...get the fuck out. This anecdote comes in a piece about Yelp bullies. (It probably helps when if a Yelp review makes you cry, you can dry your tears on the ribbon of your James Beard Award medallion.) But the more inspiring part is this. The Cod sure wishes he could employ a similar comp and toss approach at his day job:
Yes, Kimball I know. Waiting on artwork. But! Betimes, in the wake of the OSYROMSR posts of one-star Yelp reviews of Michelin-starre restaurants the Cod does not get to visit very often, I thought it would be fun to look a little closer to home. With Whitney Otawka at the help, Farm 255 in Athens, Ga has emerged as one of my favorites. Otawka is an Acheson vet, staged w/ St. Tom, and is serious but not pedantic about her food. The cinetrix and I had a chance to look in yesterday, had a ridiculous egg thing, absurd homemade ricotta, a delicious charcuterie plate, etc. I find it hard to imagine not enjoying a meal here, but it can be done, if you're Tina P!
Wow. A $40/guest total on New Year's Eve and you're not Cheesecake Factory full? Call Amnesty International. People who review Kroger and their dentist on Yelp may not dig Farm 255, but I recommend it for the rest of you.
Thanks to my homies in the Bay Area for showing some love for OSYROMSR. There ain't nobody who responsd positively to constructive criticism like a Cali chef, so let's take a look at what the Yelpers had to say about TK's flagship, French Laundry.
Then there's the guy who says the food at FL tastes like a "sweaty dog's taint," and many, many onestars from folks who have not gotten into FL, and use Yelp to complain that it's hard to get into. Related is thisguy: "I'll preface this review by saying that I'm comparing FL to El Bulli, Next, and Alinea. (I've eaten at all of these)." Good for you, Kyle R! I say "related" b/c the simultaneous emergence of Yelp and molecular gastronomy appears to foster a culture of trophy restaurants, where there are a handful of restaurants worldwide where the demand for meals vastly outstrips the supply, b/c, I suspect, it's easy for a certain kind of diner (the kind who brags about where he's eaten), to understand the prestige of molecular gastronomy. I've never eaten at a Thomas Keller restaurant, and avoid Yelp whenever I can, but it does appear that there is a significant cohort of folks who would never consider eating at French Laundry were it not for Yelp, who know MUST eat at French Laundry, so they can talk about it on Yelp.
People seem to enjoy these, so, Eleven Madison Park. The Cod has actually eaten here. Good stuff. The big knock on 11Mad is a) cost b) small portions. The closest Cheesecake Factory is in Hackensack, so I can see how this could be a problem. But beyond delivering value-sized portions, keeping on top of a three stars from Bib and four from the NYT is never easy, and even a chef like Daniel Humm can lose track of a detail here or there. It turns out that Chef Humm is not keeping his cocktail servers sexually satisfied - which makes them surly when dealing with indecisive patrons like Sasha B:
It is possible for people of good will to disagree on the value that a high end restaurant meal represents, but there is an emerging concensus that there are some terrible, terrible people on Yelp, even among the Yelp Elite.
Not even Chef Thomas Keller is safe from the one-star throwing Yelp ninjas. There is but one single-star review of Per Se, but it's a doozy! Among other things, you don't have to know how to spell in order to afford to eat at Per Se:
An exchange w/ an Alinea co-owner garnered this gem:
If Mr Kokonas is correct, panning a restaurant you have never been to, right down to imagined encounters with the FOH people, is the most depressing thing I've heard since pretending to be a swinger on Flckr. The day is young, but we'll call it a Guiteau Monday.
The Cod agrees. These are things you should do, and often. But as prerequisites for sharing your opinion about a meal you have spent your time and money to eat? Not so much. At first, the entire post struck me as huffy, and generally assy, viz "
Heaven knows, The Cod is no fan of Yelp, but geez. It is not necessary to perform the task in order to be able to evaluate how someone else does the task. Only novelists can review novels? Only currently active gymnasts can score gymnastics? Nuh uh.
But! The conclusion goes a long way toward redeeming the post.
I read this as "if you cook, you will have a deeper enjoyment of what others cook for you." This is totally true. One of the best recent dining expereinces I've had was sitting at the bar at Farm 255 and chatting w/ Whitney Otawka about making bearnaise. Turns out the way my mom taught me, and the way Thomas Keller taught her are quite different. That's not a conversation I can have if I've never made bearnaise myself.
Maybe, maybe not. What follows is uninformed speculation, and I would love to be wrong. As the boss announces here, the Times-Pic is becoming a digitally focused news organization. That's a fancy way of saying that going forward, you will be more of a website, and less of a newspaper. There are serious issues concerning this platform shift -- going digital shifts costs from publishers to readers, who are responsible for having access to a device and broadband to consume the news product -- but it's not just a platform shift. In theory, a "digitally focused news organization" could take advantage of lower production costs to be a trimmer and tougher news outlet. In practice, the web side of news organizations seem to rely on reader-submitted content. So, instead of more sustained investigative journalism, you get more pictures of readers' pets dressed up in the colors of the local NFL franchise. For example, the Boston Globe's Pulitzer-winning coverage of Catholic sex abuse was a product of the print edition; Boston.com today has a feature on funny license plates.
The sad truth is, you can have a "food section" like this without paying a critic. If your readers will click and argue and generate pageviews fighting over what's the best roast beef po-boy, why pay Brett Anderson? Indeed, a single, qualified voice will sometimes be contrarian, while a mass of reader comments by definition represent conventional wisdom, which is what makes advertisers comfortable. It's possible to imagine a critic like Brett Anderson revealing that a new venture from a beloved chef ain't all that, or worse still, that a beloved institution is slipping. It's very hard to imagine one could learn the truth about brunch at Commander's Palace from a swarm of reader comments. If pageviews, rather than restaurant criticism, is your news organization's goal, a real restaurant critic is unnecessary, and possibly detrimental. The future of restaurant criticism in newspapers looks more like Yelp than it does like Anton Ego. The Cod suggests that ambitious NOLA restaurauteurs make sure they have plenty of dishes with brains on the menu.
Doing some research for the location of this place, the Googles led me to Yelp. And good thing too, because now I am warned that the TVs at this Mexican restaurant broadcast Spanish language programs. Luckily, Yelper Sam S. is totally OK with that:
Mighty big of you, Sam! Let's hope that our Latino/a brothers and sisters are similarly unbothered by the preponderance of English language programming at BW3. Perhaps it's time for a new one of these.