montreal counterpart commented in a referenced piece, you need to have a thick skin to be a restaurant critic. That we hurt her is just too damn bad.

                                                What I have learned from this otherwise trivial episode is that perhaps Ms Kates reviews are more heartfelt than I realized. Perhaps being ignored in a resto (a bad thing at any time, of course) really makes her feel deeply inadequate and unimportant and hurt -- instead of just pissed off at the poor service.

                                                Chowhound is an opinion place for people who many might consider nuts. (When I start talking about food, some family and friends immediately tune out.) I often disagree with things I read here. Some opinions posted here are obviously setups and some are quite suspect. Some simply don't coincide with my own experiences. The moderators ban postings about places I like very much for reasons I don't understand.

                                                Sometimes I comment at length; sometimes I just don't bother. It's interesting for me and it's fun, but I don't lose sleep when someone tells me I'm wrong.

                                                Hell, I even expressed some (admittedly sarcastic, but still genuine) admiration for Ms Kates' long term success. But the fact that some Chowhounds liked this place and she didn't tells us nothing about her dinner. What it tells us is that her ego is so fragile that we threaten her and make her need to validate herself via flame. So sad, so sad.

                                                And "Margaret Wente with an appetite" IS brilliant. But appetite doesn't equate to taste.

                                                1. re: embee
                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: embee Jan 14, 2007 07:38 PM

                                                  I don't think you need to psychoanalyze Kates to see why she panned the place. She got ill-conceived dishes, improperly cooked food, and ammonia-smelling sea urchin.

                                                  A review always needs a lede. Mentioning the Chowhound raves explains why she chose to review a bad sushi restaurant in an out-of-the-way location.

                                                  Reporting the straightforward facts that on two visits the server never visited the table between courses and misinformed her that no more dishes were coming doesn't suggest to me that her feelings were hurt.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    mikeb RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2007 08:16 PM

                                                    I don't get it.

                                                    At least two visits with bad service and bad food would equal a pan by any critic. I think that she mentioned other media--online and print--regard the place as worth visiting is doing it a bigger favour than most restaurants would get from a restaurant critic. Certainly couldn't see Bauer doing it.

                                                    1. re: mikeb
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                                                      embee RE: mikeb Jan 14, 2007 09:08 PM

                                                      You do have a point there, but I still believe her Chowhound dig was mainly the result of a fragile ego and sour grapes.

                                                      In any event, it's fun to postulate about it here, but hardly profound. I'll probably try the place now - if only to see if it is really as bad as she says. And the review probably will attract new people to Chowhound.

                                                      1. re: embee
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                                                        Atahualpa RE: embee Jan 14, 2007 10:29 PM

                                                        Embee, my advice is don't try it! I've stayed quiet till now because people on this board whose opinions I have come to respect really, really, really, enjoyed it and have been several times and I've only been once. But, I'll never go back.

                                                        The 'great innovative items' were really not to my taste at all (and I'm someone who will search for a good spider roll, love a dynamite roll, and will even defend the much maligned California roll). Most were swimming in sauces that were too powerful, too sweet, or too salty and had badly conceived balances of texture. The normal stuff was blah. I wasn't served anything gone bad, but it certainly wasn't fresh fish done well (if that's your thing head to Sushi Marché and let John Lee look after you). It was no better that New Gen. To top it off, service was well-meaning but incompetent (we were brought the wrong items or items for another table on more than one occasion).

                                                        Anyways, I ended up going to Kon-Nichi-Wa on Baldwin the next day in order to restore my faith in Japanese food and to re-gain my sanity.

                                                        1. re: Atahualpa
                                                          deelicious RE: Atahualpa Jan 15, 2007 04:17 AM

                                                          I love great sushi and I enjoy the less than authentic like Japango as much as I do a Hiro or Kaji. In fact I used to love New Gen until they began skimping on the fish (before the fire). I run to new great-sounding sushi joints the moment I catch wind, but I read between the lines as the original thread grew and I got the sense that it was much more novelty than it was GREAT sushi. I never did go because it just didn't sound right.

                                                          I hope the resto survives through all of this unfortunate press. Hopefully they will pull back on the sauces and learn from the feedback that appears to be justified. I will visit the moment I see a thread touting the food all over again.

                                                          1. re: Atahualpa
                                                            eoj RE: Atahualpa Jan 15, 2007 02:00 PM

                                                            I think this is a major downside of CH... the culture here seems to be that dissent isn't favoured so no one posts their bad experiences if everyone else loves a place. I'd much rather a community that was more open to hearing differing opinions of restaurants since that would provide a more realistic review.

                                                            1. re: eoj
                                                              Gary Soup RE: eoj Jan 15, 2007 04:53 PM

                                                              As one who has had his sanity questioned for such aberrations, I couldn't agree more. But hounds do run in packs, you know.

                                                              1. re: eoj
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                                                                BLM RE: eoj Jan 15, 2007 06:27 PM

                                                                You might have a point. I was considered a 'basher' & 'trouble maker' by some people on another food discussion board, whenever I disagreed with a prominent poster on that site. However in finally reading fully the CH 'Sado Sushi' thread where many Chowhounders praised Sado Sushi, there were some dissenters to the Sado Sushi food.

                                                                1. re: eoj
                                                                  pinstripeprincess RE: eoj Jan 15, 2007 07:28 PM

                                                                  someone else has already said it, but it's not that her differing opinion bothers me (i'll admit the combinations sound creative but i'd be hesitant to eat them myself, i haven't been to the resto btw), it's that it seems she's using a bad review as a platform to simultaneously trash chowhound. from my own perspective, any respectable reviewer should be unbiased and not focus their experience on picking apart someone else's comments. show me a piece she's written about a restaurant where she rips apart every single postive point made by chatto.

                                                                  if she has issues with chowhound, write about that and don't take a restaurant down the tubes with you.

                                                                  and i am entirely willing to go against any chowhound raves if my experience was subpar. it's almost worse since highly positive reviews with taint me with expectations.

                                                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess
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                                                                    Wandering Foodie RE: pinstripeprincess Jan 21, 2007 05:09 AM

                                                                    Hmm... I didn't get that tone when I read the review. Definitely no chowhound (or Now Mag) trashing there. She seems to be merely disagreeing with a few posts. I mean, how many times have we heard or read about all the hype surrounding a spanky new restaurant and thought your experience was nothing special (or disappointing)? Isn't chowhound also a place to find out about new places and go form your own opinion of it?

                                                                2. re: Atahualpa
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                                                                  Vinnie Vidimangi RE: Atahualpa Jan 16, 2007 09:44 PM

                                                                  I second the recommendation of Konnichiwa, although I think that something happened for the worse about 7? months ago decreasing the refinement in the cooking. But still a pleasure, and reasonably priced.
                                                                  VVM

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                                                                    Atahualpa RE: Vinnie Vidimangi Jan 17, 2007 02:54 AM

                                                                    They (Konnichiwa) renovated over the summer and were cooking more things ahead of time. I think they have brought themselves back up to their former excellence though.

                                                                    I know no other place (except maybe Kaji or Hiro)where I can get onigiri (ume, kampyo, or okaka), excellent Unagi (homemade and served warm and melting), homemade gyoza, and a dynamite roll, all on the same menu and all excellently prepared.

                                                                    The fact that it is so reasonably priced is secondary.

                                                                    1. re: Atahualpa
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                                                                      Vinnie Vidimangi RE: Atahualpa Jan 17, 2007 06:02 AM

                                                                      I am so pleased to read your post, Atahualpa. Before the summer shortcuts I thought that their cooking was beautiful and was an eye opener.
                                                                      VVM

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                                                        NumNums RE: Dimbulb Jan 15, 2007 09:27 PM

                                                        It's been quite fascinating to read the reactions this particular thread has stirred. Is the anger directed at Kates' review, or more at an overall perceived lack of good judgment by people who post on this board? IMHO, it's important to separate the two.

                                                        Being a food junkie, I spend a lot (perhaps too much) time reading media and board reviews. Mainstream media critics have always been a bit suspect in my opinion. One cannot help believe that after countless years of reviewing they become a bit jaded. However, in defense of Kates' critique, she pointed out negatives that were particular to HER dining experience. Some may think it was a conspired attempt to belittle the people on this board. Why so much paranoia? She just didn't think it lived up to hype she had read here.

                                                        Does this mean that CHs, as a collective group, have no taste?
                                                        Of course not. I've been reading this board for a number of months now and find it contributes greatly to introducing me to new restaurants, I would have otherwise not found by other means. I have tried some places that get glowing critques here and have not been impressed. And I've tried others that many people seem to vehemently dislike, whereas I quite enjoyed them. I may have questioned all the thumbs up or down, but put the experience down to MY particular adventure.

                                                        In the final analysis, her negative review will direct more people to this board. The continued exchange of diverse opinions will allow more people to relate their dining experiences. And like myself, will continue to agree and disagree with recommendations made here.

                                                        And I thought Sado Sushi was okay, if somewhat contrived in their creative attempts. Some just didn't work period and others were quite enjoyable.

                                                        1. tuqueboy RE: Dimbulb Jan 15, 2007 09:40 PM

                                                          I find it somewhat ironic that people on this thread are guilty of exactly what they accuse ms. kates of -- being obssessed with the opinion of someone else they claim not to respect.

                                                          1. spigot RE: Dimbulb Jan 16, 2007 03:30 AM

                                                            OMG. a) I agree, tuqueboy, and b) did I read the same review as the rest of you?!!

                                                            Because I think this is a ridiculous thread. JK's job is to write restaurant reviews that divert casual readers on Saturday mornings - so, she erects and topples straw men, she affects 'unpopular' stances, she's categorical not nuanced. This is HER JOB.

                                                            I think getting our collective hate on, based on a perfectly normal review, plus something she *may* have written decades ago, plus embee's anonymous and completely cryptic assertions, is really, incredibly lame.

                                                            JMO :-)

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: spigot
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                                                              embee RE: spigot Jan 16, 2007 03:56 AM

                                                              I actually agree also :-)

                                                              I did say I admired her ability to keep her job for so long, and I meant it. That I read her reviews, but can't rely on them or take them seriously, though, is fact. All kidding aside, I would like to see a restaurant critic in Toronto whose reviews could help me make informed dining decisions.

                                                              My "emotional" reaction to this can be best described as bemusement, though my "psychoanalytical" observations were not made totally in jest. I'm surprised this thread became such a big deal. But I do believe that her review will be good for Chowhound, whatever her motivation many have been.

                                                              I'd like to hear more about the meals people have at this resto, given the extremely divergent views both here and in other media, but maybe it is time to move on concerning Ms Kates. At least until she slags us again....

                                                              (Note that my "cryptic" comments would not be cryptic to many people on this board.)

                                                              1. re: embee
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                                                                doctorandchef RE: embee Jan 16, 2007 07:56 PM

                                                                I'm sure JK and her editors are having a juicy time reading the response she has been getting.

                                                                1. re: doctorandchef
                                                                  tuqueboy RE: doctorandchef Jan 16, 2007 09:51 PM

                                                                  um, i don't think so. they've got something called a newspaper to put out.

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                                                                    FlavoursGal RE: doctorandchef Jan 16, 2007 10:01 PM

                                                                    Editor-in-Chief Edward Greenspon is a fellow "refugee from Montreal." We attended the same high school in the early 1970's, and probably have similar fond memories of the good-old restaurants of our youths, and of our hometown in general, restaurants which Ms. Kates would have undoubtedly trashed.

                                                                    1. re: doctorandchef
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                                                                      indigestion RE: doctorandchef Jan 16, 2007 10:08 PM

                                                                      ok ok...let's stand by the rule of "imho" ..this board is a gathering of people doing just that..hopefully...and you can take it or leave it..however..in jk's case...she is a self proclaimed food critic...her employer agrees with that and she gets PAID....that does make a difference (i do agree with some that her recent remarks of CH were overtly personal)....if i owned a restaurant i would not allow any paid critics in..i would base my success on word of mouth (and some paid advertising of course)and "word of mouth" is exactly what chowhound is...diners expressing their opinions...it's not a perfect place since some people have obvious agendas...(disgruntled chefs, waiters,owners, ex boyfriends and girlfriends,ex friends, lovers and the competion... etc etc..and of course food critics hiding behind the anonymity of CH)...although i am loving this thread! As for jk and her editors...she is drawing more people here ...love her..hate her...she still gets a paycheck at the end of the day....laughing all the way to the bank. Apply for her job.

                                                                      1. re: indigestion
                                                                        Robert Lauriston RE: indigestion Jan 16, 2007 10:13 PM

                                                                        It's impossible to keep out reviewers who dine anonymously.

                                                                        Funny story about an indiscreet critic almost getting caught, search down the page for "flying saucer":

                                                                        http://lauriston.com/food-clips/unter...

                                                                2. Gary Soup RE: Dimbulb Jan 18, 2007 03:57 PM

                                                                  I'd like to say Stop the Insanity! (of this thread). Going as far as digging up a decade-old review and putting a spin on the words to discredit the author's entire career because she has offended us strikes me as a sort of culinary McCarthyism which is unworthy of Chowhound.

                                                                  I don't know Joanne Kates from Kiki Skates but I am beginning to feel sorry for her.

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                                                                    FlavoursGal RE: Dimbulb Jan 18, 2007 04:06 PM

                                                                    Seems that San Franciscans are really into Toronto! Who'd a thunk it?

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: FlavoursGal
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                                                                      embee RE: FlavoursGal Jan 18, 2007 05:39 PM

                                                                      I was wondering about that myself...

                                                                      I don't know whether this is the longest thread ever on the Toronto board, but it may be the longest I've ever seen.

                                                                      At least the cited Boujadi review tells us that she didn't understand the cuisine. But wouldn't a professional critic make an effort to learn about it before reviewing it? Especially a nice Jewish girl from North Toronto reviewing one of Toronto's then very few Jewish restaurants? And, at that time, likely Toronto's only truly good Jewish restaurant? And a kosher one to boot? Boujadi would be able to call themselves (non-glatt) kosher under the rules applied in most of North America, though they can't under Ontario or Orthodox/Hasidic rules.

                                                                      I found Boujadi to border on dazzling in that era - it's not nearly as good now. But if you know nothing about the cuisine, how can you review it? B'stilla (sic) is a weird dish by North American (or Ashkenazic) conventions. Chicken (or, more correctly, pigeon) in a spicy agglomeration flavoured with cinnamon and covered with phyllo pastry, nuts, and powdered sugar is not something one would expect. Prunes would be perceived as part of a compote or tzimmes - not as a tajine.

                                                                      If I was reviewing an unfamiliar cuisine, I'd do my homework first. Anyone with any food smarts would have known about, and read Paula Wolfert. I certainly would have. And she is a REAL expert about food.

                                                                      1. re: embee
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                                                                        Blueicus RE: embee Jan 18, 2007 06:00 PM

                                                                        But there's a difference between knowing the characteristics of a cuisine and knowing what an idealized version tastes like. I mean, creme brulee is sweet, but how sweet? What sort of sweetness? I may know that natto smells ans tastes pungent, but all you can say that it is indeed pungent and it does/doesn't appeal to your palate.

                                                                        1. re: Blueicus
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                                                                          embee RE: Blueicus Jan 18, 2007 06:38 PM

                                                                          Sure there's a difference. As an obsessive eater, I can invoke the classic mantra that I don't know how it's supposed to taste, but I know what I like. I don't actually do this, but I can. I believe a professional critic cannot -- a pro should ALWAYS know more.

                                                                          Both Cooks Illustrated and Consumer Reports review food by creating an idealized version of a recipe (CI) or product (CI and CU). Their expert opinions (CU speaks of using "trained tasters") can differ so drastically that it is good for a hearty laugh. But they do define the characteristics they are looking for, which provides a basis for evaluation.

                                                                          I consider myself an expert about some foods and cuisines, but others with comparable bona fides don't necessarily share my taste. I know as much about, say, Jewish deli, as anyone on the planet. I can speak authoritatively about what makes a pastrami or Montreal smoked meat "authentic". But what matters, in the end, is what you like. When one (otherwise quite depressing) deli in Toronto tried to make really authentic smoked meat, I loved it. But they were slammed by every critic in town (some of whom touted a place serving garbage meat as the best). Although this deli deserved to fail for other reasons, the critics' lack of knowledge was appalling. Saying "Reubens smoked meat was too dry for my taste, while I liked the juiciness of the meat at Mels" is a useful, and valid opinion. Saying Reubens smoked meat was bad smoked meat while Mels was good shows ignorance.

                                                                          When I'm having some cuisines, I don't know what is authentic -- only what I do or don't like. But I should be able, as a critic, to make my perception useful to others. Perhaps I don't know what an "ideal" creme brule tastes like. But I can say that the custard was creamy and rich, silky smooth, tasting of pure vanilla with a hint of orange liqueur, with ideal sweetness for my taste, and was served at room temperature, and that the crust was paper thin and crackly, with a slightly bitter caramel undertone. If I'm consistent, regular readers should be able to correlate my opinions with their own.

                                                                          A good critic can communicate clearly that consistent sense of taste that provides a basis for evaluation. I've mentioned elsewhere that two former Canadian critics could do this for me: Helen Rochester in Montreal and Jim White in Toronto. Over time, one gets a sense that one critic likes very sweet desserts (I don't) or doesn't like spicy foods (I do). Simplistic, but I think the idea comes through.

                                                                          1. re: embee
                                                                            deelicious RE: embee Jan 18, 2007 07:56 PM

                                                                            Yes of course. Agreed that a reviewer should do their homework first. No question. But as you implied...there was nowhere else in Toronto for her to "learn" about the flavours, albeit she could have read up on ingredients before the visit and certainly should have afterward. And Joanne was well seasoned by that time so there is no excuse.

                                                                            I still think, based on how she was quoted above, that what she said exposed her ignorance of Morrocan food and how her biases would forever affect her writing. To me it did not come across as bashing the restaurant or the cuisine...if anything it made it sound more unique, authentic, interesting...

                                                                            Anyway, with regard to the Sado review, I did not like one bit how Joanne represented CH nor did I like how she wove it into her story. I think it was just plain childish. I wish the morrocan thing never came up as I believe it distracted many people from the real story.

                                                                            Her review of Sado was probably accurate. Her side story was crap.

                                                                            1. re: deelicious
                                                                              HarryLloyd RE: deelicious Jan 18, 2007 09:14 PM

                                                                              nicely put.

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                                                                                embee RE: deelicious Jan 18, 2007 10:06 PM

                                                                                Very true...

                                                                          2. re: embee
                                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: embee Jan 18, 2007 07:59 PM

                                                                            This thread isn't on the Toronto board, it's on the Food Media and News board.

                                                                            You don't have to know anything about Moroccan food to recognize when a dish would seem weird and sweet to a North American palate.

                                                                            For that matter, you don't have to know anything about sushi to know that it shouldn't smell of ammonia.

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                                                                          FlavoursGal RE: Dimbulb Jan 18, 2007 08:05 PM

                                                                          "You don't have to know anything about Moroccan food to recognize when a dish would seem weird and sweet to a North American palate."

                                                                          I don't think many people would disagree with me that the North American palate at large absolutely adores excessive sweetness in everything, from Chinese food to desserts.

                                                                          I think you've used the wrong analogy.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: FlavoursGal
                                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: FlavoursGal Jan 18, 2007 08:43 PM

                                                                            People who read restaurant reviews in a major cosmopolitan city like Toronto are generally sophisticated enough to have moved beyond sweet-and-sour pork.

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                                                                              FlavoursGal RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 18, 2007 08:50 PM

                                                                              Given that the overwhelming majority of Chinese restaurants in Toronto are Cantonese, and that the overwhelming majority of these Cantonese restaurants offer sweet-and-sour pork on their menus, I am sure that hundreds of orders of s & s pork are served every day in this city.

                                                                              Besides, I've had sickeningly sweet desserts and sickeningly sweet Chinese food in New York, Seattle, and L.A. Never in Paris, though.

                                                                              The sophistication of the diner has nothing to do with North Americans' preferences for sweet foods.

                                                                              And, as I'm sure you know (you have eaten Moroccan food, I presume), the "sweet" dishes in Moroccan cuisine are usually well-balanced, with a complex variety of spices to play off the sweetness.

                                                                              1. re: FlavoursGal
                                                                                Robert Lauriston RE: FlavoursGal Jan 18, 2007 10:11 PM

                                                                                I don't agree, to my taste when Moroccan savory dishes are sweet, they're usually too sweet. That's usually the case with bastilla. At my favorite Moroccan restaurant (Aziza in San Francisco), the bastilla is great, but they have an unpleasantly sweet lamb shank.

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                                                                                  FlavoursGal RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 18, 2007 10:20 PM

                                                                                  I guess it does depend on the restaurant. The best Moroccan food I ever had was in the St. Michel district in Paris. Nothing I've eaten before or after can compare.

                                                                                  And, although I do love the Chicken with Pasha Sauce (prune sauce) at Boujadi, it's not as interesting, spice-wise, as it could be. As embee noted, Boujadi was much better at its old location.

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