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Personal Bias in Reviewing


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6 replies to this topic

#1 Amuse Bouche

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 04:32 PM

You mentioned in your review of Casa Mono that you couldn't review anonymously because you knew the owners and yada yada yada. This got me thinking about how much your personal biases and expectations figure into reviewing -- if you know (or know of the chef), if a restaurant's reputation precedes it, if you're aware of and approve of the philosophy. How much do these "outside" factors play into both your appreciation of the food and your ability to review it objectively? This is something I've struggled with when dining out -- the ability to keep expectations in check.

I very much enjoy your regular writing for the NYT as well as your current reviewing gig.

#2 Marian Burros

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 09:43 AM

Thank you and...

As I was told when I went to work at a newsaper, you can't help your biases; you just have to be fair. I think that applies to restaurants, too.
That's why I said in the Casa Mono review that the anchovies were good for anchovies; I just don't like them.

Of course I can't help but hear the buzz about a place, but honestly, after all these years of reviewing off and on, I did in it 1983-84 as my full time job fo the Times, I'm not swayed by the the buzz, anymore than I am swayed by the people who come with me when I go t review, whether they lvoe something or hate something. I trust my own tastebuds.

That makes some people think I'm hyper critical. Ce la vie!

#3 phaelon56

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 09:52 AM

With the preceding thought in mind.... are there any categories of restaurant or food types that are unappealing enough to you that you simply choose not to review them? Perhaps this is best rephrased as "Do you think it's possibly offer a reasonably objective review of a cuisine that you simply don't care for?".

For example, I write occasional reviews of restaurants in my area (strictly amateur stuff for Web posting but no one else is doing it and there's a need/niche to be filled). I have tried both Indian food and Korean food on many occasions in a variety of restaurants and have never really savored or truly enjoyed it. In all cases I found it passable and edible but suspect that I'm simply not attuned to the nuances of these cuisines. For this reason I have chosen not to publish any reviews of these two cuisine types.

Might the ability to develop and have some sort of appreciation for or at least objective qualitative understanding of nearly all types of cuisines be a hallmark of a truly competent reviewer?

#4 Marian Burros

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 10:16 AM

Honestly, though I like some cuisines morethan others, I like them all and would have no trouble reviewing any so I have never not reviewed because of such prejudices

#5 Marian Burros

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Posted 07 February 2004 - 10:12 AM

thanks everyone for your great questions and comments

#6 Pan

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Posted 07 February 2004 - 02:04 PM

For example, I write occasional reviews of restaurants in my area (strictly amateur stuff for Web posting but no one else is doing it and there's a need/niche to be filled). I have tried both Indian food and Korean food on many occasions in a variety of restaurants and have never really savored or truly enjoyed it. In all cases I found it passable and edible but suspect that I'm simply not attuned to the nuances of these cuisines.

Is it possible that you just haven't had really good Indian or Korean food? You used to live in New York City, right? Which Indian and Korean restaurants did you eat at when you were here?

#7 phaelon56

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Posted 10 February 2004 - 08:38 AM

Yes it's entirely possible that I did not have truly outstanding Korean or Indian food but in part it may just be taste. I have never tried Korean food anywhere in NYC. I have had Indian food down around 12th Street in a few random places and found it okay not great. I had better indian food in Chelsea of all places - place with the natural wood window/door frames across the front and a red awning (sorry I cannot recall the name).

My former GF is pretty well attuned to Indian food, having lived in Hydrabad (sp?) for six months on a business venture. She dined with me at Satish Palace in Montclair NJ - it's the best Indian food I've ever had but she still seemed to appreciate it far more than I did.