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JasonTrue

Ill-informed restaurant reviews

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The work of the additional server was, on two occasions, objectively terrible. Formerly warm hand towels sat crumpled up on the bar for the majority of one meal; dirty plates lingered through new courses. Two people, with good sake and a tip, won't get out of Kappo for significantly less than $300. To expect refuse to disappear, cups to magically fill, seems only fair.

The Stranger reviews Chiso Kappo

While I'm not so elitist as to claim that a restaurant reviewer should know everything about a cuisine before writing about it, I'm regularly bewildered by certain kinds of cluelessness in Seattle reviews of, in particular, Asian restaurants.

I'm not sure what the reviewer expects to do with the oshibori. Did she wipe her face with it or something and think she was done with it? How is leaving the wet oshibori on the table bad service? It is, after all, in Japanese restaurants, the equivalent of the napkin. It's usually left on the table throughout the meal. Some restaurants even have a small wooden or ceramic plate to keep it on.

To be fair, I've been confused by restaurants in the US that bring both an oshibori and a cloth napkin, since one makes the other redundant. Maybe that's the source of the confusion.

The second issue, related to tea not being refilled, I can understand being mildly irritated about in a tipping culture, though it's more customary in Japanese style service for the guest to request more tea or water, even in the more expensive places I've eaten in in Tokyo. Removing or not removing dirty plates is a difficult balancing act, too, not picking up on clues is certainly a sign of weak service, something you'd never see at a place like Lampreia; certainly two or three stacked up plates is a signal to the waitstaff that they are no longer needed.

But after the rather bizarre complaint like the oshibori thing, I'm disinclined to trust much of the rest of the review. (I might agree about Taichi's charisma, but he is in fact personable). I've only eaten in the downstairs Chiso, and Hiromi and I feel comfortable there because, in Seattle anyway, it feels the most like actually dining in Tokyo. It's perhaps ordinary, but not in a negative way.

Maybe I'm a bit biased after all, but for higher-end cuisine it seems like one would expect the reviewer to have some more intimate familiarity with Japanese cuisine and customs?


Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Maybe I'm a bit biased after all, but for higher-end cuisine it seems like one would expect the reviewer to have some more intimate familiarity with Japanese cuisine and customs?

Perhaps, but would you expect that of a reviewer for The Stranger :hmmm:

I guess I would expect a Seattle reviewer not to be clueless about Asian food. I would certainly wish that a reviewer in a free paper with a diverse audience could educate the rest of us, so I would be less clueless (more clued?).


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Perhaps, but would you expect that of a reviewer for The Stranger  :hmmm:

A fair point.

It's always been clear to me that the Stranger values a certain air of superiority above actual knowledge, skill, or ability. Of course, waiters at mediocre Capitol Hill restaurants seem to mirror that as well. But I've seen similar gaffes in other Seattle papers (most irritatingly, reviews of Japanese restaurants that focus entirely on "the standards" like invented-in-America spider rolls, dragon rolls, California rolls and spicy tuna rolls).

I've written a clueless restaurant review or two also, but those were for my college newspaper in a town with very few restaurants and a primarily rural Midwestern audience.

I guess I would expect a Seattle reviewer not to be clueless about Asian food.  I would certainly wish that a reviewer in a free paper with a diverse audience could educate the rest of us, so I would be less clueless (more clued?).

For the features writer, premature judgment is always easier than doing one's homework :laugh:


Edited by JasonTrue (log)

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I don't live in Seattle, but wherever I look I see the same thing with reviews of Korean restaurants - the reviewer is astounded by the fact that kimchi comes with the meal. He talks about the exoticness of bibim bap or bulgogi. He complains about the water not being refilled instantly (not knowing that in Korea you get your own water...) He complains about the spiciness of the food (Isn't this kind of like a vegetarian doing a review of a BBQ place?) Why don't they have folks review cuisines with which they are familiar - you don't usually such ignorant reviews of French restaurants. Korean is a favorite cuisine with me but I can't rely on the reviews to do more than let me know that the place exists and that I can try it for myself....

-- Phage


Gac

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Most chefs just dispell the stranger reviews. The problem with that rag is that even when they have a great reviewer that person can never turn around that stranger image and they have had a couple of really talented people who moved on to do better things. In fact what is a review really. As a chef and owner I try and think of "everyone" as a critic or as my mother. Food is about passion and people and not everything you may do will be a popular decision or theme but the people know and if you do everything right you will have a great chance of scoring those stars.....honestly though I have been to many a 4 star joint and then gone to an unreviewed or low star eatery and loved it way more. The hardest thing for me is what are they basing them on. How can you compare a million dollar place with one of my $50k restaurants? Even my new place is one my wife and I built on our own and of course it is gonna be way less polished than some competitors but the food....well that is for future consideration......is what should drive a place. Lots of critics forget about that.

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Even my new place is one my wife and I built on our own and of course it is gonna be way less polished than some competitors but the food....well that is for future consideration......is what should drive a place.

When, where?

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15th and 73rd.... lunchbox laboratory in January.

NE? NW?


Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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15th and 73rd.... lunchbox laboratory in January.

NE? NW?

From Nancy Leson's column in August:

Speaking of transitions

Ever wondered what happened to Scotty Simpson, who sold his vaunted Blue Onion Bistro in 2004, returned — albeit briefly — with the upscale Capitol Hill restaurant Fork, then all but dropped off the face of the Earth? He's still around — though you might not recognize him.

Simpson underwent bariatric surgery last year in Mexico and has since lost more than 200 pounds, now weighing in at a slim 190. "I'm half the man I used to be," he says, with his trademark laugh. And, if all goes accordingly, he expects to be in business once again — this time in Ballard.

He's leased the little red building at Northwest 73rd Street and 15th Avenue Northwest (formerly inhabited by Ballard Brothers Burgers, vacant since Ballard Brothers relocated to its new digs near the Ballard Bridge). And he plans to spend the next few months transforming it into — are you ready for this? — The Lunchbox Laboratory, where he'll make "really ultra-awesome burgers, amazing milkshakes, killer sandwiches and soups" — exactly the kind of food I was hoping he'd do before he went forky with Fork.

Scotty's thinking mac 'n' cheese, boneless short-rib sandwiches, homemade ice cream and hot brownies with marshmallow stuffing. You know, the kind of stuff that made him a minor culinary miracle at the original Blue Onion Bistro. With only 20 seats and 1,800 square feet, it sounds too good to be true. And if it isn't, well, I'll be one of the first in line to try his "Noble Oval," a burger named after the kiddie drum set he's planning on putting in the window.


Carolyn

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

J.R.R. Tolkien

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Yes thats it. Of course I never have really spilled all the beans on the place. And for all the people who have emailed me, I was very sick at the end of fork. My weight had risen to nearly 500 pounds and I had a massive heart attack. I spent a year in the hospital and 6 months in a coma. My weight is down. Way down with inspiration from jan birnbaum. So this is my comeback. I miss cooking for the people. For me it is one of the best motivators. I love to see you all and this place is gonnna have casual fun food but mostly lots of laughs and good times. It is the antithesis of the way the restaurant world is going. No pretentiousness. Kind of a cross between blue onion, fork, Tourondels BLT and the old Turbulent Turtle. It will be whacky good times. I look forward to seeing all of my old friends again.

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i just wanted to say that while i don't agee with ONE stranger critic's reviews (constantly bad-mouthing new restaurants before they've had a chance to get settled, air of superiority); ANOTHER reviewer is Asian, reviews out-of-the-way places & i really enjoy her writing. and i feel like they clearly chose the wrong person to send to chiso kappo.

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just had to chime in and recount my favorite inept restaurant review from the Stranger. The author reviewed a new Vietnamese restaurant (Tamarind Tree i think) and went way out of their way to make a useless and flip comment about the Vietnam war. It was obviously the reviewer's only point of reference for anything Vietnamese, which spoke volumes about their ignorance.

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I remember the first review I got from them as a young chef. i was so ticked off because it was so utterly off the point of food. In the end it made me look like I was sponsored by the dairy association. In fact they may have said that. Needless to say the dairy board never chipped in any investment money. What a shame.

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This thread reminded me of a You Tube video I saw years ago. If you watch it, please remember it is a spoof on eating sushi and should not be taken seriously. Perhaps, people who have lived in Japan, will find this more entertaining than people who haven't.

There seems to be as many reviewers commenting on food they may have limited knowledge of as there are fusion restaurants serving food they also have limited knowledge of, some doing it better than others, so it should all be taken with a grain of salt. I have wondered why someone can review a sushi-ya, but doesn't comment on the rice, one of the most important parts. I always want to know if the rice is a blend or is sweet, sour, vinegary, al dente, mushy, warm etc. (I'm sure there are better words to describe the rice, but I'm not a food writer.) Has anyone see a review that comments on the rice?


"One chocolate truffle is more satisfying than a dozen artificially flavored dessert cakes." Darra Goldstein, Gastronomica Journal, Spring 2005 Edition

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