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observer food monthy (united kingdom, sep 2009)

i always thought that the uk press is miles behind what's on the internet when it comes to food discussion, recipes, restaurants, you tube videos etc. but this months dosage of anachronism also managed to irritate: in an article called "the best place in the world to eat ...", the author killian fox, assisted by several big names, identifies where the best strawberry tart, hamburger, leg of beef etc in the world is served.

the best place in the world to eat vegetarian indian food is apparently idli sambhar at sagar ratna in delhi. really?! what a category - in that case, why isn't there a best place in the world to eat non-vegetarian european food? and if there were such a nonsensical category, imagine if the answer were "tagliatelle bolognese at the checkered italian in glasgow".

the best place to eat kebabs - bade miya in mumbai? after i got up back off the floor, stomach hurting with laughter, i thought it worth while pointing out that a) bade miya was good in the 1970's b) 'good' relatively speaking for the price and the fact that very little was open at 2 a.m. c) bade miya himself has probably shuffled of this mortal coil a while back d) once the wanna bes discovered this late night student/hippy hangout it was all over - in 1980. its now a tourist mecca with VERY ordinary fare.

seriously, the delhi darbar has infinitely better and tastier kebabs - and no worries about the provenance of the meat either. it just isn't open that late.

finally, the best place to buy olive oil is ... roll of drums ... from an electricians shop in london. someone worked really hard on this one.

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  1. And the chain Pho24 for the best bowl of pho in the world?! I think not.

    1. Actually, that olive oil from the electrician's shop is pretty good. The guy makes it himself from his land in Cyprus and Turkey. And he's really, really nice, so I like giving my money to him.

      4 Replies
      1. re: greedygirl

        glad to hear that, but as the saying (originally referring to a dog walking upright on his hind legs), "its not what's being done but who's doing it".

        the best place to get olive oil in this whole world - really?

        1. re: howler

          Nah. Best place to get the best olive oil is anywhere selling Zaytoun (from Palestine).

          1. re: howler

            There probably is no single best place in the world to get olive oil, to be fair.

            Why don't you try his oil and decide for yourself? He also does really good olives.

            1. re: greedygirl

              i'm happy to believe he has excellent olive oil. i'm not dissing him, i'm dissing the silly article.

        2. Actually, they're right on the money with No 41. Every time I go to Barcelona I have to go to Cova Fumada in Barceloneta for the bomba - they're incredibly good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: greedygirl

            Also difficult to disagree with pastrami on rye from Katz's in NYC or, probably, the suckling pig at Montimar in Estellencs.

          2. One issue is how many they tried. If you try 5000 places (which is a small number. since it about the number of places to eat in one or two major cities) and proclaim the top 50, that's not particularly rigourous (and certainly not that high an enrichment). The scale is huge if we're talking about the world.

            6 Replies
            1. re: limster

              It was not intended to be a scientific or definitive study.

              What they have obviously done is to ask a number of well known "faces" where they think is "the best" for something in their field. So, my concurrance about the suckling pig is with the opinion of Sam Hart (London restaurant Quo Vadis).

              1. re: Harters

                Exactly. You lot need to leave your scientific brains at home and accept it for what it is, a starting point for a discussion.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Sure, more than happy to use it as a starting point for discussion. But it's also an insistence on rigorous and critical food writing -- to focus less on the hype (e.g. "roamed the world") and more on up-to-date information. I mean, I wanna know how do Tomales Bay Kumamotos compare in the oyster category.

                2. re: Harters

                  "It was not intended to be a scientific or definitive study."

                  Well, that's the problem! :)

                  But doesn't calling it "The 50 best things to eat in the world" sound like an attempt to look definitive?

                  Actually, less of nit-picking the article, and more to point out the scale of the task. And it's actually feasible to cover 100,000s of restaurants, if you have 10,000s of people, like chowhound.

                  1. re: limster

                    "But doesn't calling it "The 50 best things to eat in the world" sound like an attempt to look definitive?"

                    Well, no. Not really. Not to me anyway. It seemed clear to me that, seeing as they'd plastered well known chefs' names over the descriptions, and it was their words, this was not intended to be regarded as definitive. For example, I would be unsure if Jason Atherton has any special knowledge about the cuisine in the Philippines but there's his opinion of the best plac eto eat. This was nothing more than a foodie article in a Sunday newspaper foodie supplement, intended to be read by foodies like me.

                    1. re: Harters

                      Well, I guess I read it differently. Different strokes for different folks, and perhaps indicates the challenge of writing to a diverse audience.

                      I just hope that food journalism will be held to a similar standard as their counterparts in other sections of the papers.

              2. Actually, it was the categories which annoyed me more than anything else - they seemed to be very random, and were based on particular dishes enjoyed by individual people, rather than those people's knowledge of a range of places to get those dishes, if you get my drift. It may have worked better if they had made the categories more standardised - maybe the best renditions of national dishes? Roast beef/pot au feu/irish stew/pho/jamon etc etc

                2 Replies
                1. re: Theresa

                  Theresa

                  I entirely get your drift. This was bit of fun - let's not read into this more than there was.

                  John

                  1. re: Harters

                    Fair point ... my post makes it sound like I was really annoyed by the article, but actually, I wasn't really that bothered...!

                2. I was going with the "get a life, it is a bit of fun" view on this thread. Then I actually read the list. It is very sloppy research, OK it isn't scientific investigative journalism, but it would have been good to see a minimum of integrity.

                  The two that made me sit up. Cal Pep for best tapas; Cal Pep is good, but Tapas don't even originate in Barcelona and is Cal Pep really a Tapas place, to me it is more of a seafood grill. Credible suggestions would come from San Sebastian, Andalusia or even Madrid.

                  Next, Luk Yu Tea House in HK for best Dim Sum; OK it is in all the guide books (research for the article from Foders?) but what about Lung King Heen, or Fu Sing, or Tang Court? There is lots of really high quality Dim Sum in HK, with many top chefs doing great things, clearly this is a secret to the OFM team.

                  OK food is a matter of taste, but I doubt many people who care about food would really reach a consensus about much of what is on this list. Disappointingly sloppy journalism.