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May 24, 2014 12:01 PM

Trust ?

Now that I am a paid tabelog subcriber, I have become addicted to the advanced search and sort (!!!) functions. I have spent hours sorting restaurants by ratings along my 4 week path through Tokyo, Izuhanto, and Kansai.

I already have reservations at 2 obvious places in Tokyo, but other than that it looks like this is taking me to some places I otherwise would have never found (for tempura, yakitori, soba, ramen, ...).
Has anybody else taken this approach and did it work out?

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  1. I'd trust tabelog more than I'd trust 90% of the stuff that gets posted here as recommendations.

    1. Hypothetically, if two places are next door to each other and charge the same price, I'd choose the one with a Tabelog rating of 4.1 over the one with a rating of 2.8. But I certainly wouldn't travel across town to try a soba restaurant with a slightly higher rating than one close by - the ratings simply aren't accurate enough to warrant using them to rank restaurants. (And I find that I disagree with their ratings nearly as often as I agree with them, especially when it comes to non-Japanese cuisines.)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robb S

        Well I just spent a few minutes looking at Tabelog's top-100 rankings for Thai restaurants and burgers in Tokyo, and (based on the dozens of places I've been, not having eaten at all 200) I would have to characterize them both as very unreliable.

      2. Tabelog is very reliable overall - I would say more reliable than any other crowdsourced site I know, but it does have biases - for example, many reviewers are suckers for white tablecloth type places, so fancy French or Italian restaurants get grades that are probably out of line.

        In addition, following the change to their review weighting system after Monja-gate, there's an issue where certain reviewers (that's you, Mr. bottan) carry extremely high weight, while on the other hand a restaurant can go unnoticed for years if its diners are not tabelog big-shots. I think it's not obvious to users that a restaurant might have 11 reviews that are all 4.0 or 3.5 and it will still have a score of 3.01. They should probably refine their system to limit overweighting on one hand, and to bring some "less reliable" reviewers back into the taste-making fold.

        Anyway, better than michelin, wider coverage than chowhound. I agree completely with Robb S that their top burger ratings are a joke, but that's not an indication that tabelog is unreliable, just that the local preferences in burgers are not in line with ours :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gargle

          Further to point that without bigshot reviewers, restaurants don't move up in the rankings, we've been very successful searching for relatively new restaurants which have more than 5 stellar reviews and no bad reviews. These are invariably given a score of between 3.01-3.2. Over the years, some have climbed the rankings as more prominent reviewers discovered them and others languished, yet there remain excellent.

        2. In the cuisines or categories that I search in (invariably washoku, Nihonshu) tabelog is reliable. That said, I always read the reviews, and balance out whether overly effusive 5 star or low-balling 1 star reviews are distorting the ranking. After that, I'll make a discussion based on my personal food/beverage preferences.

          As has been previously stated, some prolific reviewers like Botton, Eric, TOMIT, et al, have legions of followers, who will rush to review shops they've reviewed, and thereby inflate the ranking. But it's worth noting that each of these reviewers often specialise in a specific areas: Botton (I'd love that man's life and budget) is good for high-end shops & bars, but is not so reliable for areas that I'm interested in (nihonshu). So, as with all ranking systems, whether it be tabelog or Michelin, due diligence is necessary.

          I also think its important not to get blinded by the ranking. Is a shop scoring high on the service, atmosphere or cost performance categories, but not in food? Does it have a high food score but poor service? All of these factors need to be taken into account. Also, if the menu items, ambience & price point look good to you, but the ranking is low - don't discount it. Take a punt. I've found many a gem this way. (Although I do understand that my situation is different from short-stay visitors.)

          On a side note, has anyone else been approached by Yelp? It soft-launched in Japan last month, and US based community managers are approaching Japan based bloggers for content, info on the market. I noticed bilingual tabelog reviewer toroeater is posting on the forums, but otherwise there is not much action or content. Will be interesting to see how, or if, it develops.

          2 Replies
          1. re: wekabeka

            Great observations.

            I didn't know Yelp was trying to enter Japan. Seems like a tough proposition for them to compete with tabelog on restaurants, but maybe other consumer reviews area could use it.

            Btw, Tabelog also has a (weak, for now) US presence:


            1. re: wekabeka

              i have plenty of experience with yelp & their business practices here in the states if that's what you're after :-)

            2. Which paid one are you using? The mobile app?...The free web-based version doesn't have any limitations for searching. On a mobile device, I just navigate to this web version...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Silverjay

                Yes, web version only since I have a US iphone and the mobile app is not in the US app store. I pay for the 350円premium service which has the ranking function.

                1. re: lederhosen

                  On Android, you can download the app from the market but you need to find the name in Japanese. The app though requires you to pay to use the sorting service. So I just bookmark and use the regular site on my phone.

                  I love Tabelog. I always peruse a few of the kuchikomi and photos for places rather than just look at the ranking. I find the site more useful for local area searches rather than broad citywide rankings, but I will often look at the overall rankings and sort down it to a high ranking place in a neighborhood I feel like dining in.