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not sure about how to review a new place, if at all

winedubar Jan 7, 2009 11:47 AM

hey hounds,

i had a weird thing happen. go figure, right? :D anyway, i went to a new place last nite that i can't find a single shred of anything written about them.

they've been open a couple of months. the chef/owner could NOT be nicer if he tried. and the place is charming and spotless on the interior.

i hate to see a new place, and one so close to me, not have a fighting chance. but i'm really conflicted about this one. i'm wondering about the chef/owners judgement in a couple of places. in the location of the place, in some food choices, that were just head shakingly off the mark, at least to me.

so i don't want to write him up and have half of what i say be 'what was he thinking'. i'm also not going to lie or sugar coat it, because what does that serve.

so i guess what i'm asking is - am i the only one that ever feels this way? do i give the place a couple more months to work it on out? i'm afraid after a couple more months he's going to be OUT OF BUSINESS because it was quiet there. i mean dead, dead, dead.

like it or not, alot of what we say here does have consequences for restaurants. i don't think that chowhound can make or break a place. but i do think, in these uncertain times, that it's important to be careful.

UGH - moral dilemma.

anywhoo - am i the only one who ever feels this way?

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    bnemes3343 RE: winedubar Jan 7, 2009 11:51 AM

    If I thought the chef/owner had great intentions (and wasn't just trying to push bad/low quality food on people), I would be inclined to just try to say something constructive to him/her and maybe give it another shot in a month or two. But if it was total cr%p, low quality, over priced with I-don't-care service, I would roast it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bnemes3343
      winedubar RE: bnemes3343 Jan 7, 2009 12:47 PM

      i'm kind of leaning towards this, i think..im still conflicted tho :D

    2. azhotdish RE: winedubar Jan 7, 2009 11:56 AM

      in this particular case, i don't see much of a dilemma. if it's dead and there are no posts about it, what possible harm could you posting about it cause?

      1 Reply
      1. re: azhotdish
        winedubar RE: azhotdish Jan 7, 2009 12:51 PM

        well, its on a really well traveled portion of town. i was really surprised no one had said anything about it yet. i don't take myself too seriously and i hardly suffer from any illusions about a single post making or breaking a spot.

        i would feel badly if something i said might discourage anyone from trying a place that so clearly could use the business...there's a seriously well intentioned owner just struggling to get by, and it would be sad to see a place close to me go toe up.

        having said that, i still question his judgement on a couple of things.

        i think i am leaning mostly towards giving it one more go, and talking to the owner.

        even then tho i don't want to come across like a total egomaniac 'hey dude, seriously, lemme tell you some things about how you're not getting it right at least according to me'.

        i've never told someone in a restaurant 'you really need to change this'. i guess its alot easier to do that on chowhound than in real life :D

      2. Caralien RE: winedubar Jan 7, 2009 11:59 AM

        If restaurants actually read their reviews, they might update their menus (we know at least one instance of this happening recently). Constructive criticism in an honest review is generally appreciated by other readers, and the restaurant.

        You could try talking to the owner on a return visit, but maybe watch some episodes of Kitchen Nightmares to see potential issues with bringing up criticism to owners...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Caralien
          Bill Hunt RE: Caralien Jan 24, 2009 03:12 PM

          The reference to "Kitchen Nightmares" is a good one. Even Gordon Ramsey seems to have trouble doing this and he's been invited to do just that.

          From several other boards here, and sources outside CH, a common comment from chefs, kitchen staff and management is "do not tell us how to cook. If a dish is spoiled, send it back. If it's too salty for you, don't bother us with your observations." Obviously, I am paraphrasing greatly, but this theme has been repeated so very often, in my readings. Not sue if this is just from a vocal sub-set of restaurants, or if it's universal. Can't really say.

          I was once asked to do a review (not really an edit, but just look over and comment to the author) of a cookbook, about to go to press. I did so with annotations on some of the recipes, especially on the wine recommendations for a few dishes. i made the mistake of also telling the author that I had two recipes that would fit well into one of the chapters. The author came unhinged, and was also a friend. "Don't give me recipes. I write them for a living. I do not need more recipes!" OK, so much for my attempt to help a friend. I had overstepped the responsibility handed to me. Still, many professionals do not wish to hear any criticism, constructive, or not. In a review of a restaurant, it's one thing to make such observations. In a face-to-face situation, it might not be. Tread very, very lightly, AFTER you have watched a few episodes of "Kitchen Nightmares."

          Hunt

        2. ccbweb RE: winedubar Jan 7, 2009 01:38 PM

          Write your experience. Being anything but honest will show through and/or will totally kill any credibility you have or could have. Not writing anything at all about a restaurant will not help it in any way. Write about the parts you thought were good and the parts you thought need work and then write that on balance, it's worth going back. Hopefully (and especially on Chowhound) it's worth going back because there was at least one thing that was particularly excellent on the menu. Some plate of food hit your table that made you think "hey, this place can really do something well." If it's worth going back for other reasons, even given the things you think were mistakes, make sure those are in your write up.

          I think the best way to navigate "these uncertain times" is to continue to be honest, direct and communicative about things. Turning into a turtle with information won't help you, the restaurant or anyone else.

          (A note due to the absence of easily readable tone online when one first reads something written by a total stranger: I really respect your wrestling with this stuff and I think it's worth thinking about. Thus, none of the foregoing is meant to dismiss your concerns or define them as silly. I wanted only to add my strong opinion that you and all of us should write our experiences if we feel so moved.)

          1. Bill Hunt RE: winedubar Jan 24, 2009 03:00 PM

            This can be a dilemma. I’ve had similar feelings, and some have involved places that HAVE been open for a while. I worry that I am letting other emotions come into play. If I feel that the restaurant is really trying, but some things are just not working out, do I go lightly? Do I omit anything that might be considered negative, just because they are trying?

            I usually just fall back on reporting everything as I encountered it, trying to be as objective about the weak, and letting my enthusiasm soar, about the good, but still with as much objectivity, as I can offer.

            After all, a restaurant review is about the reviewer’s experiences, culinary as well as other aspects of the restaurant, on the day/night of their visit/visits. I do not wish to ever compromise my objectivity (though some experiences have been so good, that subjectivity HAS to enter into the equation).

            Just because I do not like the table spacing in a particular restaurant, does not mean that you feel the same. I complained about such regarding a hot, new restaurant in Las Vegas. Others saw my “cramped and uncomfortable” as “community and inviting.” Same place, but totally opposite reactions to the table-spacing. Hey, I hadn’t even gotten to the food yet.

            I feel your pain. My vote is to tell it like it is, as objectively as is possible. If the service is great, and some of the dishes were very good, then allow more focus on those aspects. However, if the wine list is weak, or does not pair with the food, then mention should be made. If you thought that the tables were atop each other, and it negatively impacted on your appreciation for the restaurant, I’d make mention of this. If the noise level was coma-inducing, you should note this. If I am relying on your review to chose whether to dine there, or not, I want to know what you thought of the entire experience. I’ve seen too many replies along the lines of “you should have warned me that I needed to bring a lantern to read the menu,” after a review that made no mention of the dim, or non-existent lighting.

            Hunt

            PS you must be doing it correctly, as I look forward to your reviews.

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