Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why and How- Restaurant Reveiws

Balance.   That is all I ask.  If its a dive, make everything cheap and home-made.  If its a $100 menu restaurant, make sure the towels in the bathroom are the right linen and the soap is scentless.  Everything a customer sees, smells, touches, tastes or feels defines the experience.  The experience for which they are paying in full.

Play with your food, take it apart a little.  Appreciate each element.  For example, a chile cheese burger, if you look at the fresh roasted Anaheim chiles, you should see a lot of work, and a lot of chiles.  Perfect heat and flavor.  Little charred areas but almost no skin.  Cheese that is a bit browned on the edge as it drapes over the burger on the grill. This makes it worth a premium, not the menu description or the crap on the dining room walls.   Look at the burger patty, pull it apart, taste it alone.  Peel back everything on the pizza- is the dough cooked?  Feel the food, smell it, really pay attention to it.  Hot?  Cold?  Temperature is a basic. Think about that shake. Is the texture right?  Is the aftertaste pleasant?  Is the sweetness balanced with the flavor?  Is the glass the right type?  How about the straw and spoon?  Consistent liquidity- not melted around the outside?

Going out to eat is expensive.  It should be a pleasure lasting more than 40 minutes.

No one goes into the restaurant business wanting to serve cheap slop to people who don't care.  Not even a soup kitchen does that.  So hold the proprietors to a high standard, you are half the equation that makes your local dining ecosystem function.    You have eaten about as many times as anyone else your age- over 30,000 meals by the time you are 30.  Have you learned from all those experiences?

The reason reviews are important?  To reward those who run good establishments?  Only partly.

Historically hospitality was a practice of aiding pilgrims.  Imagine walking from say, France to Jerusalem.  Many dangers would confront you along the way.  In about 600 AD, Pope Gregory directed Abbot Probus to care fore the pilgrims.  Out of this concern grew the  Knights of Saint John Hospitaller, who grew to protect and see to the housing and feeding of pilgrims all along the journey.  Inns and routes evolved.  From this basis grew "restaurants".  The long history of hospitality is deeply seated in all cultures, and suggests a responsibility to those we serve.

Historically, hobo "reviewers" would mark a house's fence with chalk to let other hobos know about the reception they could expect.  A kind of review, and system of protection.

Modern reviews are part of that responsibility- to show other travelers where to stop, what to expect.  

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