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Mar 22, 2009 09:32 AM

Bauer takes a shot.

Michael Bauer takes a shot at Chowhounds in his opener to a review of Heaven's Dog. "In fact, the only reason an avid Chowhound might want to eat there is to be able to criticize."

How dare you focus on the food and value? Expense account Mike says your all wrong.

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  1. Oh, those terrible Chowhounds -- how dare they not be impressed by the Jonathan Adler plates?!

    While I think Bauer is full of it, he's right in that there's segment of the population who is resistant to paying any more than hole in the wall prices for certain cuisines (mostly Chinese and Mexican), because they believe they are intrinsically "cheap" and that if they aren't, they aren't authentic. This notion is, of course, ridiculous. Just because for many years most American's exposure to these cuisines was the homestyle or peasant versions doesn't mean that a more upscale, refined version is necessarily inauthentic.

    Still, this review is clearly in the genre of "ethnic places Michael Bauer loves because they're Westernized, and especially because they have great cocktails."

    9 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Bauer may be correct in identifying that segment of the population, but he's just the latest in a long line of people to equate Chowhound with people only looking for the best bargains and the newest hole-in-the-wall. Shows he hasn't spent much time looking at the real discussions that happen here. While he's talking about a real phenomenon, it's one not reflected on the SF Bay Area board. In this case, his "taking a shot" just shows he has no idea who he's talking about.

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        While I agree that the Chowhound community is diverse and generally doesn't fit that characterization, it's certainly not unheard of here, and there is a sort of reverse snobbery that values a great hole in the wall more than a three-star restaurant. However, I like to think that the snobbery comes not so much from an innate prejudice against "fancy" restaurants as in the sense that (1) those places get talked about plenty in a variety of media and there really isn't a whole lot more to say about them, and (2) it's not news when an expensive restaurant it is good -- it *ought* to be good.

        So what's valuable on Chowhound is stuff that (1) isn't widely known, or (2) is good in a place/setting where you wouldn't expect to find good food, or (3) is substantially better/different from other restaurants in its general category (i.e. separating out the Chinese restaurants with interesting regional specialties from the multitude serving indifferent Chinese-American food).

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Yes, I have certainly seen that perspective on Chowhound over the years, as well as posts that sniffily assert that "real Chowhounds" are only looking for the best bargains, etc. (these usually get swift rebuttals from other hounds, though). I referred specifically to the SF board in my post above because a) we're Bauer's audience and presumably who he's referring to, and b) in my experience, SF board posters don't usually slam places for inauthenticity. Rather, they'll generally note what kind of food a place serves, maybe make a judgment based on their knowledge of the cuisine, and evaluate the food on its own merits.

          My point was really that Bauer was using this characterization of chowhounds to make a point, without really understanding what the site is about (after all, the same restaurant has had positive posts here). Which also means that there are a lot of people reading his review who will think, Okay, now I know how Chowhounds think.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Yes - agree it's pretty hard to generalise about chowhounds, as the range of likes and dislikes is quite broad. It's uncommon to find places that are universally loved or hated.

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            Ruth, those are all good points. I'll add that I can afford to visit inexpensive restaurants more often than high end ones, so of course that's where I pay the most attention.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          With regards to Chinese food specifically, it's not so much being resistant to paying more, it's paying more just for decor, service, and fancy presentation. High-end Chinese in most of the Chinese-speaking world is usually more about rare and pricy ingredients, not attentive service and creative plating. I don't think Chowhounds are any different in this respect than many native Asians.

          BTW, that braised pork belly "taco" thing is not a play on Peking duck. It's a play on the Taiwanese street food gua bao. Am I a reverse snob for pointing that out? :D

          1. re: huaqiao

            Actually, some of the fanciest plating I've ever seen was in Chinese banquet dishes. Take a look at the pictures in this thread:

            especially this one:

            Not only are the presentations beautiful and demonstrative of amazing skill, but they're symbolic and thematic, which Western plating rarely is. It puts stacking food on a plate and squeezing on drips from a squirt bottle to shame!

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              As a native Asian, I've also had remarkably attentive service and plating at restaurants back home. I've mentioned in the past, where eating dinner at a fairly fancy place, a dish with a large variety of sliced meats and other items were plated as a phoenix, shown to the table and then distributed into small individual plates for each diner. On the individual plates, the ingredients of the dish were reconfigured as a sparrow.

            2. re: huaqiao

              The pork belly bun is a Southern Fujian dish called kong bah bao (approximately) in the Minnan/Hokkien dialect. Lots of cross straits influence to Taiwan.

          2. He has a point about the reverse/contrarian snob thing. You hear it and it's real in SF but it's a small sub-set and hardly CH only stuff. That said, hell Bauer said can anyone get too bent on anything he says? The guy is just as pinnable -- cute waiter, mid-range, full bar, continental palette, slight twist, slab of meat option.