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Jul 25, 2014 09:38 AM

Which restaurant rating?

I just moved to the city and need to figure out which restaurants to try. For Manhattan restaurants, which ratings do you think are the most reliable?

-New York Times
-S. Pellegrino

Thank you!

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  1. Each system is a mixed bag, they all will give you a general direction but I wouldn't rely on any one source. Yelp has a lot of useless reviews from people who are completely ignorant of the cuisine they are reviewing. NYT reviews depend on the tastes and predilections of the reviewer du jour. Zagats ratings can be totally skewed. Michelin reviewers tend to have a very specific euro-centric idea of what is "good", that is not necessarily universal. S. Pellegrino is advertising.

    They are all helpful in creating a list of restaurants you want to try, then look on CH for more in-depth reviews and opinions that will give you a better picture of what to expect.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pookipichu

      Excellent summary of the various ratings.

      Note that New York Times ratings are hardly ever revisited and therefore become obsolete after a year or two especially when there is a change in chefs.

      Michelin, for all its flaws, is revised every year. Yelp and Zagat are less rarefied and cover a much larger number of places.

      S. Pellegrino seems to be about hype rather than quality though, admittedly, I haven't been to most of their top 50 restaurants.

    2. None of the above? Or a combination of them?

      As Pooki said, it's a mixed bag. Zagat is susceptible to neighborhood favoritism, Michelin is VERY Manhattan (and really, Midtown) centric and tends to favor French cuisine, virtually ignoring non-Japanese Asian cuisines for years. The Times, being just one person's opinion, you have to read and experience the restaurants for yourself to see how much you might agree / disagree with Sifton, Wells, Bruni... and because the Times doesn't update / re-review often, many are out of date. Same can be said for Platt (New York Mag) Seitsema & Sutton (Eater) and the rest. A good critic, though, can give you an idea of how you might like a place regardless of their own opinions / biases.

      Yelp gives a kind of overview IF you ignore every five- and one-star review, as there are people who give five-star reviews to hot dog carts, and demote restaurants to one-star because they think they're entitled to get their desserts and drinks comped when the kitchen forgot to put the mayo on the side instead of just a new sandwich.

      So you look for a general consensus among them all, and you search for restaurants here and on mouthfuls and other sites to see what people have said. And you learn, over time, which critics / bloggers / commenters you find yourself agreeing with more often than not.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sgordon

        "And you learn, over time, which critics / bloggers / commenters you find yourself agreeing with more often than not."

        So I'm curious - which bloggers are worth reading? I'm only aware of LauHound and The Ulterior Epicure.

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Thanks very much Bob. You're the best!

          2. re: Scott_C

            Actually, now that I think of it I don't read many blogs. Lauhound, yes, and Dave Cook (Eating in Translation) but the latter isn't really reviews, more just finds. I like NY Journal but I don't always find myself agreeing. And The Infatuation I used to like, but something about the writing style gets on my nerves sometimes.

            I find critics' reviews a little more informative as unlike the blogs, they'll usually visit a restaurant a few times before writing them up.

        1. I never heard of San Pellegrino ratings. Yelp in New York, or at least the East Village, is complete crap. Restaurants I know to suck have excellent ratings, and vice versa. I actually wouldn't count on any of these ratings. It's best to see whose taste seems most like yours. For example, I rarely disagree with Lau's taste in restaurants, so I pay close attention when he loves a place.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pan

            Ha. I use Yelp all the time.

            Can you name same main disagreements in EV or beyond?

            Just asking because I'm more likely to want to try new places and/or figure out what to order at those places, often in last minute fashion. I find Yelp more useful than the other ranking for that purpose.

            If I had time, usually I get my ideas from here or recent wwww blogs/reviews.

          2. In order in which they appear on Yelp for me, keeping in mind that I haven't been to nearly every restaurant in or near the East Village:

            Maharlika gets 4 stars. They don't suck, but that overrates them by at least half a star, in my opinion.

            Stage gets 4 1/2 stars. I love the place for what it is, but that's quite excessive. If they get 4 1/2, Ukrainian East Village, which is better, should get what? 5 1/2? I'd rate them 3 1/2.

            Mighty Quinn's gets 4 stars. How is it logical for them to get fewer stars than Stage when they are so great? I'd give them 5.

            Momofuku Ssam Bar also gets 4 stars, which might be fair, but look at the inconsistency again.

            And then Supper also gets 4 stars. I like Supper very much, but how are these three restaurants all in the same category, when they are so different in ambition? But at least I like all three of them.

            Artichoke gets 4 stars and I thought both their artichoke and crab pizzas were a sloppy mess and would have rated them a 1.

            Mamoun's St. Marks gets 4 stars, and while I've never had a complaint about their original location, this one definitely deserves no more than 3 stars, and that's generous - I think I'd give them 2 1/2.

            Cafecito gets 4 stars, and they've never impressed me. Again, bad grade inflation, unless they've drastically improved since the last time I went there.

            Cafe Himalaya at 4 stars is again grade inflation. They can be good for some soothing food, and they're sweet people, but I've found their meat substandard-tasting at times.

            Giano is also 4 stars, and the time I went there, I thought they were overpriced and mediocre. Perhaps they've improved, but given how almost everything seems to get 4 stars...

            Guayoyo is also 4 stars, and they are not consistently that good. I think they're overrated by a half a star.

            Streecha (the Ukrainian church ladies) gets 4 1/2 stars, and their stuff is just OK (3 1/2).

            Saint's Alp also gets 4 stars, and to be fair, their food used to be better and only relatively recently deteriorated, but though it's a pleasant place, I think that's probably overrating it a bit.

            Three of Cups is also overrated at 4 stars.

            Are you seeing a trend here? 4 stars is the most common rating in the East Village, and there's loads of grade inflation, to the point that it's impossible for someone who isn't already knowledgeable to be able to tell the really good 4-star places from the mediocre but popular-with-Yelpers 4-star places.

            [This was for you, villainx. I don't know why it's up here now, but that's what happened after my browser crashed.]

            4 Replies
            1. re: Pan


              I like Artichoke! Mainly, like Di Faras, for the squares though.

              I won't disagree.

              Overall, I think I rather go to a place that is overrated by a bit, than a bad place. Yelp, so far, has helped me to think more carefully before going to 3 stars or below places. I'm curious whether there are badly reviewed places that are good. I assume one of the curse of a critical mass of reviews is 3 - 4 stars review.

              1. re: villainx

                I remember seeing a bunch of underrating East Village places, but last night, I wasn't finding them.

                1. re: villainx

                  I also feel like a lot of yelp ratings are focused on price or percieved value of the meal vs the actual food or quality of... Which i understand to some extent, but cheap doesn't equal good as often as it does according to yelp....

                  I just have an ongoing bookmarks folder on my iphone with restaurants i want to try, sorted by categories that make sense to me, so when i read a great review here on chow or friends who have similar taste etc... I add to the restaurant's site to my bookmarks. Probably more complicated than it needs to be but so far it works.
                  I go to zagat over other sources mentioned yet not exclusively.

                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    I use the Yelp bookmark too. Very useful when I'm in whatever neighborhood, turn to the bookmark and there's usually a couple of places I want to try or liked previously. And in that situation, especially if it's a place I've never been, the Yelp reviews often remind me of which dishes to order.

              2. Yelp is actually more useful than a NYT review that was written 5 years ago where none of the dishes mentioned are on the current menu, and the establishment fixed the lighting issue they were having ("minus 1 star for the ultra dim lights!").

                But the grades in Yelp means almost nothing to me. They are all pretty much hovering around the 3.5, 4 star mark (the good ones), and there are way too many reviews that shouldn't even be there that affect the rating ("I didn't eat there because of the "B" on the window" - 1 star). But among the many mostly local reviews (as opposed to something like Trip Advisor) there are plenty of thoughtful ones that may give you an idea on what dishes to try

                Read food blogs, and spend some time on Chowhound, and the ideas will start flowing

                6 Replies
                1. re: Ziggy41

                  Yeah, the number of Yelp reviews by people who openly admit they haven't eaten there is astonishing. You'd think they'd somehow filter those out, but they leave all the filtering to their automated system that's somehow supposed to "sense" these things.

                  There was a case a few years back where someone gave a new place (Romera) five stars simply because they were nice to her on the phone when she made her reservation. She hadn't actually set foot in the place yet. But Yelp insisted it passed their test, go figure.

                  1. re: Ziggy41

                    I ignore the extreme Yelp reviews - the one and five stars. I look for a reasonable consensus but I also look for an overall tone of credibility in individual posters. Actually, I do the same on CH.

                    Yelp is just another tool. Used correctly, it's useful.

                    1. re: Ziggy41

                      Ziggy I love your blog which was mentioned upthread.

                      1. re: Riverman500

                        I didn't know it was the same Zig, but I started following the blog from the mention upthread.

                        1. re: villainx

                          Thanks to you both!!

                          Bob, the check should come shortly!

                          1. re: Ziggy41

                            The hell with the check. I want drugs.

                            Seriously, you've got a great blog. It was a pleasure recommending it.