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May 31, 2007 11:19 PM

Maria Hunt and her review of Bondi (San Diego)

[We've moved this digression from this thread: -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM


I normally take her reviews w/ a shaker of salt. However I generally assume that any restaurant in the Gaslamp probably sucks. Unfair, I know.

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    1. Perhaps unfair...but in a town that "buffers" food writing, I thought it refreshing to have something that sounded like a "real opinion" for a change.

      13 Replies
      1. re: KirkK

        I liked that it was a real opinion but based upon facts and that she didn't write he review based upon just one visit. Instead she gave it several chances before gunning it down. It seems like everyone tom, dick, and harry fancies themselves a food critic when most of them don't know much about food and have a generally boring and pedantic writing style. As if endlessly crooning about their personal tastes and endlessly moaning that some restaurant were dare to offer people something different. Luckily, Maria Hunt seems to be a rare thing in the food critic business... Someone who is fair, open minded, but not afraid to stick it to restaurants who repeatedly offer bad food or service. Thumbs up for her.

        It's just so hard to find a review where the critic isn't full of himself and who is able to seporate facts from opinions.

        1. re: oerdin

          But you have to think...every Tom, Dick, and Harry needs to eat, no? I like to think my tastes are perhaps more "cultured" in certain least, I know what I like. As to the subjective vs objective, I believe it is all opinions...but understanding relative taste, and being able to communicate those opinions are valuable.
          And so we have Chowhound......

          1. re: oerdin

            That's interesting, because my opinion of Maria Hunt's reviews is exactly the opposite. She chooses a tone for the review, either positive or negative, but her specific criticisms don't always match up. Sometimes she criticizes the food in her positive reviews as much as in the negative ones. She also tries to be "cute" about it, and sometimes it comes off as if she's taking a cheap shot as a set up to a joke. I really took issue with her scathing and mean spirited review of Bud's Louisiana Kitchen a few months ago. She claims to not like writing negative reviews, but she sure seemed to relish that one.

            I also don't know why you would think she is a "rare thing" as a fair, open minded food critic. Do you read Naomi Wise's reviews? She sticks to 'em all the time - but she's always very detailed and specific about her criticisms. I also think the food writing in Citybeat is pretty much on target.

            1. re: Alice Q

              But......the worst review being overall "fair"...does not do justice in my mind.
              And refusing to do a bad review unless it is a "chain" as a rule for fear of hurting "local business" does not justify being a food critic! So do we have to read between the lines and interpret for ourselves....

              As for Bud's review........I thought it stupid, because the food wasn't taken in context. Yes, we are far from the Bayou stoooopid! What exactly are you expecting????

              1. re: KirkK

                The other thing that sucked about that review -- she was flat out wrong. I'm no expert on Louisiana cuisine, but it sure reminded me of the food I had in New Orleans a couple years ago. A friend of mine from Baton Rouge eats there all the time.

                As far as Naomi Wise, she's fun to read because she'd a good writer and because she clearly knows a lot about food, but I question her taste.

                1. re: mangiatore

                  I like Naomi Wise, too, but she doesn't seem very experienced in certain types of food.

                  Case in point, when she reviewed Izakaya Masa, she was blown away by the Maguro Yamakake, and even titled the article "Out-exoticked" because of the "exotic" food. Now, japanese food can be strange to westerners, I'll admit. But imagine if she had gone to Izakaya Sakura instead of Masa? I think her brain would explode.

                  Also, she criticized Teriyaki Cowboy (for its name) in the same article, even though Masa is run by the same people, and Cowboy was a real gem. So I guess she's not exactly well informed, either.

                  Still, her positives outweigh her negatives by a lot.

                  1. re: ekomega

                    You are aware that she writes her reviews for people who are not members on Chowhound but people who might have only a limited knowledge about food. That means she has to write her reviews from a viewpoint of her customers and not her own. Even though she might have a lot of experience in japanese food she can't expect that her reader have the same knowledge and has to write her review accordingly.

                    1. re: honkman

                      I don't think that's it - but one person can't really be expected to be an expert in all types of cuisine, even if they are a food critic. As long as they come at the subject honestly and from a somewhat educated point of view you can't find too much fault. Heck, my brain might explode if I went to Izakaya Sakura. Frankly though, given what I've read about it I'm not really sure I'd be welcome there.

                      I think some of the people who are very experienced and familiar with Asian food forget how intimidating these places can be to Westerners. It doesn't surprise me at all that she thought it was exotic and that she wrote about it that way.

                2. re: KirkK

                  Exactly what context does food have to be taken in to be criticized? I don't think it matters how far we are from the place where the cuisine originated. By that logic, a place should be able to serve lousy French or Italian food and then give the excuse that they are thousands of miles from Europe. food.

                  1. re: thebubblygirl

                    The title of her review was "Far from the Bayou" - which as you rightly point out, should have nothing to do with the quality of the food. She claims only people who've never been to New Orleans would like the food (the implication is that they would be fooled) and she uses the word "ersatz" to describe what she felt were small portions and "wan" seasonings. Ersatz implies a fake substitute for the real thing - like margarine for butter, or Krab for Crab, which just isn't accurate.

                    If you're interested in reading the article to get the context of the conversation, here's the link.

                    1. re: Alice Q

                      This is pretty hilarious - considering the Bubbly Girl IS Maria Hunt. I just figured that out. Can you believe I told her to go read her own review!?


                3. re: Alice Q

                  I don't normally read City Beat though maybe I should start. I didn't mean to imply that I am an expert just that I was detailing why I find so many "experts" to be unhelpful, uninformative, and more then a little boring. If you can find someone who can seporate subjective and objective parts of the review and write it in an entertaining style then you have a rare bird.

                  1. re: oerdin

                    I thought the review was a love letter. She could have easily just blasted away at them- clearly they fell short of providing a positive food experience to her. But she added a lot of happy-talk about the environment, it left the door WIDE open for improvement. And the sliders and beet salad there are great. Good beer, too.

                    Overall, a good job by her.


            2. Maria Hunt has her favorites and is not at all against pushing them, espeically it would appear, if they contribute to the journalist club for thier annual dinner. Not only has every doner been reviewed, but favorably! Also, she makes riduculous comments. In one review, she made a big deal about a server adjusting a croustini on the plate as he was bringing it out to her. She made it sound like he had smeared Boubonic (sp?) plague on her plate. What does she think is going on in the kitchen? Does she really think no one in the kitchen has touched her food?