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.
New place opened in our village. Got bad reports for the first month so we held off going. Then reports said everything was fine. So we went. And it wasnt fine. Now that could mean a lot of things. Maybe we hit a bad night. Maybe we're particularly critical. Maybe other customers reporting have different standards about what's good.
I'd like to think that a well run place should be well on it 's way to getting its act together after the first couple of weeks. It'll have given the staff time to settle and for management to fire/recruit staff. And it'll have tested out the menu and allowed changes to be made.
I'd say somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months. I know that when I start a job in a new kitchen, it takes about three weeks before I really know where everything is and what the systems are (like where the strainers hide and how many boxes of risotto we need to keep on hand and if the dough hook isn't in the usual place where the next place to look is). Now if everyone in the whole place is in that same position, just trying to figure out where things are and getting to the point where they know their way around the kitchen in the dark...that'll take some time. And openings can be a high turnover period because of the stress and hours. The chefs are anxious about when the reviewers are going to hit, while the cooks are still trying to figure out if the chefs are all they're cracked up to be and if the place is going to be as great as promised.
It really depends on the place. Some places get "up to speed" within a month, and I've seen some places take almost 6 before really figuring out their identity. Think of it like any other job, how long does it take the new employee and random finance company A to be able to play with the big dogs around him? It varies.
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.
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.
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.