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Based on Daddy-A's comments - I want to continue the discussion here.

canucklehead, I strongly disagree with your perspective. I think quality independant restaurants need criticism because that will help them improve and get above that bunch of lousy, mediocre places that get away serving crap. Vancouver needs more places that associate good fresh food with affordability and genuineness.

For anyone who cares about their food and who cares to see Vancouver kick some real ass, criticism and discriminatory customers are crucial.

It doesnt cost much to go see the manager or the chef at the end of a meal and share your comments. The more people do that, the more improvement we'll see.

We can all have a good time, and have a perfect meal!...

I dream of good bistros with their own potagers and their small producers' smart & affordable wine list. Good artisan bakeries, butchers selling local organic meat and poultry, proper fish shops, and more importantly, a year-round farmers' market with some sexy produce that call your name when you walk by. I dream that good food in Van will cease to be a treat (or involve a marathon shopping across the city), and become a very part of our daily lives.

Eddy

Good to see you so active in the forums as it is always interesting have a professional’s voice in here.

I am one who holds back at times because of etiquette. I feel like people in the profession – especially those BOH really work their asses off. Both physically and mentally. So it is hard for an amateur like me to really pull out the knives at times. Even though I have shelled out big bucks (and I mean hundreds of dollars) for a so-so experience.

It is easier for me to go after the FOH, where the errors can be more glaring and you can see it when it is a result of laziness, sloppiness, or just plan arrogance.

But you bring up a good point in that without feedback – it is very difficult for improvement to happen. And you have pointed out that there is the sensible thing to do which is speak to the manager at the end of the meal. I didn’t have a sense of how serious these complaints are taken – but I appears that they are taken seriously.

My point was that just because the forum does not take a harder stance, does not mean that eaters here are not informed. There are a number restaurants in Vancouver that are infuriating – so I pick ones that seem to do things well and try to nurture them through continued support and positive comments. But I will be honest with you – there are a very small number of restaurants in the city that I would feel confident that you could have three great courses.

You are right that the ethnic food here is very good. Especially Chinese and Japanese – you’ll notice that I have been posting most heavily with my Chinese posts lately. I want to take some of the mystique and intimidation out of going to a good Chinese restaurant by posting pictures of the food when I go out. I hope that some people find it interesting or at least useful (and not too presumptuous).

Your vision of what the food scene could be like in Vancouver is what I would desperately want it to be. I lived in SF for a number of years and I miss the food scene down there (except for Asian food – it is absolute crap in SF). In a one block stretch in the Mission District of SF – you have Tartin Bakery right beside Delfina Restaurant and just down the street from a stunning small organic grocery store. Each of these places are packed with people enjoying great local produce, artisan bread, and unfussy cooking that is some of the best I have had – period. It is possible for that to happen in Vancouver – we have the talent, the raw material, and the consumer, why it doesn’t gel together, I am not sure.

How we get there requires, I think, both carrot and stick. I just like giving out carrots more. :wink:

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Back when my Bride and I moved here to Vancouver almost three years ago now, one of the top 3 reasons was the food scene. Since moving here, on average we eat out 3 - 4 times per week (dinner mostly). So out of 500 to 600 restaurants we have dined in, the times we find a place that we actually go back is pretty small, maybe 5% of them. 95% are in that "meh" category that for us defines: "I'm glad we went to try something new but It wasn't that great that we would be back". But those 5% that we think are outstanding get rare mentions on this board every once in awhile by me or a few others.

Is this supposed to mean that others don't get out as much and may not have had the chance to try them? Maybe. More than likely it is that we just have different tastes than the true "Gourmet". We have eaten at almost all the city's purported "Top" restaurants and it is a rare occasion that I think the food quality and service warrant in value even half of what I end up paying.

But with high prices comes perceived value and quality that many people are drawn to, which is fine if that's what they want.

In judging my dining experience in a restaurant, if I have to think about the service, the food, the setting, etc., it is distracting from my overall enjoyment. The best meals I've had have been sharing a meal with people I enjoy that everything just happens: great food, great service, relaxing atmosphere, no stress. When this doesn't happen I don't feel the need to immediately run to the manager, but I do give the opinion with my $$$ by not returning. If the waiter or manager comes up to ask, I'll be honest about my experience. If they choose to adjust something in the case of something gone wrong, great. If not, that's fine too.

Detailed descriptions in restaurant reviews here in eG really don't do much for me. As everyone’s tastes are different, what someone may describe so eloquently, in my reality is crap. So would more detail really help the "quality" of reviews here? No, I don't think so. Let people write what they want about a place, not be subjected to a form questionnaire that needs to be filled out.

As for Foodie Girls review of Lumiere, the thing that really hit home with me when I read it was the similar experience we had at Feenie's. Not the specific description, and the further more detailed description of her Foie Gras Melting in the soup.

Peoples experience vary all the time in all different situations. It drives me nuts though when people are criticized for stating their opinion on this board. :wacko:

Instead of criticizing the person giving their review of their experience, why not just chime in with your own experiences with the place if you’ve encountered something different? Now that to me is a much more valid endeavour than half-wit sarcasm about another poster talking about their meal.

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I read your post on the other thread canucklehead. I too am guilty of not pulling out the knives, which is why I never post here. I am usually not in agreement with the rave reviews on this board, and I don't feel it's my place (generally) to tell people that their taste is "wrong" or something, because I don't believe that. Lately I've been feeling saucy though...and if I'm going to say anything, it's gonna be sharp! I think there are standards that can be defended, without denying that some people might enjoy something that doesn't live up to mine. That doesn't make you a lesser person, in fact it probably makes you a greater one. But this is a forum for the discussion of food, and discussion leads to criticism, and criticism is in pursuit of the best, for better or worse.

Years ago I enjoyed a wider variety of restaurants. Now I find that as my taste has improved (at least, become more discriminating in the most basic sense), I have a harder time. Even my grandmother's food isn't as good (how sad is that? maybe she's just getting old...) Physiologically (if you want details...), we are always increasing the complexity we can discriminate. I think there's a loose ceiling to one's perceptual complexity and anything there or above is going to taste relatively great. As the ceiling rises...as you enjoy more food...you end up enjoying less and less of what you used to adore, and there become finer gradations between. Not hard and fast, but I think it's generally true. Bourdieu pointed out the perversity: the better taste one claims to have, the more one claims to appreciate food, the less one will accept on one's plate! These sorts of monsters can be satisfied, of course. Whether they are satisfied by an objective "best" or just something that fits their conditioning and appears "best" is up in the air...but I think there are claims that can be made for more universal types of excellence.

So I don't mean to imply that people are not noticing faults or that they are too clueless or tasteless. Some people may not have been refining their taste as much, and enjoy (lucky them). Then there are those who see the good in everything instead of the bad (please trade places with me). A lot of people I think care more about the restaurant experience and the attendant status than they do about gastronomy, although they might not know it. In other cases (as nwyles mentioned) they have personal or industry reasons for not saying things. This is the case for most pro reviewers in this city, IMO. There are frequently continued and unanimous praises for restaurants which I have been to, a few times sometimes (because I think I _must_ be wrong), and have become convinced are abyssmal. Whether they truly like these places, or are just towing the line, I don't know, but either way I find it mystifying.

Most importantly, however, I sense a lot of community in the industry here, which is good, but there tends to be a lot of mutual support which leads to thinking things are better than they are. Others have made similar comments about BC wine, for instance. This is true of anywhere, of course. But when I hear people saying that Vancouver is the best food city in Canada (or North America) I am always amazed. I think there is a lot more boosterism than quality. So I disagree on carrots instead of stick. There are more than enough carrots, there is a ton of cash here, and lots of reviewers pumping out the good reviews for all and sundry. Plently of tourists to take up the slack. The responses from the industry you see here I think show this: why didn't you tell me privately? Why didn't you protect my rep? I see this as a vague entitlement (although I also appreciate it's hard to succeed, and marketing is king). But someone who really cares about quality (and there are some of those here too) will respond appropriately and attempt to appreciate the criticism, not shut it down. If you really believe in what you are doing, you know it's great, and that's enough (almost). Plus, the great places deserve to be placed above the horde, and that means someone's gotta burn.

PaoPao, your experience is almost identical to mine. We moved about 2.5 years ago, and the food was a big consideration. Unfortunately I went based on eGullet and pro reviews (hence some of my bitter tone). On scouting trips we ate at the best places you all (different people now) recommended. We cross-referenced reviews and found the places almost everyone lauded. We found all of them not very great, and very pricey to boot, but with only one visit each..."surely it must be a coincidence." Well, now that we're here and eating out daily or more, yeah: hardly anywhere gets a repeat I'm sorry to say; actually most do, with great regret afterwards. And even some of the ones that do get repeats do because it's as good as it gets.

Lately we're starting to enjoy the food here a lot more, just the last 6 months or so. But considering that when we go to other cities and dine we are usually much more satisfied, we figure that our new enjoyment is due to an insidious lowering of standards we must fight against. So I blame none of you for your enjoyment!

I don't have a solution either but I do think more criticism would be good. Perhaps the subjectivity is a problem but I find I can read between the lines and get a sense of how discriminating someone is and make my own meta-review, so I appreciate moderate detail, at least in terms of what someone thought/experienced, more than what the food was.

Most crucially, I think this should be an environment that supports criticism instead of trying to insinuate against it, which is very definitely what happens. I am of course the guiltiest, because I've been lurking for a long time and saying nothing, and now I am the one stirring the pot. Sorry for the length (if you even got this far!).

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To Complain or not to Complain

I'm so glad that we're discussing the issue of criticism, because I find it so fascinating. I think the main reason we're all on eGullet, what brings us here is our mutual love of food, we all want to have great eating experiences. Speaking for myself, I'm also trying to become a more articulate speaker and writer regarding the challenges of describing and discussing the highly subjective experience of eating food. When someone paints a clear picture of their experience as seen through their eyes, it entertains me and sometimes gives me clues as to where and what I will and won't try for myself. (For instance, the picture I form in my mind of fois gras melting into soup-not pretty)

As soon as I take a bite of food and sense something's gone wrong I stop and call the waiter. I'm confident enough now to say this doesn't taste right and then we will discuss what may be wrong and how it can be addressed. I've sent back moldy beets (at the Naam), burnt hamburgers, and over-salted food. If you don't have the guts to say "this looks or tastes disgusting, don't just come crying to eGullet about it!!! The higher the cost of the food, the more confident you should be. I've had about four cases of food poisoning in the past from food that didn't taste quite right and so have learned my lessons the hard way. I've also had experiences at fancy restaurants where a waiter has really tried to mock me for what I criticized-at that Italian resto in Victoria with a courtyard a waiter tried to tell me that a giant ball of under-cooked gnocchi was "the way it was done here". Well, I will NEVER darken their door again!

That said, eGullet is a literate public forum, not just the bathroom wall. You have to make important decisions about how to express your pleasure/displeasure. This is a community with people taking on different roles and personalities in their posts. I think you should also learn to read between the lines of some reviews-it's what people don't talk about sometimes that I make note of, ie when a writer spends almost the whole review going on about the decor, you gotta wonder about why they're avoiding discussing the food! There are many things that don't get posted on eGullet, but get discussed on a more private level.

I read eGullet for entertainment and information. Sometimes there's a bit of shadenfreude entertainment value when things go wrong, but people who work on restaurants are usually just as passionate about food as you are, and have a lot invested in their products. They want you to have a good experience, so for god sakes tell them when things are going wrong! Then you can post it here and we can all learn from the experience.

I'm loving the discussions on Chinese food, and yes, photos really help in this educational process. Keep them coming!!!!!

Zuke

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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Peoples experience vary all the time in all different situations.  It drives me nuts though when people are criticized for stating their opinion on this board.  :wacko:

Well since I contributed to this debate initially I should add my $0.02 worth. I agree with you entirely that a forum such as this is all about people being free to be critical of the meals they have. However anyone who follows this forum will also realize that very occasionally such critical reviews are seriously overstated or uninformed or malicious or just plain boring.

My only criticsm of Foodie girls review was the opening line "I am still trying to get the taste out of my mouth after a dinner at Lumiere" - or words to that effect. I thought that was probably a gross overstatement - and nothing I have since read in that thread leads me to think otherwise.

So the foi gras in soup was not a combination of textures she enjoyed. So the salmon wasn't quite as flavourful as she had hoped. All valid points - but none which, in my view, justify her opening salvo.

Others have made this point, but a forum of this sort is about exchanging information. The utility of a post - I find - tends to increase in direct proportion to the information it contains. And of course by information I don't mean information of the "I liked the taste of that hamburger" kind of information.

So to me, its not really about whether we are too nice or not nice enough in this forum - but rather how meaningful the information is. By all means be critical. But back this up with information. (Remember the Irish Heather thread?)

And if it must be hyperbole - then I suggest a quick course in "Hyperbole as a Literary Device" (Hyperbole 101). I believe Mr. Talent teaches this to great effect.

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Hi Pao Pao,

I believe that there is a logical reason why certain societies have considered humanely(passion & compassion amongst other criteria) the fundamental import of food & dining. Those people who can explain through criticism & understanding but also love of their place(as that is what cuisine IS)may have subjective tastes but share a commonality of purpose. I believe it really helps to explain what depth of understanding there really is for food in other societies, & perhaps there are ways of improving the system around us, but in fact for the improvement of communities around us. I think i hold a romantic notion of a time that has passed, but i would for one support any movement in this direction.

I dont believe that the idea of using set criteria when evaluating a dining experience was being promoted as mandatory, again i would like to see how other people judge the food that they consume, fascinated actually :wink:

Soap Operas are also shared across many societies(not sure that a correlation exists here:Food/soaps!) I think the most important thing is try to be honest but i guess that etiquette can get in the way(aswell as trying to make money!) So Pao Pao, i think i'm with you on allowing people to write what they want, i just want what they want to be what i want........fair enough no?

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Are we too soft? Good thread.

Here's my take:

Sure we're generally known to be quite passive in print and on-line media here in town, but I certainly don't think its harmful. I don't see the benefit in micro-critiquing or downright trashing a place on these boards as being productive, if the goal is to 'help' the restaurant improve. Ideally if you approach the manager or owner personally, a problem will be rectified and your issue will have been resolved through personal contact, therefore accomplishing your goal.

I see this board as one for enthusiasts of food. Ideally we share things that we enjoy and would like others to take part in. I am 10 times more likely to go to a place because it's spoken well of around here, way more than I would avoid a place because it's getting trashed. Particularly if the sharks and jackals are circling.

Also, if harsh critics are accountable, then I have no beef. It's difficult, however, to put stock in the opinion of someone who won't even tell us their name.

Some people are spiteful by nature, and it's a good thing to always keep that in mind.

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Hi Guys;

Some comments from the peanut gallery, Generally speaking I find that people in Vancouver are very knowledgeable and very passionate about food. Further I think that we have knowledgeable people writing abour food, as an owner I read what is said about other restaurants and take it seriously. I think this website is very good in terms of getting a pulse of the vancouver restaurant scene.

However, as a person who has been in and around food all my life what I find most interesting about the vancouver food scene is the savageness with which people will anonymously carve a restaurant. I also find it interesting that in this city you really are as good as your last meal. How many people on this site have made the comment I won't eat there anymore, this is very much a city that can serve you a hundred great meals and if the last one was bad the ever present I won't go back pops up. Now I'm not saying everyone does this, but it happens more here than any other place I've seen. As for our restaurants I think , we can hold our own against any city in the world. I also think that vancouver is an incubator for new ideas. We have great talent in the kitchens throughout this city, in all culinary styles.

As for the people that have moved here from abroad (myself being one) my thoughts are this. When we were kids, the summers were longer, the lemonade sweeter, and we could do anything. The reality is, that the further away from our past that we get, the better it seems. Go to your favourite place from your youth I guarantee your viewpoint of it will be different.

As for comments directed to the owners of the restaurant, I can guarantee this, if someone has a bad experience in their establishment, the owner wants to know, my requests are as follows, when you do make the comments try to be constructive and try to understand the difference between what is philosophy of the restaurant and what is basic foodservice, because sometimes they don't mesh (ie don't complain about the lack of entree options at a steakhouse). Also make sure that after you have made the comments give the place another try, see if they can pick up their boots, don't complain and pull a won't go back

Gerald Tritt,

Co-Owner

Vera's Burger Shack

My Webpage

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I agree that we should be respectful when we're discussing a restaurant, and I don't like feeding frenzies either.

However, I also think it's OK to say that the first course was cold, or the waiter took too long to bring the cheque at the end of the meal (a pet peeve of mine - I hate waiting to pay), or that a particular dish didn't work and why.

I think it's best to tell the management about problems right at the time, but that's not always possible (and some people are afraid of confrontation).

So, I would say to restaurant owners, that they should troll these threads and take the feedback as part of how they learn to improve, weighing it against print reviews and customer feedback in the restaurant itself.

I probably err on the side of just not mentioning bad restaurants at all (Thumper's mother taught me).

But now I feel emboldened. So to Earl's - please tell your servers not to tell customers what beets will do to your digestive system...

I kid you not

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Forgive me; I don't live in Vancouver. However, I have relatives there so I follow the food scene very closely. It dismays me that consumers may feel they have no right to criticize a restaurant because that means you're basically choosing to side with the restaurant over the diner. Does a family who is treating themselves out to a nice dinner really deserve less respect than the restaurant owner?

"Nice" reviews are also damaging in the long-term--they create complacency in a restaurant and never allow it to improve. That could mean it will find itself without any business while the very people who could have helped the restaurant improve before it was too late basically have aided in its doom--all in the guise of being polite.

I understand how hard it is to criticize someone you "know" on the Internet; I wrestle with this all the time in forums of all sorts. It's really hard to be critical of someone in real life when you have an amiable online relationship. However, I think people do both consumers and restaurants a disservice when they pull their punches. If one is uncomfortable with a bad review, just stick to the facts. Personally, I have no problem with strident language in a review, but you can also say, "the soup was cold, it took me five tries to flag down the waiter, and the dessert portion was much smaller than I expected" and not feel you're saying anything close to "I wouldn't walk into that restaurant again even to escape from the hounds of hell."

Edited by Hest88 (log)
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I don't want you to feel picked on Gerald (or Sean, or anyone), because I really respect the way you've handled the feedback on your establishments as well as your opinions. You are a top-notch guy. But there are a couple things I have to address.

First, in regards to the lemonade sweeter, the summers longer: I found the last city I lived in somewhat lacking, too. Almost immediately we wished we'd stayed put (actually, we wished we'd moved to Montreal inside, but I digress)! So I don't think that is the whole story. Since we'd had the grass is greener for Vancouver for a long time beforehand, you'd expect we would've liked what we found, no? Some of you may be thinking at this point that I could never be satisfied, but I can assure you, I am frequently overjoyed. Just not lately.

I find it interesting that the people who are most critical appear to be new arrivals, who picked the city for its food rep nonetheless. I think this might indicate in fact the opposite of what you suggest. Maybe you're used to the place? It's certainly happening to me. Plus, as I said, I take the time to calibrate my palate through travel and tasting in other places. Maybe it's because it's new and fresh and exotic that I find these places better, but the magnitude of difference is such that I am quite certain that isn't the case.

Sean makes a good point though.. Maybe the reason I'm starting to come around is because I'm starting to like and enjoy the region, and care about it, and maybe it's just a matter of getting the local vibe. However, again, the magnitude of difference is such that I don't think that's the whole story. And I think care can sometimes lead you to turn a blind eye and not even know you're doing it. Maybe that's a good thing though? Maybe I'm one of the spiteful ones.

I agree with you on the savaging. People should try to be open-minded. Maybe there's no point in complaining. But I've tried that for the last 2.5 and nothing has improved! So maybe it's not the best strategy. Kurtis, yes, there is a lot of bogus criticism on here. But as for anonymity: if you don't have a "name" (mean: a name that people will know), who cares anyway? If you have nothing to lose the name means nothing. My name is Dylan Gordon. Do you feel better now? The anonymous-reviewer argument is a total straw-man IMO. The only reason you want the name is accountability. Accountability means you know the person and have some juice to lean them in your direction with. So as far as I'm concerned a big name makes the review less likely to be accurate because there's more to lose. It has a levelling effect, at the best. Big names have to keep their mouths shut to keep their public happy. At least then you know that a bad review is likely to reflect very, very bad indeed (not that you'll ever see one). But a good review is closer to meaningless.

I firmly believe that the quality in this city is not on par with reputation, in general. There are expections. But this leads into my final point. You have all suggested that feedback will be taken and improvements made. I agree. But I am not talking about cut-and-dried horrible food here. I'm talking about food that is pretty good but not great. If a hypothetical community wasn't all that sophisticated in the first place...how far could the improvement go? I do not want to claim that all the chefs in Vancouver are only half-chefs, because that would be ludicrous. There are a lot of people who work hard and have great results, and I respect all the people who are trying to get to that point too, even if they aren't there yet. But it pisses me off when they gloat about how great they are when...they're not! Humble pie, my friends. I think there is a huge amount of mediocrity that feeds upon itself, and feedback is not going to help. If you can't do it, you can't do it, that's all there is to it. You can't strive for what you claim to be and say that's enough: change your claims! It really pains me to say this: there are a lot of places here that just can't do it, at least not as well as they seem to think they can, and yet have the luxury of thinking they're among the best. I don't think that's fair to anyone on either side of the table, and goes a long way to explaining some of the complaints.

Anytime I'm being a sadsack and someone calls me on it, it makes me angry. I don't take criticism well, as much as I love to dish it out. But then I get dedicated to improvement, when I realize they're right. Much moreso than when someone's nice. And much moreso when my career and self-concept are on the line. Admittedly this isn't true for everyone, but people don't change because of lillies and puppies. They change because the hell-hole is staring them in the face and they're gonna fry; or because someone who they really care about and want to impress is making demands. Neither of these are present here to the degree required, IMO. So it's my opinion that there needs to be some more savaging; but real, justified, and detailed savaging, so that no one can escape with vague platitudes. A lot of places suck. Deal with it people! Get angry, and then get even. Pump it out so good that we couldn't even dream of being spiteful. That's the way to do it.

Edited by dillybravo (log)
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Hi Dylan,

Great points. For some reason, knowing your name does kinda help. It's irrelevant to me if I actually know (of) the person, but I do feel that people are more likely to be candid if their name is out there. I have chosen a public medium-high-profile occupation that puts me out there to the mercy of those that feel the need to comment on anything I do during my work day, here on a public domain. If people are callin' me out, I'd like to know who's saying it.

People who are anonymous on discussion boards have no personal rep to tarnish (if only their good name), and therefore have nothing to lose. In many aspects of life, those with nothing to lose can be the most dangerous.

And Dylan is a super cool name. Better than my dumb-ass name that gets spelled wrong 90% of the time.

:wink:

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Unfortunately, I have to leave the restaurant critiques (the negative ones) to other posters from Van and the island because there are TOO MANY LURKERS IN THE VICTORIA RESTAURANT INDUSTRY.

Negative stuff that I have written in the past has come back to haunt me, and I can't stand the flack. Perhaps if my handle was binky or kitty, things would be different.

And then again, restaurant experiences are so individual on the whole. There is a restaurant that everyone loves here in Victoria and both times I've eaten there it was abyssmal. I will never speak its name. My lips are sealed.

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Hi Dylan;

Great points all, however my only comment to that would be that the savagery needs to be met with constructive comments. If the owner feels picked on then he/she needs to either educate on concept philosophy or tweak the concept and shift gears. The anonymity issue is more to do with objectivity rather than accountability. We all have people that have an axe to grind with us, being in a public domain such as the restaurant industry gives those people a big surface to grind it. As for reviewers, Any reviewer worth their salt will sway in very little movements, believe me if a restaurant misses the mark, the reviewer will let you know. Don't forget, they have credibility to protect, if they are swayed because of personal issues and let a dog off the hook then eventually they will get the hook.

Gerald Tritt,

Co-Owner

Vera's Burger Shack

My Webpage

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I firmly believe that the quality in this city is not on par with reputation, in general. There are expections. But this leads into my final point. You have all suggested that feedback will be taken and improvements made. I agree. But I am not talking about cut-and-dried horrible food here. I'm talking about food that is pretty good but not great. If a hypothetical community wasn't all that sophisticated in the first place...how far could the improvement go? I do not want to claim that all the chefs in Vancouver are only half-chefs, because that would be ludicrous. There are a lot of people who work hard and have great results, and I respect all the people who are trying to get to that point too, even if they aren't there yet. But it pisses me off when they gloat about how great they are when...they're not! Humble pie, my friends. I think there is a huge amount of mediocrity that feeds upon itself, and feedback is not going to help. If you can't do it, you can't do it, that's all there is to it. You can't strive for what you claim to be and say that's enough: change your claims! It really pains me to say this: there are a lot of places here that just can't do it, at least not as well as they seem to think they can, and yet have the luxury of thinking they're among the best.

You seem to be suggesting that Vancouver is full of unsophisticated and mediocre chefs and establishments and that feedback will not help their delusions of grandeur. However, later in the post you go on to say that we SHOULD provide feedback. I'm a little confused.

Also, earlier on this thread you said you "never post here." I for one would rather that you DO post here and give detailed feedback on specific restaurants in the appropriate threads. Then, others can join in and describe their experiences. And the owners, chefs, and customers who read and post here can sort through conflicting reviews and come to their own conclusions.

I am interested in hearing your take on Vancouver restaurants (I don't mean in this thread as it is a more general discussion). So please start posting!

Edited by Brenda (log)
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I agree with you all. Savagery is probably the wrong word. But a little bite can't hurt if, yes, it's constructive. And Kurtis...if there's nothing to lose, there's plenty of danger, I agree. But if there's nothing to lose, there's also the potential for radical truth that those who have something to lose (like shelora here) will clam up about.

Brenda, I think I specifically said that I was not claiming Vancouver is full of only mediocre chefs. Yes, I think that is mostly the case. I agree with PaoPao's numbers. Less than 5%, probably less than 1% of meals have lived up to their hype. But there are exceptions to be found of course. Now that I know you are all not as totally averse to criticism as it appeared to me perhaps I will let the guns out once in a while. We've stopped eating out as much though so it may be few and far between, and of course I don't want to post two reviews of crappy restaurants a day? No one wants to read that!

I say feedback will not help in this climate because the kind of feedback being suggested seems to be of the "soft" kind. And that isn't going to help any delusions, it's going ot lead to little improvements, and little improvements aren't going to result in the quality that is claimed. This was too cold, this not quite flavourful enough. That's not the issue, to me. Most of the technical stuff is fine, there's just no bang! No wow. Compare $300 spent here (or even $20 if you prefer, although on the low end I think things are not nearly as bad; I should've mentioned that) to $300 in Montreal. Or better yet $300 almost anywhere in Europe. I save my money now for those restaurants.

Thus, I think the problems are more systemic. There needs to be not feedback but critique, strong critique. Some of the wind needs to come out of the sails before people are forced to take a good, hard look at themselves and really ask if they measure up (and, from my perspective, find that they don't and fix it). And not everyone is going to be the best artist, that's the sad truth. If the market will bear it, as it does now, things will stay the same.

Finally, my method (bile) does of course has to be balanced with effusive and truthful praise and critique from people who love the establishments too. I don't mean to imply it all needs to be war, kindness can help too. But it needs to be kindness with much bigger teeth.

Edit: Just to clarify on the $300 and the high-end...I'm not talking about Lumiere or West here. I've been wowed by both of these chefs and I think they have the skills. Maybe not to match up to some of the best anywhere, like some people would like to have it, but definitely very good. Some of their dishes are top echelon. But even at these places I have had some meals that were far worse than they should've been, and as you move on down the list of top restaurants here, the cliff gets pretty steep, and I've thrown a lot of money off of it.

Edited by dillybravo (log)
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Thanks dillybravo. Bring on the critiques. I'm off to London, Paris, and Provence in a few weeks and am also saving my pennies for meals there.

From my last visit, I would say London is still the best food city I've been to (how times have changed from Brown Windsor soup and beans on toast!). They also have some very sharp (and funny) restaurant critics (A.A. Gill anyone?), so I take your point about good honest criticism.

But I still think Vancouver is better overall than you say it is. However, we can agree to disagree for now and discuss specific restaurants in other threads.

Kindness with teeth - I like that

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If the owner feels picked on then he/she needs to either educate on concept philosophy or tweak the concept and shift gears

Although a noble thought , it is rare indeed that a restaurant owner deals with complaints with such stability!

The other philosophy that always makes me laugh is to encourage diners to take the manager or owner aside and whisper their complaints.

Right. After some alcohol, you are sure to be articulate and believed!

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I say feedback will not help in this climate because the kind of feedback being suggested seems to be of the "soft" kind. And that isn't going to help any delusions, it's going ot lead to little improvements, and little improvements aren't going to result in the quality that is claimed.

I don't mean to imply it all needs to be war, kindness can help too. But it needs to be kindness with much bigger teeth.

Dylan

You have raised some very good points and alot of things to think about.. I think that we are all actually very close to being on the same page.

I agree that there are times when there needs to more rigor and criticisms on this forum. But if we are going to raise the bar on the level of criticism discussed here - then the first place to start is on our own (and I mean that generally) posts. Avoiding the personal slags and backing up comments with clear observations is, of course key. Being critical and being credible in your posts are not the same things.

There is a lot of passion, fun, and wit in this forum and I enjoy all of it (especially when there are flare ups). Anything that moves things forward, improves the dialogue and challenges the group think is always good.

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This is a fun one, no?

Just as much as there are people who are unreasonably high-maintenance, know-it-all and difficult, there are those who (un-named) will write glowing reviews for the price of a mere dozen cosmos.

There is nothing more frustrating than reading a review that says "this dish just screamed out, yummy", or "if it doesn't win best new restaurant I'll eat my panties."

There are people of craft here who demand (crave) the type of hyper-critical analysis of their work, call it validation, self deprecation, whatever, but we need to be judged by a jury of our peers.

(If this be you, then let me get you a cosmo or twelve.)

There has been a few things left out of this discussion, though. . .

We all accept that as the expectation of the guests increase, so must the execution of the host. Thus, the $300. dinner will be difficult to impress, but may manage to meet expectations. I just had a meal at Bouchon (Thomas Keller) in Napa and was totally disappointed, but mostly because it was a Keller venture and the food was . .. well. .. fine. Otherwise, had it been a restaurant with no hype and I hadn't paid $80. for the massive coffee table cookbook, I would have loved it.

I digress. My point is as follows.

The host sells not only the execution of food and drink, and much more than the congeniality and wit of a host, and hopefully more pride than a subservient lacky bent to one's every whim.

The host is here to sell you a slice of life. Forgive me for waxing poetic, but we sell good times, memories, socializing, the hope of getting laid, the chance to rekindle a spark, the chance to try something new, the comfort of tasting something familiar, the ear of someone who understands and the understanding of a friend who's seen the best and the worst of everyone, especially ourselves.

Come judge us on the timeliness of dishes, the sourcing of ingredients and efficiency of our uniform's hemlines. Please analyze and report on how table four made you feel, was there a draft from the door that was chilly, was the draft on tap not chilly enough? We agonize day and night, question ourselves and lie awake with self doubt gnawing at us. Ever have that panic when your on vacation and you think you left the stove on? That's me most every night.

The bottom line is, we need to know. I may agree, or disagree, but this life isn't about being right or wrong, knowledgeable or ignorant. If you say my execution is shoddy, tell me what it will take to fix it. I've charged you for the opportunity to be served, now expect it.

But. . . .

Remember why you're here. That woman accross the table, the best friend, the boyfriend, the girls, that girl at the end of the bar. . . . They're all here for you, and vice versa. The people are why we do this, not the freaking gooseliver. Enjoy your meal, revel in the details, but never let it get in the way of your good time, the anniversary, the special occasion, the first date, (the last date). You've spent the money, get your value.

It's funny how every staff interview I do, the most consistent question I'm asked is, " what are the people like who come in? " It's what matters most to us, and when we forget that, f*ck the foie, I'm going home.

Another thing, this city kicks ass, it ain't a race, and as far as I'm concerned as long as the people, the fantastic fresh ingredients, and brilliant mother nature is here, I ain't leaving. I may even open a decent restaurant one of these days.

Owner

Winebar @ Fiction

Lucy Mae Brown

Century - modern latin -

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Being, admittedly, an unreasonable know-it-all, I just have to respond once more.

When you charge the kind of money some places here do, and flout how great your food city is to all and sundry, you tend to attract people like us. Some of us might even decide to move here (proof you truly can't know it all).

There are many restaurants in the world, likely run by these sorts of hyper-critical know-it-all assholes, which pride themselves on satisfying other hyper-critical people and do it. Consistently. At the same or lower price point as the restaurants here that don't, some of them in much more expensive locales with much higher staff and food costs. They deserve to be acclaimed and not be stuck in the same company as those who are still attempting whilst claiming success. Otherwise they'd probably give it up too.

I admit that judgement by peer jury may be preferable...but unless consumers are educated and demanding, what do you care if a few chefs in the know have complaints? As I said, a few people making suggestions isn't going to raise the bar. Fine, a lot of you don't think things are all that bad here. But take a look at the churros thread. Fine, maybe I'm too critical. But to some of us, those aren't good churros! And many people are perfectly fine with that, to the point that I get told to f* off about it. Asked why things have to be that good. Slighted for over-analyzing the food on a site that claims to want to discuss. Well, fine. Accept mediocrity then. Eat your shitty churros and have a good time; I honestly envy you, because I hardly enjoy anything anymore, and it sucks. But call it what it is and stop luring us people who really, really give a shit in, or you're gonna pay for it.

I'm not blasting you Sean because you sound like you actually care, and I deserve your bile for the unsubstantiated things I said about your place on the Lumiere thread. For the record, we've been to Fiction once, and it was so slammed that before they seated us they told us we would wait forever for our orders. We waited even longer; even the waitstaff were a bit incredulous. And when it arrived it was perfectly fine, but not wow. Considering we could've gone to West for the same price and had something much better, I criticized and dissected. I was guilty of exactly what Sean mentions above, and Alex got pissed off because she just wanted to enjoy her meal. It's not Sean's fault, and I wasn't clear about that; in fact, I think they did an admirable job considering that they were, truly, super-slammed.

BUT...while the food may be for the people, and not the other way around, for some of us the food is still important. If it's only OK and it's someone's birthday, that's no problem. The food isn't the star of the show. But when you dine out all the time for the pleasure of dining, the food becomes a big part of it, and if the quality is not there, your whole reason for dining out is gone. We don't need to dine out to eat perfectly decent food, we can cook it ourselves at home. So when we go out we do it in hopes of having our taste titillated, period. The whole package is important. But if that one piece is missing no amount of ass-kissing is going to make it up.

Everytime I lay down 3 bills here I think about Auberge de la Charme or Mugaritz, or heck even sometimes West, fabulous fabulous restaurants where I have had perfect food and better wine and spent less! Or I think of small little hole in the walls picked at random in some cities in the middle of nowhere that are better than anywhere I've ever eaten here. For like $10. How do you explain that one? THOSE chefs are doing new and exciting things and innovating, or they care a whole bunch and pump out fab food at a huge bargain. And there is absolutely no comparison. So when I hear about the great restaurant or the secret find in Vancouver, that's what I go in (half-)expecting, and it's never been even close to the truth. Whether that's the chef, the climate, the ingredients purveyed, I don't know. It's probably all of that; I'm sure they have advantages you don't have here and hardships too.

Admittedly there are two different classes of customers here, the frequent diners and the special occasion ones. You're on the money for the second group, and maybe they're more important to you. But if you want to tout it on the global stage and claim you can pull your weight with the best and charge more than they do...then you have to deal with people like me. Maybe things are getting better, maybe you deserve more coddling and cuddling in your delicate adolescence of fine cuisine (and I really think that's about where the region is) instead of critique. Who's going to want to open a restaurant or a farm or whatnot in a firestorm? Who's going to want to even give it a shot if they know they will fall short? Admittedly no one. But maybe you should keep it under wraps for another decade or so before you invite the world in and they piss on your parade.

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Wow, because some people praise Rob Feenie and Lumière, he is a hyper-critical asshole? no, wait, apparently he's a hyper-critical asshole wannabe, who flouts [sic] his restaurant to all and sundry...

I'm just shaking my head. Maybe I'm sheltered, but I don't actually remember hearing him say he had the best restaurant in the world or anything. The Relais and Chateaux organization seems to think that his restaurant is...OK. I've eaten there once, and I enjoyed it. Doubtless I am one of the lucky many who is happy with a lot of what I eat, rather than being jaded to the point of appreciating only the very best :rolleyes:

I have seen that Rob Feenie, like many others who lurk on eGullet or hear about what's going on here, is a very responsive guy, who at least appears to be down-to-earth rather than arrogant, and who is generally--and genuinely--eager to please his customers.

More than one person above has mentioned that if Foodie-Girl had said something to staff at the time of her meal, the restaurant would more than likely have tried to fix anything she perceived was wrong.

Whatever. It's unfortunate that she had a not-great experience. Does anyone happen to think that there is a single restaurant on the entire planet where every customer, every time, has had exactly the soul-exalting experience they had hoped for?

If so, please tell me where, and I will start saving.

Edited to say that I did get confused as to which topic this was, sorry, Daddy-A.

Edited by *Deborah* (log)

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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Good morning all.

I want remind everyone that this discussion is about whether or not Vancouver diners, and eGullet members in particular, are too lenient when reviewing restaurants in forum.

This thread, this forum, and eGullet are not the places to sling mud at chefs, restaurants or each other. They are for discussing food, and the business of food. Personal attacks will not be tolerated.

I believe we can have a civil discussion on this topic ... some of the discussion has been excellent. However, lately it's been veering off-course. If we can't return to the topic at hand, this thread will be locked.

A.

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Edit: Just to clarify on the $300 and the high-end...I'm not talking about Lumiere or West here. I've been wowed by both of these chefs and I think they have the skills. Maybe not to match up to some of the best anywhere, like some people would like to have it, but definitely very good. Some of their dishes are top echelon. But even at these places I have had some meals that were far worse than they should've been, and as you move on down the list of top restaurants here, the cliff gets pretty steep, and I've thrown a lot of money off of it.

Note that I said I was the hyper-critical asshole, not Feenie. Although I imagine he must be pretty damn devoted to excellence.

Daddy-A, please let me know if my personal attacks on myself are out of line.. I figured a little self-criticism can't hurt.

As for who claims they're the best... I think if you read the forums and, more importantly, the food media, there are consistent claims about how great Vancouver is, what a great food city it is, best in Canada, yada-yada, and it is that I have a bit of a problem with. Pluis everyone above keeps consistently saying "Vancouver is awesome, Vancouver is great, easily on par with any great food city." And I don't think that's fair.

I am also happy with a lot of what I eat. But most of the time eating out here in Vancouver I am not. I pay too much for too little. Elsewhere I am usually quite happy. But here I am very infrequently wowed. Maybe it's just the weather?

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