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How many tries are too many?

I've been to Via Matta four times over the last couple of years and two of those times I've had lousy meals. During a recent lunch I ordered gnocchi with brussels sprouts. The gnocchi were gummy & squishy and the brussels sprouts were overcooked.

I was hoping that this fourth time would be the charm, but now I think Chef Schlow should spend more time at the restaurant supervising his chefs.

Strike four, and for me, this restaurant is out.

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  1. I think you gave it enough chances. I'm never one to write off a place after one visit (except I'm still very hesitant to ever try Bravo again) and 4 is more than enough. I've only gone to VM twice and it was good both times, in fact I'm overdue.

    1. Actually, I wrote off Via Matta after one shot. During a business lunch, a colleague was served a chicken paillard having ordered swordfish. When he alerted the server, he (server) paused and simply said "oh," staring back until my colleague nearly blushed and offered to keep the dish.

      1. I almost never write a place off after one try, but I do put it to the bottom of my "to try" list. Given my frequency of eating out (not as often as I wish for financial reasons), this means that it will be years before I will try it again, and therefore there's a decent chance that if enough other people have a poor experience, it will no longer exist by that time. This system works for me!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Parsnipity

          As an occasional diner, I have to agree with this approach.... my "to try" list is so long and babysitters so infrequent that there are many places that come onto the scene, have long satisfying lives, and are then closed long before I even come close to going. So, if a restaurant is even "meh", it is unlikely that I will ever make it back. Not that they really care, as I am not their bread and butter customer in any case.

        2. Three is too many. One re-try is more than enough.

          1. For me, it depends on the reason I was dissatisfied. If the food was not so much to my liking, I might try it again if there was something else on the menu that interested me. If the service was a bit disorganized, I might give it another try.

            Perfect example. I went with friends last Saturday night for the first time to Siam House in Quincy Center. I had been wanting to try it for a while but hadn't had a chance. Hiddenboston's blog post made me decide to go.

            The food was very good, however the service was sorely lacking. It seemed as if they didn't have enough waitresses for the room.

            We were a table of 10 people, and some people never got their appetizers, the food came out in dribs and drabs, so that two of us were just about finished eating before the last two got their plates. We had left two hours to eat before a show we were attending nearby, and we just barely made it on time.

            However, having said all that, the food we had was delicious and there are a few other items on the menu I'd like to try, so we will give it another go, probably not on a Saturday night, though.

            1. Depends on the timing. I end up visiting a lot of brand-new places for professional reviewing purposes that I normally would wait on a few months. Shakedown cruise problems are to be expected. You also have to keep track of what's going on in the kitchen; your great experience with Todd English at the stove might not be so great once he installs his lieutenant and swans off to his next project; same goes for other major regime changes (new chef). I'll give most any place a second chance, but with two strikes and no brand-newness as an excuse, I need someone I trust telling me they had a great meal there for them to get a third chance. The opposite is true, too: many places decline over time. Your five great meals in a row two years ago may not mean much if you haven't been back lately.

              1. I think there's a combination of (1) why I was dissatisfied, and (2) cost. If I was turned off by the cleanliness of a place, or truly rude (not just sloppy) service, I will most likely not go back. If I felt that I probably just ordered poorly, or a restaurant is brand new and might have had an off night, I'll try again. BUT, if a place is very expensive and disappointing, I probably won't think it's worth it to try again.

                That said, it sounds like you gave Via Matta more than enough chances.

                1. I give a place one try. There are too many other restaurants to try and money is too dear to risk spending it on another mediocre-to-bad meal.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: three of us

                    It's an interesting question. I think it's a combination of many things, but I certainly don't want to write off a restaurant after one try, even when there are so many other places to try.

                    Put another way, what's the probability that you're going to have a bad meal given that you already had a bad meal at one restaurant, versus the probability of having a bad meal at an unknown restaurant?

                    I feel that if I tried a particular dish and it wasn't to my liking, then I already have some information about what not to try, and maybe my probability of enjoying my meal will be higher next time. Usually there's some reason why I try a restaurant in the first place --- something about it that I want to like. I think it's reasonable to invest in the "long term" by trying a place a few times before giving up.

                    I'm not sure we really work so rationally though --- there have been many places that I've enjoyed a lot the first time I went there, but just haven't been back for some reason.

                    For restaurants that are super-convenient in some form, it may really be worth it. The Hong Kong restaurant in Harvard Square is not a high point of Chinese gastronomy. But a year of living across the street from it while a freshman in college led me to unearth some delicious items in its menu --- roast duck noodle soup, ginger and scallion noodles, steamed chicken dumplings, chicken with basil --- that I wouldn't have otherwise found. This doesn't suddenly make the Hong Kong a destination, but it does make it an option late and night --- and gives me the distinct pleasure of Chowhounding a few diamonds by hard-won experience. =)

                    I feel that sometimes the restaurants that become our favorites are simply the ones at which we chance upon their best dishes first.

                    If I had tried the pizza at Skampa in East Cambridge before their roast beef, I wouldn't have ever discovered the best roast beef sandwich in Boston.

                    If I had tried the sinagpore rice sticks at Wang's in Somerville before their scallion pancakes, I wouldn't have ever discovered the best scallion pancakes in Boston.

                    If I had tried almost anything other than the roasted red pepper and ricotta cheese pizza at the Chateau in Waltham, I wouldn't have discovered the perfect crust, flavorful red peppers, and luscious ricotta that dots this terrific pizza.

                    If I had tried almost anything other than the sweet corn tamale cakes at the Cheesecake Factory, or anything other than the BBQ chopped chicken salad at the California Pizza Kitchen, I wouldn't have discovered these gems on otherwise insipid menus. Maybe there are even a few more gems there somewhere.

                    This always has to be a trade-off and a personal opinion, but somehow there's something just not-fun about writing off a restaurant after one bad experience. I feel that somehow feels too closed minded for me. Of course, going back to a place again and again that I just don't enjoy doesn't make any sense either.

                    1. re: lipoff

                      Very cool examples of your point.

                      I'm not that patient. As a suburban mom on a budget, eating out is a saved-up-for treat. I don't have to hit a bulls-eye but I need to be within a few rings of one. I've only had one total dog of an experience and that was Garrison's in Billerica (I should have known better). Most of time, we do quite well with ethnic eating.

                      When I was single and life was slower-paced, I could groove into exploring a menu and had fun with that -- especially the late, late-night places. Your post helped me rememeber that.

                  2. At most, 2. I don't have the patience to deal with lousy service or food, considering that I'm completely crabby and horrible to be around if my happy time of the day--meal time--is ruined.

                    1. Usually 2 strikes for me, unless either the first strike was really horrible or if after the second strike I have reason to believe that there were extenuating circumstances.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jgg13

                        I would agree that two strikes is usually the limit.... but in the case of via matta, i am really surprised to hear that you have had such bad experiences. I have been about 6 times over the past three years and have always had delicious meals. In fact, I was there tonight and had the gnocchi w/ a wild boar, kale and carrot ragu. ( I think it must be a new dish because its not on the online menu) I thought it was pretty unbelievable; the gnocchi was light and fluffy, the best i have had in a while and the boar was wonderfully rich and tender. one has to assume that their more experienced chefs are in the kitchen on a saturday night... perhaps they are having trouble convincing their more talented chefs to work during off hours?

                      2. Too many good restaurants around to waste time with inferior ones. We dine out at least once a week but we seem to keep returning to the same restaurants that give us good service, good quality and a good value for the price. I have returned to a couple others even though service wasn't up to par, on the first visit, beacause any restaurant can have last minute staff glitches. However, if it doesn't get better the next time they get the boot!

                        1. Depending on the reason anywhere from 1 to no more than 3 tries regardless if it is a new venue, one that I have not been to before or I guess for that matter one that I had been to in the past. If it is not cutting it for me at that point, then I "move on". As another poster indicated, there are a lot of other "good options" out there.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: stradacouple

                            I'd say no more than 2... If youve had 2 bad experiences in a row its just never going to happen for you. Tasca on comm ave- that place is truly unforgivable.

                            I hate constantly hearing the BC crowd say how good it is. They're too lazy to travel to get real food.

                          2. We went there with a group of people who love food, and were all really underwhelmed. A real waste of that much money. I'm ready to write them off, too.