Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

NYT Articles on Food, Drink, Cooking, and Culinary Culture (2002–2005)


 Share

Recommended Posts

Personally I think the NY Times ratings are becoming a bunch of crap. No better then the zagat ratings. Otto should be in the under $25.00 catagory. I cant realy say that it is any cheeper then some two star restaurants but I do know that it should be. I went and paid $4.00 for 8 olives as a side dish. I like all of the batali restaurants that I have eaten at including Otto, but I think Otto is way over priced.

Back on the rating track. I spent the last three years cooking at long islands top rated (Zagat, NY Times, Newsday) French Reastarant. I will say It is definetly a great restaurant. I do want to know how the zagat people know it has the best service on the island they have not eaten there in years? The NY Times gave us three stars back when the restaurant first opend. That was 20 years ago. Basicaly what I am saying is everything is revolving around what is trendy and in right now, the new hot chef, or the in type of food and not the actual work that goes into the place. Most of these new restaurants being reviewed have no subsistence. They are just the flavor of the week and will be gone in a few years.

I like to read Mr. Grimes reviews but I think he is falling into the same dark pit alot of New Yorkers are falling into. Instead of leading us in the right direction he is pulling us right down.

I think the reviews should be about how amazing the service was or how much work went into everything they ate. Not how long the wait is or how popular the chef is. Hell you want to talk about waits, go review olive garden. I think you will probobly wait an hour to get in their as well.

Hey maybe next week they will give Katze's deli ( my personal fav) two stars. I herd sandwiches are becoming popular and trendy now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A star-rating system works very well if you're trying to rank-order a group of restaurants in which every restaurant is playing by the same rules, for example haute-cuisine restaurants in France in the 1960s. The ones that meet a certain standard get three stars, the next group gets two, and so on.

As you get farther from a homogenous system, attempts at objective rankings become more difficult. In France today, the Michelin star system still makes sense as applied to a certain category of restaurants that attempt to conform to the standard, but it becomes strained when a Japanese restaurant opens in Paris, and it will continue to degenerate -- this is the inevitable result of the unavoidable process of internationalization and diversification.

New York's dining scene, which is probably the most diverse on the planet, is the worst-case scenario for the efficacy of a star or numerical rating system. Any system that attempts to rank every restaurant in New York on the same scale is going to be so laden with value judgments and assumptions as to make it incomprehensible. The only way to avoid that is to make it so overly formalistic that it elevates form over substance -- a fanciness/expensiveness/hauteness index, as opposed to an expression of actual food quality.

There are plenty of people out there -- the armchair-quarterback/backseat-driver set -- who think they've got it all figured out and can pin the right number of stars on any restaurant. That is, of course, because they've never had their theories tested in the real world. It's very easy to create a star system that has personal meaning to its creator. It's far from simple to create one that actually works to communicate information in a meaningful and predictable manner.

A monolithic star rating system provides little in the way of valuable information. This is not William Grimes's fault. The task he has been given is inherently impossible, as it has been for all his predecessors and will be for all his successors. The only reason the star system remains is that it's an important marketing and power-brokering tool for the newspaper -- witness the attention paid to stars here. Many critics, when they accept food-critic positions, argue for the elimination of star rankings, an argument that is routinely rejected by marketing-savvy management.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

New York's dining scene, which is probably the most diverse on the planet, is the worst-case scenario for the efficacy of a star or numerical rating system. Any system that attempts to rank every restaurant in New York on the same scale is going to be so laden with value judgments and assumptions as to make it incomprehensible. The only way to avoid that is to make it so overly formalistic that it elevates form over substance -- a fanciness/expensiveness/hauteness index, as opposed to an expression of actual food quality.

There are plenty of people out there -- the armchair-quarterback/backseat-driver set -- who think they've got it all figured out and can pin the right number of stars on any restaurant. That is, of course, because they've never had their theories tested in the real world. It's very easy to create a star system that has personal meaning to its creator. It's far from simple to create one that actually works to communicate information in a meaningful and predictable manner.

A monolithic star rating system provides little in the way of valuable information. This is not William Grimes's fault. The task he has been given is inherently impossible, as it has been for all his predecessors and will be for all his successors. The only reason the star system remains is that it's an important marketing and power-brokering tool for the newspaper -- witness the attention paid to stars here. Many critics, when they accept food-critic positions, argue for the elimination of star rankings, an argument that is routinely rejected by marketing-savvy management.

But, FG, is that a consequence of offering just an aggregate weighting for all the restaurant's attributes, displayed as stars? How much of the rating is dependent on food, how much on ambience, excellence and innovation, etc?

I'd like to see a system where the stars are broken out by food creativity, by ambience, by service, by consistent quality, etc. So, there are four star categories, and you can compare to food to food, ambience to ambience, etc. Similar to how Zagat would look if it was done by trained reviewers...

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are two things going on in most of these rating systems. One thing they do is rank restaurants; the other thing they do is award scores - stars, in the case of the New York Times. I agree with Fat Bloke that scoring makes little sense outside the context of a homogenous cuisine. One advantage Zagat has over the Times (unless there's some part of the Times web-site I'm missing), is that it does break the dining scene of any particular city down into ranked sub-groups; you can review, for example, a ranked list of French bistros or of steak houses.

I would contend that such a ranking does have some utility. If I'm in an unknown city, and Zagat is my only resource, I have some confidence that the relative ranking between very highly rated and very low rated restaurants will be reflected in my dining experience. Fine distinctions may be debatable, but I don't think even Zagat gets the ranking upside down.

What I don't find useful are the numeric scores. First for the reason Shaw gave; comparing the numeric score of the famous Soup Kitchen with the numeric score of an upscale French restaurant is meaningless to me. Second, in the case of Zagat, because the numeric scores are not georgraphically commensurable. 28 for cuisine in Indianapolis is not commensurable with 28 for cuisine in New York (although a restaurant with that score might indeed be the best restaurant in Indianapolis).

Yes this is relevant, as I neatly bring it back to the Times. While I find utility in the Zagat rankings, the New York Times rankings are largely useless because so constricted. Sure, the six four-stars stand out as restaurants likely to provide a good experience. But in the four other possible categories, the restaurants are so numerous that one can't make any meaningful distinctions. There are around forty three-stars, one hundred and forty two-stars, and so on. And you can bet the best two-stars are not so different from the worst three-stars. The Zagat 0 (in principle, I suppose) to 30 scales are much more help to the reader.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The New York Times ratings also suffer from grade inflation. Restaurants are hardly ever rated poor or satisfactory and rarely good (one star). Grimes claimed he was going to change that, and his ratings did initially seem lower than what's her names*, but I think he's slipped.

*Pre-senile dementia.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is that possibly attributable to publication bias? In other words, is it just much less likely that a 0/1 star restaurant will - even if visited - be the subject of a published review? I am sure this affects monthly periodicals - since Gourmet, for example, reviews so few restaurants there would hardly be much point picking places to slam. Maybe it has some effect at the Times too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At least you guys get different stars! Down here in Central Jersey all we've got is Andrea Clurfield in the Asbury Park Press. She gives every restaurant 2 stars. It does not matter what the tone of the review is... 2 stars.

She can gush endlessly how good the food is and how gracious and knowledgable the staff is: 2 stars. She can lament how long it took to get a seat, how the appetisers were greasy and undercooked, the fact that water glassses were dirty and that the flavor of the sauce clashed with the meat: 2 stars.

I can't even retreat to the NJ Zagat Guide, she is now the editor... :unsure:

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that both stars (or toques) and numerical ratings are bogus, just like Parker ratings are limited in their utility. Like wine, restaurants need to do certain things well, regardless of aspirations. Pleasing ambiance, good service, food prepared correctly, interesting dishes, interesting wine list etc. And these factors vary in both substance and importance person to person. For me, new and interesting dishes are not as important as the actual precision in cooking technique. Others I know prefer restaurant where the highs are much higher, accepting the inconsistencies in the kitchen. It's just a matter of taste.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's accept the fact that all numerical ratings of food and wine are intrinsically flawed, but some are more flawed than others.

One critic's review is a mere personal opinion, no matter how "trained" the palate. All any individual can do is base their reviews and tastes on past experiences. It's similar to horse racing, the public wagers on their "pick" based on the past performance of the horse. No different with restaurant reviewers from the Michelin people to the Zagat numerologists.

True, a consensus is ultimately better for an overall rating, but knowing a critic's personal taste can be more helpful at times.

For example, I think Robert Parker is the most important wine critic for me. The wines he likes are big, powerful and overbearing. They show well at tastings, but (for the most part) do not go well with food.

Knowing that, I can read a Parker rating and make an informed decision. I have found his 80-85 point selections to be the best wines with food and his 95+ to be the best to give to friends who need to be impressed with style over substance. (Of course, there are exceptions, like most of the 61 Bordeaux vintage.)

The same is true with food critics, the more you know about their personal taste, the better. In New York, Bob Lape is the most consistent critic for me. I think I have a firm grasp on his "tastes."

Grimes is the most difficult - he seems all over the place. Maybe that's his personality. However, he is totally consistent about his inconsistentcies. I thought Asimov (in his brief tenure) portrayed a more acceptable approach.

Finally, I totally agree with Mr. Shaw that intergrated food types cannot be equally rated. A 4-star pizza, can never be compared with a 4-star red snapper. Both can be four stars, but must be listed in different categories.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In an idle moment, I did manage to identify the three star restaurants. Another wrinkle - went looking for March. No rating. Are there many high profile restaurants out there without star ratings?

Edit: I did at last find the page which lists the restaurants by star ratings. Of course, the link to the page gives no indication of that.

Edited by Wilfrid (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Times has never published an official statement on the "expiration" of star ratings. Thus, in theory, any restaurant that has ever been reviewed in the Times still has its stars provided it is substantially the same restaurant. For example, a number of the above ratings -- including I believe three of the four-star ratings -- come from Ruth Reichl, not William Grimes. I'd have to check to be sure, but I don't think he has reviewed Lespinasse, Le Bernardin, or Jean Georges. This is another layer of nuttiness that makes the Times system particularly silly: at least a guide system like Michelin checks in on restaurants pretty much every year. In the Times system you have all these hangers-on that might have been good in the mid-1990s but no longer have the stuff -- yet they can go around calling themselves three- and two-star restaurants. Meanwhile, several currently excellent restaurants have only one or two stars.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm pretty sure Grimes gave March 3 stars after the renovation. I could be wrong though will check and report back.

I wonder what drives the decision to return to certain restaurants in short amounts of time like the decision to go to Ducasse and Daniel award them three stars and then return--within six to nine months as i recall, while avoiding others like Lespinasse (generally gets very little press coverage) le Bernardin and Jean-Georges. An even more intersting case is that of Chanterelle, which Grimes stripped of its fourth star but unlike Daniel, has not yet returned to look in on the place (or at least has not published anything that I'm aware of).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Forget about the subjectivity of the reviewer. He's just terribly inconsistent with ratings. Didn't you think after reading the actual review of Otto that it would be awarded no more than one star? Compare the text with Grimes' review of Branzini of a few weeks ago. The review for Branzini seemed quite a bit better than Otto's yet Branzini only received one star. Same price points, level of service, atmosphere, etc. so you can compare apples with apples.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it might be important to note that the reviewer's total experience doesn't always come out in the 10 paragraphs. i suppose we wish it all did, but i'm thinking that some is left in his or her head. i'm also thinking that the stars are almost an afterthought, almost separate from the text itself, and therefore may or may not make sense to the readers as they consider the text, or worse yet, their own experience at the restaurant.

it seems that if the stars went away, we'd have a lot fewer issues with the reviews. except for ngatti of course, who has a problem with *every* review. :biggrin:

Edited by tommy (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

March. I was about to apologize, because it does show up among the three-stars on the list page. But I looked again at the review, and I still can't see the stars there (down at the bottom where they should be). Am I wrong? It's all a bit of a mess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have found his 80-85 point selections to be the best wines with food and his 95+ to be the best to give to friends who need to be impressed with style over substance.

I realize this is off-topic, but it's in line with the idea that zero or 1-star restos rarely appear under the Grimes by-line.

In many occasions (such as 1998 burg) the WA doesn't publish notes on wines under 86 points, so there's no context for the minimum "positive" (i.e. 2 stars or 86 point) ratings...

Maybe this kind of cross-discipline discussion is better for Symposium, but it's clear that the problem is endemic in both environments....

Jake

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is that possibly attributable to publication bias?  In other words, is it just much less likely that a 0/1 star restaurant will - even if visited - be the subject of a published review?  I am sure this affects monthly periodicals - since Gourmet, for example, reviews so few restaurants there would hardly be much point picking places to slam.  Maybe it has some effect at the Times too.

I think this is exactly correct. There are so many restaurants in New York that it's just not worth publishing reviews of places that aren't any good, unless they are prominent for some reason and ought to be reviewed as much for their newsworthiness as anything else. I'm sure reviewers go to a lot of places where they end up concluding, "just not worth writing anything about", before moving on to the next joint.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is that possibly attributable to publication bias?  In other words, is it just much less likely that a 0/1 star restaurant will - even if visited - be the subject of a published review?  I am sure this affects monthly periodicals - since Gourmet, for example, reviews so few restaurants there would hardly be much point picking places to slam.  Maybe it has some effect at the Times too.

I can see that with restaurants rated poor, or even satisfactory. But one star is meant to represent 'good'. It's an underused rating, in my view.

(Sorry for the delay -- I've been curing world trade center cough all day.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any ranking should expire after a year.  I would think that any food critic could easily re-evaluate a highly ranked place once a year. 

In NYC? So in essence, there are at maximum 52 restos that the NYT reviewer could keep tight tabs on? That would barely account for the number of high profile openings each year, plus Daniel, GT and a few other standbys. Clearly too tight a ship to keep for just one reviewer.

Which of course is more an argument for two reviewers than for cutting back, but we know what economic times are like now....

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...