Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
May 18, 2012 05:16 PM

Joanne Kates is leaving the Globe!

Tomorrow's restaurant will be her last. A new restaurant critic to be announced on Tuesday.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I stopped reading the Globe many years ago, but Kates is one a few writers that I miss. She refused to lower her standards on food, service, and atmosphere, and I was especially sympathetic to her complaints about the cold shoulder she received from 20 something stick figures dressed in black who seemed to think they were doing Kates a favour by seating her. My only consolation is, if Sandra Bullock was right, those 20-somethings will all be eating at Taco Bell a few years from now.

    26 Replies
    1. re: FrankD

      She has to be commended for having the guts to rip popular spots when justified. Remember how certain people on this board got their knickers in a twist when she demolished Sado Sushi? That was a thing of beauty! Even if she was fired, she lasted almost 40 years there; how many people keep the same job that long these days? She must have been doing something right all that time, despite what certain people like to say about her, or she'd have been gone a long time ago.

      1. re: TexSquared

        And Sado Sushi, alas, is no more. Still open under the same name but with new owners.

        1. re: Tatai

          Sado is closed and nobody will ever know if it was because of JK's nonsensical review and its negatve impact on the "sheep", or because Sado wasn't more than a flash in the pan to those who liked it.

          1. re: justsayn

            There is a restaurant in the middle of JK's list of 100 that was a couple weeks away from closing some months after it opened- and closing would not have been surprising given what it was serving. Then it got a vapid but glowing review in one paper and a stupid but glowing review in another a few weeks later. The reviews attracted custom and it became a success. Still going strong.

            JK's review of Sado wasn't silly- it talked about the food - which is a surprise with JK. But she looked at the place and the food through glasses that made her not like anything. And it was transparently damning in a transparently unsuable way (to me anyway). She was entitled to see things this way and she was right for Japanese "traditionalists"- you know, the sort of people who lived near the place, near Bathurst and Eglinton. Who knows what would have happened without the review, or with a good review, but a bad review doesn't help a place.

            I thought that she went out of the way to hoist the posters who criticized her on their own petard. It was Sado's misfortune to become a battleground. (mixed metaphor? what's a petard?) Maybe they deserved to fail anyway , but who gets their just desserts in the restaurant business in Toronto?

            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

              Am I missing something about Sado Sushi??

              What is this controversial review everyone (but me) seems to know about?

              I went there once 2 years ago. Subpar food. Horrible, cheap atmosphere. Small portions. High prices. Went to Subway for a meatball sub afterwards. Never went back.

              I just assumed it was a nothing neighbourhood joint.

              So what is this Kates review on Sado? Enlighten me!

                1. re: jayt90

                  Thank you jayt90, this is appreciated.

                2. re: magic

                  I didn't get there to try it for myself, but I do believe that in the early stages of a resto, as it was, JK could kill them with a bad review, especially in that area of Toronto. In my opinion, we will never know what would have come of that joint had she never gone in.

                3. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                  Also, who cares about Joanna Kates anyways?! What is all this fuss about her retiring. Hers is one voice, but with a spotlight platform. That's all.

                  Personally, I give published reviews the same attention and consideration as I would a single posting on CH. No more. No less. Actually, probably less.

                  1. re: magic

                    I agree about the value of any one given review/reviewer 100%. But there are many people including some on here who think that anything that comes out of the Globe and Mail is sublime. And, that having a long career at something means pure excellence. So unfortunately there are many sheep who hang on her words.

                    Keep in mind that the majority of people eat out much less often than a CHer and therefore they feel they need to be very careful with their choice/chance for a good meal. So they trust the reviewers for supreme guidance. I had an aunt who followed everything Waxman had to say.

                    1. re: magic

                      +1 Hers was just an opinion...agree or disagree. Only different from CHders in that she was not anonymous.

                    2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                      a petard is a small bomb, basically a grenade, "hoisted on ones own petard" means to be blown up by your own bomb.

                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        A petard is a bomb. Being hoisted on a bomb is literally being blown up in the air.

                  2. re: TexSquared

                    There is nothing commendable about ripping restaurants. Restaurants have off nights. If you don't like it don't write about. Constructive criticism is one thing....ripping is another.

                    1. re: dcArtisan

                      Before writing a negative review, most professional reviewers will revisit a place a week or two later just to cover this possibility. If I recall, Kates went to Sado twice and hated it both times. If it's good one night and bad another they'll say service or quality is "inconsistent" rather than just rip it apart.

                      1. re: TexSquared

                        Agreed. It seems to me the idea of embarrassing a hardworking restaurant owner in a national newspaper is not a commendable activity under any circumstance. Ms. Keates has a one way dialogue but has no checks to balance her own errors. For example the ammonia smelling uni complaint is not at all surprising in Toronto. Ocean fish come in fresh on Tuesday and Thursday to Toronto. If you eat it any other day it has started to oxidize. I know this and do not eat raw fish on the off days. In my opinion food writers are in the fortunate position to add positively to food culture and it is my wish that they do that. :)

                        1. re: TexSquared

                          Critics always go more than once. And I think it's a service to the public to warn about places that may not be worth the expense, rather than just writing about the ones that are. Clearly people on CH want to know, or else no one would post or ask about negative experiences.

                          1. re: piccola

                            While that may generally be true for those who have a column, a magazine that hires numerous reviewers to write their reviews may only compensate the reviewers for one meal at a given restaurant. Unless the reviewer is paying for his/her own second visit (which doesn't happen because then he/she wouldn't earn any money), then the review is, alas, on the basis of only one visit.

                            Kates' budget may have provided for more than one visit - I have no idea how it worked for her.

                            1. re: Full tummy

                              That's why you'll find magazine reviews far less critical. They're generally more "previews" than actual reviews. Also because their lead times are huge and a lot can change before they go to print.

                              In any case, newspapers traditionally insist on at least two visits, and if I recall correctly, Kates herself has alluded to that several times in her columns.

                              1. re: piccola

                                Unfortunately, most of us don't know how these things work, unless we are in the business, or have a connection. Publications should disclose this sort of information, in my opinion.

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  Many reviews mention more than one visit, describing a dinner and a lunch meal. They can't lay out their entire process in each story because that would take too much space and get really repetitive. I guess they could make a note online, but there would never be room in the paper.

                                2. re: piccola

                                  I recall Toronto Life requiring at least two visits before a review can be written about a restaurant. Amy Pataki of the Star usually describes at least 2 different visits in her reviews (bringing different guests, and ordering different items), to highlight this.

                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                    I personally know three people who wrote reviews for Toronto Life, and they definitely visited once on behalf of the magazine and were compensated for one meal (for two people).

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      Yeah, I've heard the same. But you'll notice Toronto Life is less critical -- they do more profile-ish pieces than full-on reviews. I've yet to see them really take a restaurant to task for anything.

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        Well, they do give stars, which seems pretty review-ish to me. The reviews are short, so they may not be as detailed as a column devoted to one restaurant. And, the people who write for them do consider themselves to be reviewing their meal. As long as I have known anything about the magazine, it has generally been their approach to only write up what they can at least recommend, even if they identify issues. Which differs from other publications.

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          I did restaurant reviews for Toronto Life about 25 years ago. These were all re-reviews of standing restaurants, no new places. I took my wife, we went once to each place, we got our bill (two meals, two drinks total, tax and 15% tip) paid by Toronto Life. I wrote it up, it got fact-checked, they made some changes without consulting me (that was Ok since my name was not attached to the review). I suggested the stars used, they either accepted or rejected it. Tight control all round.

                    2. The original comment has been removed
                      1. I predict Chris Nuttall Smith will get the position.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: haggisdragon

                          Gosh Haggisdragon- you were right ! Nuttal-Smith is taking over G&M restaurant column


                          1. re: haggisdragon

                            Good job on the predicition! I'm not surprise, but a bit disappointed G&M went with the tired and true rather than a fresher voice.
                            Kates and Nuttal-Smith fill a similar function to the same audience.

                          2. I for one will miss her as she was a nearly infallible guide - if she raved about it, it was a must avoid. She was the George Costanza of restaurant critics, if you know what I mean - what ever she says, do the opposite.

                            I exaggerate only slightly. But her views were obviously colored by many preconceived biases. The most notable was that if it was a Mom & Pop operation, she loved it. If it had more than one branch, she hated it.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: evansl

                              So you're saying that every one of her Top 100 are avoids? Take a look...


                              1. re: TexSquared

                                The list
                                There are only so many "nice" places to choose from.
                                If you throw enough shit on the wall, some of it has to stick.
                                How would the list look from random selection, say like bingo numbers?

                            2. Think she's one of many scheduled to walk the plank on the good ship G&M-- probably close to the front of the line, too. Just not enough allure to tempt readers through the impending pay wall. It's not age but outlook that did her.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                You didn't necessarily have to agree with her restaurant assessments to enjoy Kates' reviews. She knows food, she knows what to look for, she has good insights and instincts - and, most important, she writes well (and entertainingly). My kind of food writer.

                                1. re: juno

                                  Yeah, right. Like the infamous Ruby Chinese Restaurant review that ran the morning the health dept. locked it down. Never understood her long-standing aversion to the 905--like she needed a visa and updated shots to visit? Adventuresome she wasn't.

                                  Just too many other sources for reviews now. Obviously, her audience--like her influence--shrank.

                                  Writing? Try some vintage Craig Claiborne:


                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                    Yeah, I agree - I found her generally out of touch, usually snobby, and her palate or food-bias really schizophrenic and unreliable. I find many posters on Chow to be much more reliable guides.

                                  2. re: juno

                                    I agree, juno. Reading her column and restaurant review books sparked my interest in Toronto restaurants. I don't always agree with her, but I think she's a good writer. While she isn't Craig Claiborne, she was never writing for the NY Times, so I wouldn't expect anything along the lines of Claiborne.