Disappointed in Some Recent "Chowhound Favorites" [moved from Boston board]
I've been very disappointed recently in visiting restaurants that had a number of people on chowhound saying the restaurant was a real favorite. (Without naming names, it was a new Indian/Pakistani restaurant in Allston (just awful quality ingredients...), Thai in Cambridgeport, and an Inn in Jackson, New Hampshire (horrible service and pretentious, just plain bad food).)
So a question is whether anyone has suspected owners or friends of owners of restaurants of drumming up support for an undeserving restaurant. I know many people have complained about this issue with Zagat's and based on my recent experiences, I can't think of another explanation for the raves on this board of food that seems clearly sub-par.
If you had a bad experience at a restaurant it seems OK to post, as long as you don't call other posters morons with no taste.
As restaurant reviewers often note, some dishes at a restaurant are may be better than others.
Some days can be disasters for a variety of reasons -- for instance, three sous chefs come down with the flu. I place I frequent had a terrible time when a burglar hit during the night and made a mess. They should have shut down for 24 hours but didn't know that till they tried to cope.
If I think a comment about a place or product is suspicious, I check to see of the poster has ever posted here before,
Well, I can think of a few reasons this might happen:
1) Taste is subjective. I know people whose tastebuds I wouldn't trust, ever. This site attracts all kinds, and the best recs I've gotten here are by posters whose taste I've "matched up" to my own by reading them over the years. But even there, there's at least one place here that's consistently raved about by hounds I trust that just didn't do much for me.
2) Service is so variable. One reviewer may have encountered a great server, another reviewer got unlucky with the server from hell. Or even if the second reviewer got that great waiter the first poster got, other variables may change things. Maybe the waiter's hamster died that morning. Maybe the customer looks like the guy who stole the waiter's high school sweetheart. Maybe the dining room is unexpectedly slammed and the waiter is juggling 3 times his normal amount of tables. Maybe.. etc. I just don't think I'd ever damn a "favorite" based on service. If I'd read many good reviews, I'd give it another try but I'd be sure to get another server the second time around.
3) Even despite the moderation team's work, shills do happen. But I think it's unlikely one shill could create a "board favorite" feeling about a particular restaurant. So if you feel the review is not to be trusted, search for other opinions on the place to see what posters with more of a posting history say. And do report the suspicious post to the moderators.
4) There are other variables in any restaurant situation, and any one of them can conspire against you at any given moment. And sometimes even if all the variables are right, there's something about you personally that doesn't let you enjoy the restaurant the way others do.
Don't get too hung up on it. if you find you're generally being steered right by posters here, then you're doing well. If you find that you're consistently at odds with the "popular" opinion, I would prefer you stick around and offer that contrasting viewpoint. I think it's good for us to have people who (intelligently) remind us that we're not a herd of sheep who need to all move in the same direction. But I also think I personally would have a hard time doing that, and probably would find another food forum where my taste is more in synch with the rest of the posters.
re: Chris VR
Thanks a lot for the intelligent replies.
I agree that tastes are subjective and part of this situation may be finding those who share similar tastes.
Also, I guess I need to be more confident in my opinions (never considered myself a "foodie", but i'm getting there...)
I know the Chow moderators work very hard to try to prevent friends of owners from drumming up support for restaurants.
As to board favorites, most of us are not professionals and our favorites just reflect individual tastes. They are "favorites" because enough people like them that they post often about them.
There are several places that seem to be loved here, that I didn't care for..no big deal.
The restaurant could have had a bad night/day..or your tastes just aren't the same as someone elses.
I recently had a disappointing meal at 1 of my favorites; Sichuan Garden/Brookline. I didn't post because someone else did...and I'll give them another shot
If you're disappointed in a place, give the names. Favorites don't stay favorites if they start getting negative reviews.
I think the Chowhound Team is fairly adept at spotting that sort of thing. Another explanation - other than that someone always gets the short straw in this incosistent business, and maybe these times it was you - might be that restaurants are exploring ways to save money when their wholesale prices have skyrocketed.
But like I said, it just might be dumb luck. I've had terrible meals at some of the board's favorite spots. And in some cases I've returned to have wonderful meals.