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Django, Philadelphia


Rosie
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I would prefer to think that the sort of customer who would appreciate Django or any of the BYO's has enough savvy and curiosity to dine at Django and decide for themselves.

I also suggest that Laban's three and four bell restaurants would be just as successful if there had been no Inquirer review.  Excellence shines on its own.  For the most part Laban's three and four bell declarations have merely confirmed what knowledgable Philadelphia diners already knew.

I have to hope that you're correct about this part, Holly. But I also know from dealing with the public and dealing with the fine folks here at eGullet that we're a much more sophisticated crew that will give someone a chance and make up our own minds unlike the "lemmings" that follow the whims and vagaries of the latest review. You only get one chance to make a first impression, even if that impression is in print. If that's taken away from you, it's hard to get that potential customer back again. In a dining room that seats less than 40 people, the sound of crickets from the empty chairs can be deafening and deadly.

And lemmings' money is just as green as anyone elses.

And of course the elephant in the room is that Greg and Ross likely don't have the manoeuvering room most other BYOBs would have. I don't know exactly what they paid for the place, but the likelyhood is that the outlay, coupled with a large kitchen staff, means they don't have the luxury of being able to weather some slow nights.

I've also wondered why no reports thus far: we had an infrequent poster promise one, only to disappear without posting it. I know that SK drains many of our eating-out budgets, but i'm surprised nobody's made it to Django in the last four months.

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Similarly mediocre Le Jardin is still open despite the worst review in the history of journalism...

"This cheese is similar to a fromage" said the server to Laban.

I would certainly hope so!

I certainly wouldn't darken the threshold of any restaurant that served cheese that resembled frottage, to pluck another French word the waiter didn't really know out of the blue, er, bleu.

Never having eaten at Django, I cannot offer comment on the place's bellworthiness, either before or after the big downgrading.

But I can comment on Craig LaBan as a writer.

I still remember my reaction on reading his introductory column in the Inquirer and his first couple of reviews.

It was this: "This guy overwrites horribly."

Having been accused of this myself, I think I can spot the beast when it appears.

I don't know what happened between then and now, but that has long since ceased to be the case. I enjoy reading his reviews now--they're sharper than the flabby ones he wrote early on without blunting his personality.

Frankly, LaBan's trashing of Trust was one of the best bad reviews I've ever read.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I'm reluctant to pontificate about the level of injustice of the demotion to two bells without actually eating there. Both Vadouvan and I have been rolling our eyes about the bold pronouncements about the quality of the New York Morimoto before the place even opened...

As mrbigjas has proposed, let's go and try it! I've been meaning to go, but just haven't gotten around to it. But that's nothing to do with Greg or Ross, I only made it to Django under the former ownership once. (Not sure I would have given it 4 bells, but it was a very good meal.) That part of town is just a little off my personal radar, I haven't made it to Southwark or Gayle either.

David McDuff, whose palate I trust, says he's been there three times since the hand-off, and liked it. His post is here.

For those that don't feel like clicking the link, here's a pertinent quote from David:

I've been three times now, with various groups of friends, since the handover to new owners Greg and Ross and have been impressed with the consistently excellent quality coming from the kitchen on all three occasions.

Sounds good to me.

Knocking it down to two bells sounds harsh, especially knowing what Ross and Greg can do. But again, I'm reluctant to say that LaBan is being unfair without eating there. So, let's go.

As Katie mentioned upthread, I've previously stated that I liked the original 4-Bell review for its larger symbolic value, and my meal there was good enough that it didn't seem totally out of line. In a perfect world, I think he should have given the new regime a little more time to really define themselves, but he was writing the story about 4-bell places now, he needed to discuss that rating. And if he really didn't think they were as magical as they once were, so be it. From David's descriptions of his experiences, it sounds like they're operating at a solid 3-Bell level, but if LaBan really didn't think they were providing an excellent experience, it's his reputation on the line.

I'm still skeptical about a reviewer's ability to destroy a restaurant. A zero bell review is pretty damning, but absent pure malevolent intent on the part of the reviewer, it must be reflecting what other patrons have already figured out. Sure, people probably stop coming after a bad review, but they might have stopped coming anyway if the place is sucking on a grand scale. All the review does is save a few people from enduring a bad experience and reaching that same conclusion themselves.

A four-bell review no doubt fill the books up for a while, but I can't imagine people enduring mediocre food and service, returning multiple times for such abuse, simply as a result of some sort of LaBan-induced reality distortion field. As Holly said, some folks flood in right after a good review, but they'll either be sold or not, based on their experience, not what they read. I don't know anyone who returns to restaurants they don't really like simply because they have good ratings, do you?

it's disheartening that human nature is such that I suspect some people will read that 2-bell demotion as a definitive statement that Django's no good anymore, rather than what a fresh 2-Bell review is intended to mean: Very Good.

And that's where we come in, what eGullet is especially good for is to air opinions from more people, continually updating, not stuck in one reviewer's impressions at one moment in time. Let's use our greater numbers and greater publishing flexibility to add data to the discussion. But let's review the actual food and the actual restaurant.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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it's disheartening that human nature is such that I suspect some people will read that 2-bell demotion as a definitive statement that Django's no good anymore, rather than what a fresh 2-Bell review is intended to mean: Very Good.

That is what I fear most. Unfortunately, for the folks that don't engage in discussion here, if they have even a passing interest in the food and restaurant culture of Philadelphia, then they trust the critic in residence. And why shouldn't they? He's writing for a well recognized prize winning national newspaper in the fifth largest urban market. And what's more upsetting is that their friends think that they're the opinion leaders just because they read the local food press. Obviously these folks would find us hopelessly obsessive and want us put into the rubber rooms. Whilst they might have a valid argument for a lot of reasons, this isn't one of them.

So sadly, now the buzz is that Django used to be stellar, but now it's just average.

That just doesn't seem fair somehow.

And if you all want to go and review Django for ourselves, all brutal honesty in effect, I'm pretty certain that Greg and Ross would be happy to have us. We could wear the Groucho glasses, but I suspect we'd still be recognized. Do you think we'd get special treatment? Would our dishes be any different than that Mr. Laban might have ordered off the menu himself? I doubt it both because I can't imagine Greg and Ross sinking to that level and because Mr. Laban isn't nearly as anonymous as he seems to think. :wink:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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As mrbigjas has proposed, let's go and try it!

....But again, I'm reluctant to say that LaBan is being unfair without eating there. So, let's go.

will do. but at the same time i feel so lame, like, suddenly i'm one of those people that only goes to a restaurant because the reviewer panned it....

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As mrbigjas has proposed, let's go and try it!

....But again, I'm reluctant to say that LaBan is being unfair without eating there. So, let's go.

will do. but at the same time i feel so lame, like, suddenly i'm one of those people that only goes to a restaurant because the reviewer panned it....

Dude! This is about justice and all things righteous.

And do you make a habit of going to restaurants that have been panned just to see if they were wrong? :hmmm:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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\And of course the elephant in the room is that Greg and Ross likely don't have the manoeuvering room most other BYOBs would have. I don't know exactly what they paid for the place, but the likelyhood is that the outlay, coupled with a large kitchen staff, means they don't have the luxury of being able to weather some slow nights.

you know, i hadn't really thought too much about this aspect till now, but, is this the first case of a popular BYOB changing hands and trying to carry on as its original self? a symbol of, or preamble to, the corporatizing of the philadelphia BYOB, kinda?

i mean, i'm totally overstating here. i don't mean it in any kind of bad way. obviously the Rx crew buying django is not like mcdonalds taking over chloe or something.

but it seems that a lot of the concept of the whole philadelphia BYOB "thing" is that they're small, personalized, chef-driven restaurants, and when a chef bails, the place closes. but in the last while we've had chef changes at marigold, at rx, (probably at several others i can't think of)--and now django has changed hands and is still trying to remain django.

i guess the question that is coming to mind is: has the marketing concept of the philadelphia BYOB caught up to the actuality of it, to the point where an investor can open a small chef-driven BYOB without being the chef? could we theoretically be on the way to the point where we could have a BYOB stephen starr? and if so, would the magic be lost? is there magic to start with?

note to greg: you post here enough that i feel i should clarify that i'm not trying to bust your balls. this whole thing is just kinda interesting to me.

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I have eaten at Django twice under the old ownership. The food was lovely and memorable. However, the things that stick in my mind is:

1. The service. Not 4 bell worthy in my opinion. It was fine for a standard BYO but honestly no better than you get at say Dimitri's on 3rd and Catherine. Coming from The Fountain and Le Bec I definately didn't see the polish or care that you take in a 4 bell establishment coming from Django.

2. Proper wine glasses. I have to say drinking a nice bottle of wine from sub-par glasses bothered me immensly. Call me a wine snob but for me it makes a difference. It doesn't need to be Riedel but there are plenty of decent alternatives. Once again not 4 bell worthy.

Everyone should be judged on the same playing field. Be consistant or the creditabily of a review will be questioned.

That said, I will definately return to Django under the new ownership. I believe that it may just be better in some respects. The new owners are talented and cared enough to fix some issues right away.

Trust was panned but I have to say deservingly. I went there for lunch once and it might have been one of my worst dining experiences in this city. Cockroaches, spoiled wine, horrible food and service. What more can I say. Craig was right on and it was a waste of space.

:shock:

CherieV

Eat well, drink better!

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i guess the question that is coming to mind is: has the marketing concept of the philadelphia BYOB caught up to the actuality of it, to the point where an investor can open a small chef-driven BYOB without being the chef? could we theoretically be on the way to the point where we could have a BYOB stephen starr? and if so, would the magic be lost? is there magic to start with?

I'm sure there are plenty of chef driven restaurants of all sizes that have investors, whether they're BYOB or not.

And whether there's magic or not is judged on the same scale as anyone else, I'd hope.

What you're suggesting just sucks all the joy out of it for me though.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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i guess the question that is coming to mind is: has the marketing concept of the philadelphia BYOB caught up to the actuality of it, to the point where an investor can open a small chef-driven BYOB without being the chef? could we theoretically be on the way to the point where we could have a BYOB stephen starr? and if so, would the magic be lost? is there magic to start with?

I'm sure there are plenty of chef driven restaurants of all sizes that have investors, whether they're BYOB or not.

And whether there's magic or not is judged on the same scale as anyone else, I'd hope.

What you're suggesting just sucks all the joy out of it for me though.

totally. i just hadn't thought of that concept before. i don't know why it never occurred to me...

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I have eaten at Django twice under the old ownership.  The food was lovely and memorable.  However, the things that stick in my mind is:

1.  The service.  Not 4 bell worthy in my opinion.  It was fine for a standard BYO but honestly no better than you get at say Dimitri's on 3rd and Catherine.  Coming from The Fountain and Le Bec I definately didn't see the polish or care that you take in a 4 bell establishment coming from Django.

2.  Proper wine glasses.  I have to say drinking a nice bottle of wine from sub-par glasses bothered me immensly.  Call me a wine snob but for me it makes a difference.  It doesn't need to be Riedel but there are plenty of decent alternatives.  Once again not 4 bell worthy.

Everyone should be judged on the same playing field.  Be consistant or the creditabily of a review will be questioned.

I haven't been since the fall of the Ancien Regime, but a couple of points:

I do think the glasses are in fact Riedel - the newfangled stemless Riedel, but Riedel all the same.

The service at Dmitri's is attrocious, I'm not sure that's what you're implying. Django in the past was on a par (or maybe a bit better) with other BYOBs like Matyson, Chloe and so forth: personable, well-meaning, but crowded and harried. Has that changed?

And finally, on the "level playing field" issue... well, no. Laban has always argued that the bell scale ranks a place within a category. So he gave a diner in the NE a bunch of bells.

Think of it this way: how do you compare John's Roast Pork to Lacroix? Yet John's isn't a "poor" restaurant - it's a great sammich place. If you're going to allow Laban to review both, you're going to have to keep the relative nature of ratings in mind. Personally, I find it easy to do, and I know no-one who would be all that confused by it.

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The purpose of bells is to save people the arduous task of reading a review. Let the critic write his/her review and let the reader use the entire review to help influence a dining decision. It is interesting that while the NY Times relates no symbols to its movie reviews, it does permit the restaurant reviewer to assign stars.

Why bells by the way? I get it - it is Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. But stars traditionally communicate grading. Some reviewers use toques, whisks, even grease stains - food related icons. What does the bell symbolize - a ringingly good meal?

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I've also wondered why no reports thus far: we had an infrequent poster promise one, only to disappear without posting it.

Infrequent, promising poster here, Capaneus--tweak noted, somewhat deserved, and accepted. Of course, I was in the process of moving to Seattle from Philadelphia last fall, so I've had a few other things going on.

I haven't read the latest review, but when I did go (as promised), and thought about putting down a review (as promised), I fear the old maxim "if you can't say anything nice..." took hold, and, in what was violative of a thousand egullet conventions, I opted not to speak because I felt my experience had to have been an anomaly. Or jaded by familiarity--I mean, they say you can't go back, right?

When living in Phila, we went to Django, I'd say, once every 2-3 months. This in the "halcyon" 2001-2004 period. We knew the owners, we knew the house, we didn't use the menus--it was, for me, the single most extraordinary "general" dining experience ever, where everything--food, service, ambience--came together to form an extraordinary whole which was definitely more than the sum of its parts. This, I think, is what possessed LaBan to give Django four bells.

After the sale, I was reticent to return. I'd moved, somewhat moved "on", and, I'll admit it, feared the change. But I steeled myself, and made a reservation for one of my first return visits.

Walked in on time for the 9:00 reservation--got seated promptly at 9:40 (!).

_That_ night, the house was completely different, so I'm delighted to hear (if it's true) the staff has in fact been retained.

We knew/recognized nobody, and nobody knew us.

The art was different (and terrible. Remember the art at the late, not-necessarily-lamented Magazine?).

Our server was indifferent, acted as though she didn't want to be there, and disappeared for about 15 minutes after we sat down, as I looked around in vain for someone to open our wine.

And the food? Unmemorable and lukewarm. I can tell you at least ten different mains I've had at Django (and most of their unique ingredients), but I cannot tell you what came to our table that night.

This, my friends, is why I said nothing at the time. I was trying to chalk it up to "regime-change" jitters, or something, but I was so concurrently sad and angry at what had become of the "augmented whole" that I just wanted to put the experience out of my mind. I'm completely willing to admit that a significant aspect of my love for Django was _not_ food-related--and I know food is why we're all here--but if my experience was a shared one, I guess I have to say I "get" the demotion.

It pains me to write this, but I guess I can't not respond when I'm called out, and you have no idea (or maybe every idea) how much I'd love to read reviews of subsequent visits of yours that bear no resemblance to what I've just written.

Cheers from Seattle, and yes, I miss the hell out of Philadelphia!

PJ

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Peter, thanks for taking the time to make that post. I think we can all understand your motivations for just not saying anything, but I, for one, appreciate hearing all sides of the story.

I certainly hope that your experience was anomalous, but judging from LaBan's comments it might not have been completely unique. We'll see how the overall consensus goes with some more reports, but again, thanks for adding your voice, more information is always good.

I still wish Greg and Ross the best, and hope to see good reviews here, but in the end I'd rather see what people really think, regardless.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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So sadly, now the buzz is that Django used to be stellar, but now it's just average.

That just doesn't seem fair somehow.

It's perfectly fair if it's true. I've walked by the place during weekend dinner hours a few times over the past couple of months, and there have been a lot more empty tables than I used to see during Brian and Aimee's tenure. It's obvious from the review that LaBan has been back there once or twice since the place changed hands. I haven't seen anyone in this thread who can say the same (I can't), so I'll have to take his word for it for now <edit: or not, Peter Johnson's post just appeared..>

Mr. Laban isn't nearly as anonymous as he seems to think.  :wink:

I don't think he thinks he's anonymous these days: didn't he complain loudly to the manager at Barclay Prime (or somewhere) that his wine was overpriced and get a reduction on the bill, then write that up in the review? That's not the behavior of someone who prefers anonymity. I know that some servers who have been in the biz for a while know his face.

Edited by Buckethead (log)
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I've also wondered why no reports thus far: we had an infrequent poster promise one, only to disappear without posting it.

Infrequent, promising poster here, Capaneus--tweak noted, somewhat deserved, and accepted. Of course, I was in the process of moving to Seattle from Philadelphia last fall, so I've had a few other things going on.

I haven't read the latest review, but when I did go (as promised), and thought about putting down a review (as promised), I fear the old maxim "if you can't say anything nice..." took hold, and, in what was violative of a thousand egullet conventions, I opted not to speak because I felt my experience had to have been an anomaly. Or jaded by familiarity--I mean, they say you can't go back, right?

Hi there, Peter. Sorry you felt tweaked, that wasn't the intent. In fact, I'm the last person to be in a position to make that charge, since I have been in precisely the same position recently regarding another restaurant. I don't know about you, but in my case I hesitated not just because I did not wish to be negative, but also because I genuinely didn't trust my response: to what extent was I objectively judging what I was being served, and to what degree was I just resenting any change to a place I loved and felt somewhat proprietary about?

In the end, I was let off the hook, as that particular restaurant has since received much praise from various quarters. In your case, I can only hope the experience was in part caused by the transition, because I would love to see Ross and Greg make good. Although I feared from the get-go that Ross' preference for sound, straightforward preparation of quality ingredients was a poor match for the recipes he was inheriting from Brian Sikora. And I say that as someone who actually has enjoyed his Rx experiences better than I've liked Django, though I never disliked the latter. Just didn't love it as much as others seemed to.

Strokes and folks, I guess.

Edited by Capaneus (log)
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Sorry you felt tweaked, that wasn't the intent.

Hey, no worries! It's good to be held to one's promises, and I'm only too glad to get the info out there.

I can only hope the experience was in part caused by the transition, because I would love to see Ross and Greg make good.

Me too. Strokes and folks, indeed, and in some cases, it may be best to "move on," savor your experiences at the "original", and find something new that you love.

[off topic]

Like Matt's in the Market in Seattle--hope some of you can make it west to try our seafood places! :biggrin:

[/off topic]

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Also....

We all may be ignoring the fact that the kind of "BUZZ" Django had was unsustainable.

At some point, new places open, people move on, those who have tried it a few times find other new places to go.

Most of the above have nothing to do with Django per se, its just the natural evolution of a dynamic restaurant environment. No matter how good a place is, as long as other restaurants keep opening, you cant keep your name in the press forever nor can you assure the steady customer stream.

Speaking of customer stream.....

Lets not kid each other.... (and the following isnt directed at Brian or Aimee personally)

People get tired of artificially booked restaurants.

By artificially booked, I mean getting your customers to reserve EXACTLY 30 days (or any other specified number) ahead. You would be deluding yourself if you thought it reflected how truly busy the place was. The reason it happens is that restaurants use that method to assure a steady reservation stream. How well it works depends on how large your interested customer base is.

For a place like French Laundry or Per Se that has essentially a NATIONAL audience, they can do it forever and there is no reason to stop.

For a Django with a mostly local audience, it works initially but gradually recedes.

Peoples lives are just too complicated to plan dinners 30 days ahead forever, it becomes a local experience that is reserved for special ocasions.

The biggest danger of the perception of unavailability is that people will just assume you are and wont bother to call and make other plans.

The change may also have started before the change in ownership, restaurant interest can be cyclical like economics.

Remember the economic surplus that started in the Bill Clinton Administration actually started in the George Herbet Walker Bush administration, but he who wears the crown, gets the spoils or the wrath.

Remeber those embassy hostages in Iran ?

Well, Jimmy Carter negotiated thier release.

Who took Credit ?

The Gipper.

This may have nothing to do with Greg or Ross at all.

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Also....

Speaking of customer stream.....

People get tired of artificially booked restaurants.

By artificially booked, I mean getting your customers to reserve EXACTLY 30 days (or any other specified number) ahead. You would be deluding yourself if you thought it reflected how truly busy the place was. The reason it happens is that restaurants use that method to assure a steady reservation stream. How well it works depends on how large your interested customer base is.

For a place like French Laundry or Per Se that has essentially a NATIONAL audience, they can do it forever and there is no reason to stop.

For a Django with a mostly local audience, it works initially but gradually recedes.

Peoples lives are just too complicated to plan dinners 30 days ahead forever, it becomes a local experience that is reserved for special ocasions.

The biggest danger of the perception of unavailability is that people will just assume you are and wont bother to call and make other plans.

The 30 day reservation bit was flexible. I've never made one more than a couple days in advance or even the same day. That said, I admit, I've gone mid-week, mostly.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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Also....

Speaking of customer stream.....

People get tired of artificially booked restaurants.

By artificially booked, I mean getting your customers to reserve EXACTLY 30 days (or any other specified number) ahead. You would be deluding yourself if you thought it reflected how truly busy the place was. The reason it happens is that restaurants use that method to assure a steady reservation stream. How well it works depends on how large your interested customer base is.

For a place like French Laundry or Per Se that has essentially a NATIONAL audience, they can do it forever and there is no reason to stop.

For a Django with a mostly local audience, it works initially but gradually recedes.

Peoples lives are just too complicated to plan dinners 30 days ahead forever, it becomes a local experience that is reserved for special ocasions.

The biggest danger of the perception of unavailability is that people will just assume you are and wont bother to call and make other plans.

The 30 day reservation bit was flexible. I've never made one more than a couple days in advance or even the same day. That said, I admit, I've gone mid-week, mostly.

I can speak to the fact that the place was often packed to the gills late on a weeknight, if I happened to walk by.

Also, I don't think they required you to make the reservation a month ahead of time. For that matter, neither does Per Se. It's just that they won't take reservations any further in advance, which sort of begs the question of why you'd call that "artificial". The feeding frenzy, I think, happened as people repeatedly were unable to get reservations. Unless you claim to be booked when you are not, I see no way for a restaurateur to significantly affect that. I can imagine a restaurant in New York might want to do just that, taking a page from nighspots, but the economics are different in Philadelphia. I doubt any new restaurants here can afford to reject anybody they can conceivably extract a credit card from.

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Also, I don't think they required you to make the reservation a month ahead of time. For that matter, neither does Per Se.

They specifically said that to me and lots of people I know on the phone and it was public knowledge. It doesnt offend me at all, I am just telling you that was a fact not a guess.

which sort of begs the question of why you'd call that "artificial".

Artificial as in the place is booked 30 days ahead sometime after 29days of that practice because the practice forces people to conform to the schedule. The fact that the place is packed on weeknights as you state is also a result of that. you can fill almost any restaurant on friday and saturday night, the point is to filter people into weeknights. I am not making this up, its a widespread practice.

The feeding frenzy, I think, happened as people repeatedly were unable to get reservations. Unless you claim to be booked when you are not, I see no way for a restaurateur to significantly affect that. I can imagine a restaurant in New York might want to do just that, taking a page from nighspots, but the economics are different in Philadelphia. I doubt any new restaurants here can afford to reject anybody they can conceivably extract a credit card from.

You are completely missing the point, they arent rejecting anybody.

Its simple math statistical analysis.

It has nothing to do with the economics of philly.

The perception of desireability is universally effective regardless of zip code.

Of course Django was desirable, it would be very naive to ignore the psychology of reservations.

Dude I have worked in 4 restaurants where we had meetings about it.

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Katie, I've always liked reading your posts and respected your opinion (even asked you for recommendations in Cape May a year or so ago) so here's what I'm wondering: why are you celebrating LaBan's review of Amada over on the Jersey board if you've got such a low opinion of him?

edited for spelling.

Edited by dbrociner (log)
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Katie, I've always liked reading your posts and respected your opinion (even asked you for recommendations in Cape May a year or so ago) so here's what I'm wondering: why are you celebrating LaBan's review of Amada over on the Jersey board if you've got such a low opinion of him?

edited for spelling.

I don't have a low opinion of him. I've never once said that. I respect his expertise and almost always agree with him. I think what he did with Django initially was overinflate their rating to an undeserved four bells because he was fond of the owners and because it was some sort of "symbolic" commentary on the BYOB culture in Philly. I said that when the rating first came out in January 2004 and I stand by it. I think what he's done here is punitive toward the new management, undeserved and a direct result of his own overinflated initial rating under the old management. I stand by that as well.

Please reread my initial post. I think I've laid out my case pretty clearly regarding the overinflated initial rating, the slipping of quality under the old ownership prior to the sale and the undeserved backlash with the public I think this will have on the new management. I said I haven't seen any reports that back up the two bell demotion either here or anywhere else. And I looked hard for them before I wrote that, believe me. I did say I've seen reports both here and elsewhere regarding Pasion slipping and I didn't say I disagreed with that. And I used to work there and have the utmost respect for the chef and general manager there, who remain high on my list of favorite ex-bosses.

All I'm saying is that Mr. Laban seems to be rather singular in his opinion that the former owners of Django walked on water and that the service and food there was worthy of the coveted and rare four bell rating. I disagreed with him then, and I still do. The fact his favorite BYO has been sold seems to be somehow reflecting poorly on the new ownership that's only had the place for four short months. As Vadouvan pointed out, it would take a pretty colossal bit of poor management and precipitous dip in quality for a place to lose two bells in one fell swoop, and so quickly at that. We know the new management to be professional and we've tried the chef's food in another venue. It was, in my opinion, as least as good as anything I ever ate at Django under the former regime. It was at least as good as many other three bell establishments whose ratings I am in complete agreement about with Mr. Laban.

You've completely misinterpreted what I'm saying. This is a very specific rating and demotion of one very specific restaurant that I'm disagreeing with.

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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This is nuts. I've been to Django 6 times in the last 3 years. 5 under Aimee etc, once since Greg took over. My 1st time and my last time were by far the best. IMO, the cooking at Django had been slipping (and I said so here); the 5th time I went even the cheese plate had gone sub-par. On my 6th visit, Greg wasn't there, I got no special treatment, and went with 3 other foodies who eat nationwide regularly. We all agreed the food was excellent.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Also, I don't think they required you to make the reservation a month ahead of time. For that matter, neither does Per Se.

They specifically said that to me and lots of people I know on the phone and it was public knowledge. It doesnt offend me at all, I am just telling you that was a fact not a guess.

which sort of begs the question of why you'd call that "artificial".

Artificial as in the place is booked 30 days ahead sometime after 29days of that practice because the practice forces people to conform to the schedule. The fact that the place is packed on weeknights as you state is also a result of that. you can fill almost any restaurant on friday and saturday night, the point is to filter people into weeknights. I am not making this up, its a widespread practice.

The feeding frenzy, I think, happened as people repeatedly were unable to get reservations. Unless you claim to be booked when you are not, I see no way for a restaurateur to significantly affect that. I can imagine a restaurant in New York might want to do just that, taking a page from nighspots, but the economics are different in Philadelphia. I doubt any new restaurants here can afford to reject anybody they can conceivably extract a credit card from.

You are completely missing the point, they arent rejecting anybody.

Its simple math statistical analysis.

It has nothing to do with the economics of philly.

The perception of desireability is universally effective regardless of zip code.

Of course Django was desirable, it would be very naive to ignore the psychology of reservations.

Dude I have worked in 4 restaurants where we had meetings about it.

1) I several times made reservations at Django with well less than 30 days lead time. I don't know what you were told, but the thirty day "requirement" is clearly not the case. Acquaintances of mine have done the same at Per Se, so idem there.

2) I'm curious as to how exactly this practice would work. If you claim to be booked thirty days in advance, and if someone calls you past that time, how do you "shift" that reservation? And if you do, but the total number of covers is below your capacity, how does your dining room stay full?

Not, in the end, that that would make a bit of difference: without the demand being there in the first place, you wouldn't get the number of calls to allow you do do anything like this in any case. The demand must still be generated either by press or word of mouth. And since Django was thoroughly booked well in advance of LaBan's inital review I'd assume mostly the latter. I can well imagine that in the later stages of the previous ownership habit had as much as anything to do with that demand, since by all accounts - and my experience - the place had slipped quite a bit. But hanky-panky in reservation-taking strikes me as a pretty improbable explanation.

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