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Tom Sietsema's Online Chat


lizziee
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I think star ratings as we know them in the U.S. are overly simple. There's not enough room to distinguish the nuances of each rated place. I'd vote for a 100 scale, a la sanitation grade. (Not very appetizing I realize.)

Amanda

Metrocurean, a D.C. restaurant and food blog

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I think star ratings as we know them in the U.S. are overly simple. There's not enough room to distinguish the nuances of each rated place. I'd vote for a 100 scale, a la sanitation grade. (Not very appetizing I realize.)

I think even the US/NYT star system is overly complicated; it gives too much wiggle room for ambivalent or inexperienced critics. Accordingly, the Michelin 3-star system is the only thing approaching an international standard (Their NY venture will be interesting to observe). The 100-point scale takes all this to absurd extremes. Ater all, could you really defend your score of 89 for one restaurant versus 88 for another? If so, then hats off. Hugh Johnson says some very pithy and wise things about the Parker-esque obsession with the 100-point scale.

Don’t you have a machine that puts food into the mouth and pushes it down?

--Nikita Khrushchev to Richard Nixon during the "Kitchen Debate" in Moscow, 1959

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Hey, :laugh: Maybe Tom should go back to the ratings systems of his predecessors... :laugh:

stars

whisks

and

smiley faces!!!

(If i recall....ouch, that hurts...I think they stood for food (whisks), service (smilies of course), and decor, or just overall (stars).

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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I prefer a numerical system similar to Gault Millau or Gayot which assigns a rating from .5 to 20.0. The advantage to this is a further differentiation within what otherwise would be a star. Thus a "strong two star" might have a 15.0 food rating while a "weak" two star might be a 13.0. Using four stars leaves no distinction within each grouping.

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That is certainly a good system. Its pretty easy to understand. Of course with guidebooks like that you are getting different reviewers for each restaurant. At least with Tom you have some history to go on.

The Michelin system is more granulated than it appears. You have the stars but under that its a combination of 5 forks, black or red, plus some other symbols (quiet, etc).

I prefer a numerical system similar to Gault Millau or Gayot which assigns a rating from .5 to 20.0.  The advantage to this is a further differentiation within what otherwise would be a star.  Thus a "strong two star" might have a 15.0 food rating while a "weak" two star might be a 13.0.  Using four stars leaves no distinction within each grouping.

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In Tom's defense, whenever someone asks about a restaurant he has reviewed he never says, "I gave it two stars!". He always links to or references his review. The stars are for the kind of people who read the DC Guidebook in their hotel with its press releases and are deciding on which restaurant to go to in Georgetown: Citronelle or Mie N' Yu. They are for people that do not have the time, desire or energy to read all of his reviews, but want somewhere to impress a date, client or parent.

You can call it simplistic because that is what it is meant to be.

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What the heck is up with that? Someone really has their organ in a grinder over Ray's. This must be the same guy that abused his "standing reservation" prividges. And the line about "paying bills" is a dig at a certain DC restaurant that is in bankruptcy.

Edited by mnebergall (log)
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I suspect that, in this context, a "neo-Communist" is probably a restaurateur who unconscionably discriminates against rich wankers by maintaining a first-come-first-served reservations policy allowing any oiks to occupy tables that, by God, would have been set aside for their betters at The Palm. DC, in general, just doesn't seem to do egalitarian all that well.

Edited by iamthestretch (log)

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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What IS the dealio with never-stopping let's-gang-up-on-Ray's business? Okay, one unhappy customer. But this is almost like a whole new Ban-Ray's (pun intended) Live Online forum.

Resident Twizzlebum

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What the heck is up with that? Someone really has their organ in a grinder over Ray's.  This must be the same guy that abused his "standing reservation" prividges.  And the line about "paying bills" is a dig at a certain DC restaurant that is in bankruptcy.

Mark--

It most certainly is, as is obvious from the repeated language and ad hominem agenda.

It is too bad that what is so obvious to you, a mere spectator, was not recognized as such before that post was allowed.

Edited by landrumm2000 (log)
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For the past two weeks, I've been shocked at the amount of kvetching Tom has allowed. So little time, and so little type space and this is the crap I read, having eagerly awaited some good culinary advise and fair reviews each Wednesday

.

Instead, I read endless whining from self-indulgent, self-important, narcissistic whiners . Why encourage this? There's so much good food AND people out there. Let's give'em their due.

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i don't think sietsema should have allowed that comment because it didn't really address any of landrumm2k's points and was more of a personal attack.

I wanna say something. I'm gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back. I want to be on you.

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For the past two weeks, I've been shocked at the amount of kvetching Tom has allowed. So little time, and so little type space and this is the crap I read, having eagerly awaited some good culinary advise and fair reviews each Wednesday

.

Instead,  I read endless whining from self-indulgent, self-important, narcissistic whiners . Why encourage this? There's so much good food AND people out there. Let's give'em their due.

I don't know. There's an argument to be made that whining and kvetching is more amusing than yet another round of recommendations for the same damn restaurants based on the same damn requests.

Interesting cancer thing, too, and illuminating.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I actually just read Michael's comments in last week's chat for the first time. How anyone could take exception with his reservation protocol is beyond me - what is unfair about it? Nothing that I can see.

Maybe he could offer two seatings only, like Inn at Little Washington? That's the only viable alternative that I could think of to what otherwise appears to be a perfectly equitable and reasonable seating policy.

(Or perhaps he could have a no-reservations policy and accept a monthly payment from Guajillo for spillover traffic?)

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I actually just read Michael's comments in last week's chat for the first time.  How anyone could take exception with his reservation protocol is beyond me - what is unfair about it?  Nothing that I can see.

Maybe he could offer two seatings only, like Inn at Little Washington?  That's the only viable alternative that I could think of to what otherwise appears to be a perfectly equitable and reasonable seating policy.

(Or perhaps he could have a no-reservations policy and accept a monthly payment from Guajillo for spillover traffic?)

Cheers,

Rocks.

The simple answer is that the complainer in today's chat is eternally pissed off for having his standing reservation revoked and will take any opporutnity to bad mouth Ray's. No reasonable person could complain about Michael''s system.

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Actually I complained to him about it. I also noted on here that I will not return because $150 for dinner for two and having to be out in 90 minutes, for me, is unnacceptible. On top of this "accepting" reservations two hours a day, four days a week isn't the most convenient either. What does someone do who is running late or needs to cancel and can't get through or its outside of the two hours that they answer the phone? Further, virtually "instant" service at a less expensive restaurant is fine, perhaps even preferred. But with $29.95 entrees two of our courses were served within two minutes of the preceding ones being removed. I sincerely felt rushed.

Michael has rebutted me on here; my point in mentioning this is that I think he is alienating a significant number of people from returning for a dinner that is not as inexpensive as many are led to believe. When I see reactions on Tom's Chat that agree with mine I do not find them surprising.

I do find his policies particularly disappointing since I believe that his ribeye is the best of any steak I've had outside of Luger's or Sostanza; his scallops and key lime pie are absolutely delicious. But this is not a $60 or 80 or $100 restaurant. It is more with wine and a full course dinner-much more. Virtually the same dinner that my wife and I had at Ray's for $150 was $200 at the Capital Grille with a similar bottle of wine. Fifty dollars is the difference in the room and the convenience. There are many on here that prefer Ray's. Some, such as myself, prefer the Capital Grille and spending $25 more per person.

It is here that there may be the problem, at least for me. A full dinner with decent wine is going to take 90 minutes for two people, maybe two hours for four. The idea of HAVING to be out in this period of time is just ridiculous for me. Yes, I know he has some reservations for 7 or 8:00 without "a time limit." But they are a month or more out on Friday or Saturday.

I honestly think he should not take reservations; first come, first serve. Let people stand in line or take a pager. It would eliminate all complains about two hour windows for reservations, 90 minute slots and being asked out if you haven't finished in time. I can't imagine spending $150 and being asked in the 95th minute to leave!

Still, it's his restaurant and he's going to operate it the way he wants. I suspect that because of his independent personality it is as good as it is. But anyone that tells customers they will have to be out in 90 minutes, even when spending $150 for two people, has to expect they are going to be criticized. For everyone that complains on a message board or a newspaper Chat there are many, many more who just don't return or call back because of such restrictive hours to take reservations.

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Joe:

Your response begs the question: What time was your reservation? If you had a reservation at 6 or 6:30 and were notified that the restaurant had to have the table back in 90 minutes, you don't have a leg to stand on. If, on the other hand, you had a reservation at 7:30 or 8:00 and/or were given no notice of a 90-minute time limit, then your position is righteous.

Tell us more about the circumstances so that we can make a better informed judgment here.

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Joe:

Your response begs the question:  What time was your reservation?  If you had a reservation at 6 or 6:30 and were notified that the restaurant had to have the table back in 90 minutes, you don't have a leg to stand on.  If, on the other hand, you had a reservation at 7:30 or 8:00 and/or were given no notice of a 90-minute time limit, then your position is righteous.

Tell us more about the circumstances so that we can make a better informed judgment here.

When I first called to make the reservation I asked for a time around 6:00 or 6:30 since my wife works in Ballston and get off from work around 5:30. I was told if we came that early we would have to be out in 90 minutes. When I asked for 7 or 7:30 on a Saturday night instead I was told that it would be five or six weeks before a Friday or Saturday would be available where we would not be limited to 90 minutes and could arrive later.

My problem was wanting to come early. It seems that ALL of his early reservations have 90 minute limits. I don't believe you can go to Ray's at 6 and stay longer than 90 minutes if you want to.

He and I also had a disagreement in that first phone call. Some of this isn't worth going into but what's important is that I asked for four consecutive Friday nights at 6 or 6:30 until I learned that he did not have any early times that did not have a time limit.

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I just find it hard to believe that if you call Michael (or Jared) and said "I've got a special occassion coming up. I need a table for 120 minutes or 150 minutes. When can I come?" that they wouldn't give you a reservation.

Would it be for this Saturday night at 7:30??? No. Flexibility is key.

I made our reservations for Friday night at 6:00 pm 2 1/2 weeks ago. I fully expected to be told we had to be out in 90 minutes and we were. Fine by me--we've timed it and we are usually in and out in 72-75 minutes.

There are plenty of other hard tables to get -- I think I booked a dinner at Citronelle three months out last year and couldn't get a table until 9 pm (on a Thursday night...)

I don't get why people are so bugged by the Ray's policy.

Sigh...

Jennifer, counting the minutes until those scallops....

Actually I complained to him about it.  I also noted on here that I will not return because $150 for dinner for two and having to be out in 90 minutes, for me, is unnacceptible.  On top of this "accepting" reservations two hours a day, four days a week isn't the most convenient either.  What does someone do who is running late or needs to cancel and can't get through or its outside of the two hours that they answer the phone?  Further, virtually "instant" service at a less expensive restaurant is fine, perhaps even preferred.  But with $29.95 entrees two of our courses were served within two minutes of the preceding ones being removed.  I sincerely felt rushed. 

Michael has rebutted me on here; my point in mentioning this is that I think he is alienating a significant number of people from returning for a dinner that is not as inexpensive as many are led to believe.  When I see reactions on Tom's Chat that agree with mine I do not find them surprising.

I do find his policies particularly disappointing since I believe that his ribeye is the best of any steak I've had outside of Luger's or Sostanza; his scallops and key lime pie are absolutely delicious.  But this is not a $60 or 80 or $100 restaurant.  It is more with wine and a full course dinner-much more.  Virtually the same dinner that my wife and I had at Ray's for $150 was $200 at the Capital Grille with a similar bottle of wine.  Fifty dollars is the difference in the room and the convenience.  There are many on here that prefer Ray's.  Some, such as myself, prefer the Capital Grille and spending $25 more per person.

It is here that there may be the problem, at least for me.  A full dinner with decent wine is going to take 90 minutes for two people, maybe two hours for four.  The idea of HAVING to be out in this period of time is just ridiculous for me.  Yes, I know he has some reservations for 7 or 8:00 without "a time limit."  But they are a month or more out on Friday or Saturday.

I honestly think he should not take reservations; first come, first serve.  Let people stand in line or take a pager.  It would eliminate all complains about two hour windows for reservations, 90 minute slots and being asked out if you haven't finished in time.  I can't imagine spending $150 and being asked in the 95th minute to leave! 

Still, it's his restaurant and he's going to operate it the way he wants.  I suspect that because of his independent personality it is as good as it is.  But anyone that tells customers they will have to be out in 90 minutes, even when spending $150 for two people, has to expect they are going to be criticized.  For everyone that complains on a message board or a newspaper Chat there are many, many more who just don't return or call back because of such restrictive hours to take reservations.

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It is too bad that you felt rushed, but others have talked about being in and out in 90 minutes with no problems. I personally have been there with a group of 5 and we all had soups, entrees, desserts, and a couple of bottles of wine. We knew we had the 90 minute timer on and we all had a great time and nobody felt rushed.

I personally do not like the idea of pagers at Ray's. The place is not setup to handle that and you can call and make a reservation and they let you know the deal. Would you really want to wait for 1-2 hours for a table anywhere? I don't think so.

Why is everyone getting so damn worked up over a damn restaurant. If you do not like the very well stated policies that they have, get over it and go enjoy a meal elsewhere.

Sorry, I am a fan of Ray's so I guess that I am biased.

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Joe:

Your response begs the question:  What time was your reservation?  If you had a reservation at 6 or 6:30 and were notified that the restaurant had to have the table back in 90 minutes, you don't have a leg to stand on.  If, on the other hand, you had a reservation at 7:30 or 8:00 and/or were given no notice of a 90-minute time limit, then your position is righteous.

Tell us more about the circumstances so that we can make a better informed judgment here.

When I first called to make the reservation I asked for a time around 6:00 or 6:30 since my wife works in Ballston and get off from work around 5:30. I was told if we came that early we would have to be out in 90 minutes. When I asked for 7 or 7:30 on a Saturday night instead I was told that it would be five or six weeks before a Friday or Saturday would be available where we would not be limited to 90 minutes and could arrive later.

My problem was wanting to come early. It seems that ALL of his early reservations have 90 minute limits. I don't believe you can go to Ray's at 6 and stay longer than 90 minutes if you want to.

He and I also had a disagreement in that first phone call. Some of this isn't worth going into but what's important is that I asked for four consecutive Friday nights at 6 or 6:30 until I learned that he did not have any early times that did not have a time limit.

Here is a link to the chat with Mike's policy. Please read again.

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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I just find it hard to believe that if you call Michael (or Jared) and said "I've got a special occassion coming up.  I need a table for 120 minutes or 150 minutes.  When can I come?" that they wouldn't give you a reservation.

Would it be for this  Saturday night at 7:30???  No.  Flexibility is key.

I made our reservations for Friday night at 6:00 pm  2 1/2 weeks ago.  I fully expected to be told we had to be out in 90 minutes and we were. Fine by me--we've timed it and we are usually in and out in 72-75 minutes.

There are plenty of other hard tables to get -- I think I booked a dinner at Citronelle three months out last year and couldn't get a table until 9 pm (on a Thursday night...) 

I don't get why people are so bugged by the Ray's policy.

Sigh...

Jennifer, counting the minutes until those scallops....

Actually I complained to him about it.  I also noted on here that I will not return because $150 for dinner for two and having to be out in 90 minutes, for me, is unnacceptible.  On top of this "accepting" reservations two hours a day, four days a week isn't the most convenient either.  What does someone do who is running late or needs to cancel and can't get through or its outside of the two hours that they answer the phone?  Further, virtually "instant" service at a less expensive restaurant is fine, perhaps even preferred.  But with $29.95 entrees two of our courses were served within two minutes of the preceding ones being removed.  I sincerely felt rushed. 

Michael has rebutted me on here; my point in mentioning this is that I think he is alienating a significant number of people from returning for a dinner that is not as inexpensive as many are led to believe.  When I see reactions on Tom's Chat that agree with mine I do not find them surprising.

I do find his policies particularly disappointing since I believe that his ribeye is the best of any steak I've had outside of Luger's or Sostanza; his scallops and key lime pie are absolutely delicious.  But this is not a $60 or 80 or $100 restaurant.  It is more with wine and a full course dinner-much more.  Virtually the same dinner that my wife and I had at Ray's for $150 was $200 at the Capital Grille with a similar bottle of wine.  Fifty dollars is the difference in the room and the convenience.  There are many on here that prefer Ray's.  Some, such as myself, prefer the Capital Grille and spending $25 more per person.

It is here that there may be the problem, at least for me.  A full dinner with decent wine is going to take 90 minutes for two people, maybe two hours for four.  The idea of HAVING to be out in this period of time is just ridiculous for me.  Yes, I know he has some reservations for 7 or 8:00 without "a time limit."  But they are a month or more out on Friday or Saturday.

I honestly think he should not take reservations; first come, first serve.  Let people stand in line or take a pager.   It would eliminate all complains about two hour windows for reservations, 90 minute slots and being asked out if you haven't finished in time.  I can't imagine spending $150 and being asked in the 95th minute to leave! 

Still, it's his restaurant and he's going to operate it the way he wants.  I suspect that because of his independent personality it is as good as it is.  But anyone that tells customers they will have to be out in 90 minutes, even when spending $150 for two people, has to expect they are going to be criticized.  For everyone that complains on a message board or a newspaper Chat there are many, many more who just don't return or call back because of such restrictive hours to take reservations.

Realistically most dinners that my wife and I have at 6 (and we've been doing this once or twice a week for 12+ years) usually last only 75 or so minutes unless the service is really terrible or they are multi course. What is bothersome about Ray's is the idea that we HAVE to be out in 90 minutes. Even though almost every time we probably will-with time to spare-it's knowing that we HAVE to be out.

Why is this personally bothersome to me? Because he really does have some outstanding dishes done as well or better than anyone else locally. It is a personal frustration that he is as "structured" as he is in his operation. But again, this is me, and I am in a tiny minority on this board.

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