How soon after a new restaurant opens is too soon to try it?
Yes, I know, in the perfect world restaurants wouldn't open until they had all the kinks ironed out, everything was operating smoothly and they were ready to wow us. But - and it should come as no surprise - this is not the perfect world. I was reminded of that last night when I went to Shanghai #1 Seafood Village, where I had previously had a great dim sum experience, and had a disastrous dinner.
I have a reservation at ink on Jan. 12. I recall some of the first comments about it on Chowhound seemed to indicate it was experiencing a few teething difficulties. I am hoping that they have been fixed by now.
I ate at Picca the second week it was open and had a superb experience.
In any event, I'm trying to figure out if there is a good general rule of thumb as to when to try out a new restaurant. Is the rule of thumb different for, say, a Shanghai restaurant in San Gabriel or a trendy "haute cuisine" restaurant in West Hollywood? Are there particular things to take into account when eating in a recently opened restaurant - such as, if the food is great and it's just the timing of its service that is off is that more likely to get corrected than if the food is off?
Usually, if it is a restaurant that I am hoping will be good and that I'm anticipating wanting to eat at again, if it screws up once I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and try it again. (I would return to Shanghai #1 for dim sum today if I could, but it will probably be another month to six weeks before I venture another dinner there.) But a restaurant that I'm on the fence about, I usually won't give another chance.
It is kind of a paradox. A hot new place is scheduled to open and everyone can't wait to try it. Various problems spring up and everyone complains.
In general, people kind of know they should wait until the place hits its stride to assess, yet many people WANT to criticize, regardless if its opening night, or 2 weeks later.
My rule of thumb (not necessarily a standard, its just me) is 6 months. It may sound long and I'm not saying I wouldn't try the place before this, but I feel the opening buzz will have settled and give the place time to work out the kinks.
I'd say one month from the official opening date. Any earlier and you open yourself up to the potential problems that you described so well. Yes, some places get their act together earlier but others require more time. A month is a good rule of thumb to use.
I'm not against trying a new restaurant early on as long as your expectations are realistic. No way the staff will be up to speed for several months. By that I'm talking servers who are still learning the menu, the flow of things in the foh and how it all works with the boh. The kitchen will have to evolve as well as they figure out that one station, for example, is getting crushed while someone else is twiddling their thumbs. Adjustments will need to be made and those often take time. I've been to some great soft openings ( this is why they do soft openings) and avoid places just after a good review - they're usually swamped. Also, a negative review during the first few months is totally unfair.
I wait until its not so busy that you will not receive good service. Usually about two months. It also gives you time to get feed back from your trendiest of friends!
I've been in the food biz more on than off since 1975, depending on the experience of the management and crew (both front and back of the house) it generally takes one to two months for a joint to "shake down". Unless of course you have a place like Appleby's which never seems to have their act together.