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Gill Review of the Week


*Deborah*
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I find these Gill reviews (and others) quite inane.

Here is a thought. If you are going to review restaurants then why not review restaurants that we want to know about or places that are new and unique. It seems that if you win an award you have a big target on your forehead and paper journalists feel that negativity promotes readership. I guess bad news make good news.

Would we buy Robert Parker’s or Wine Spectator mags if all they did was tell us about bad wine, hotels and restaurants? Sure negativity promotes debate and controversy but it certainly does not inspire competition. Tojo, Lumiere, West et al set the mark in Vancouver. We know this so move on and find some undiscovered locations and help the community.

Just my humble opinion

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I find these Gill reviews (and others) quite inane.

Here is a thought. If you are going to review restaurants then why not review restaurants that we want to know about or places that are new and unique. It seems that if you win an award you have a big target on your forehead and paper journalists feel that negativity promotes readership. I guess bad news make good news.

Would we buy Robert Parker’s or Wine Spectator mags if all they did was tell us about bad wine, hotels and restaurants? Sure negativity promotes debate and controversy but it certainly does not inspire competition. Tojo, Lumiere, West et al set the mark in Vancouver. We know this so move on and find some undiscovered locations and help the community.

Just my humble opinion

Not to be defending the article too much, but just wanted to bring up the idea that as a consumer, the negativity of this review would be quite useful to me, if I hadn't been to Tojo's and I was interested in plunking down $200 for a meal, and all I had heard about the place were raves. This review would alert me that it may not be as good as "everyone" used to say. And I think a negative review may inspire a restaurant to strive to keep up their own standards, or better themselves. I agree though, that I wouldn't want to see only bad reviews. But I also wouldn't want to see only good ones. A mix of both, from many different reviewers, helps me discern what restaurant seems to be consistantly impressing a wide range of people, and is likely to be enjoyable. Same with movie reviews. Ultimately, I just want an idea of which ones are a good bet, and which ones might be more risky.

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If Gullet was mentioned in The Province, no one would know nor be able to tell, a more incomprehensible collection of english appearing words I've never seen. Maybe James Joyce was more adept at making things look english, yet have meaning so densly camoflauged that only a roomful of lit Phd candidates could tease out the meaning.  Mark Laba is either a genuis or an idiot. And being that he works for the Province, I'm going with idiot. It's the Mac Perry school of journalism, write without meaning. Arrange common words and phrases into what appear to be paragraphs, but are really random collections  of words without meaning.

Alright, let's not drag James Joyce into this. Sure he's a bit obtuse at times, but he's the best food writer that ever lived:

"A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs, a dish of custard topped with grated nutmeg, a small bowl full of chocolates and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers and a glass vase in which stood some tall celery stalks. In the centre of the table there stood, as sentries to a fruit-stand which upheld a pyramid of oranges and American apples, two squat old-fashioned decanters of cut glass, one containing port and the other dark sherry. On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting and behind it were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals, drawn up according to the colours of their uniforms, the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes."

-From the short story "The Dead"

Who knows what Joyce would have thought of the Offal dinner at Elixir the other night. He likely, though, would have described it something like this (possibly the best words ever written, even better spoken aloud, drawn from memory):

"Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine".

-opening lines, chapter 4, Ulysses.

Food is the axis in Joyce's work around which all of human depravity and epiphany spins.

Whether Gill, Maw, Morrison, Laba or any food critic, taking notes from Joyce on this major axis should be a prerequisite to the food writing game.

Go Oil!

Edited by MightyMrQ (log)

Quentin Kayne

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As a consumer who has to pay for his own meals -- no freebies from industry pals, no expense account from a publication -- I applaud Ms. Gill.

Too many of the reviewers in this city see it as their duty to promote restaurants, as opposed to offering any impartial observations. Chef Billy-Bob may be a nice guy and toil long hours, but I work hard for my money too. I want a restaurant review that tells me whether my money and time will be well-spent.

The Tojo review did that. She didn't totally diss the place. The point was not that Tojo's is a bad restaurant. It was that it's over-priced and over-hyped, and has gotten too big for its britches.

As for the suggestion that she ought to only review new and unusual places, that's nonsense. She reviewed Ocean 617, a relatively new and out-of-the-way place, last week (and gave it much-deserved good marks) so obviously she doesn't confine herself to mainstream, well-known places. Tojo's is regularly applauded as one of the best restaurants in the city. Maybe if more reviewers took the time to critically assess whether the plaudits are justified, there would be a better chance for new and exciting places to get the attention they deserve.

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Food is the axis in Joyce's work around which all of human depravity and epiphany spins.

Whether Gill, Maw, Morrison, Laba or any food critic, taking notes from Joyce on this major axis should be a prerequisite to the food writing game.

Thank you Quentin, your post has inspired me to revisit Joyce.

Cheers,

Anne

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My experiences at Tojo's don't line up with the complaints of "snobbery": my first visit with an acquaintance from Toronto was spontaneous - we just showed up and asked to sit at the counter for omakase. Tojo was there, asked us about dislikes and allergies and then started to prepare dishes. We didn't specify a dollar limit, but I seem to remember the food cost was around $100, probably a little less - this was about 5 or 6 years ago. My most recent visit was as a guest of someone who has been eating Tojo's food since the 70's and I didn't notice a huge difference in the way we were greeted or treated. Every time there I was blown away by some dishes, but not all; I think it is pretty unrealistic to be blown away by every dish.

If there are minumum spending requirements to sit at the counter, I think it would be wise to spell them out - both on the website and when people phone to make reservations. If you look at the website of Chez Panisse for example (another much hyped restaurant) you'll see they go to a lot of trouble to make sure that potential customers know what to expect.

As to whether Tojo's is overhyped and overpriced - that can be pretty subjective. Look at threads in other regional forums on well known restaurants, like the one on Zuni Cafe, not everyone likes the restaurant, not everyone is blown away by all the dishes they try, not everyone thinks it is worth the money. That is the way it is, why should Vancouver restaurants be any different. For my money, I'd rather go to West than Tojo's, but your milage may differ. That doesn't mean I don't like Tojo's, just that I have limited dining dollars and I'd rather spend them at West.

Cheers,

Anne

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Who's Gord Martin? :unsure:

I don't read her column unless it is specifically brought to my attention; I don't get the G&M in print, and I loathe their new online format and seldom visit them online now. It's a wonder I know what's going on in the world at all, anymore.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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I see that there has been a new topic started with this weeks Gill Review under Sanifer, which is great. I would have liked to see the Tojo review get its own topic as I thought she has some very valid comments, as well as a few that I did not agree with. Perhaps we can move some of the over to a new topic?

What I did want to comment on though was the total lack of response by any of us on her Parks Board concession article. I know that it was not about fine dining, nor was it controversial, nasty about any one person or mussed the hair of any of the local PR types however, I thought that her article was interesting. Starting out as a review on Fish and Chips but clearly aware of the politics, public voice and happenings in the non-fine dining side of Vancouver’s food scene. It was a topic I thought would have fuelled some debate, yet it didn't?

The Parks Board is simply not in the business of food and beverage. Long gone are the days that we would settle for ice cream, luke warm hot dogs and syrupy cola products, these concessions are now expected to reflect a more savvy food crowd and highlight how damn cosmopolitan we are here. Although I think serving sushi is a bit over the top, and quite frankly would never dream of ordering it at a concession, I do think that individual entrepreneurs can better understand the market, choose their own hours (ie: open early and later depending on events that are going on) and still provide the parks board with needed revenue. It is important of course that these private owners respect the neighbourhoods they are in, and are very aware of their impact in the parks. It is the job of the Parks Board to interview, train, and follow-up with these businesses, but yes privatising can be a good thing.

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What I did want to comment on though was the total lack of response by any of us on her Parks Board concession article. I know that it was not about fine dining, nor was it controversial, nasty about any one person or mussed the hair of any of the local PR types however, I thought that her article was interesting. Starting out as a review on Fish and Chips but clearly aware of the politics, public voice and happenings in the non-fine dining side of Vancouver’s food scene. It was a topic I thought would have fuelled some debate, yet it didn't?

The Parks Board is simply not in the business of food and beverage. Long gone are the days that we would settle for ice cream, luke warm hot dogs and syrupy cola products, these concessions are now expected to reflect a more savvy food crowd and highlight how damn cosmopolitan we are here. Although I think serving sushi is a bit over the top, and quite frankly would never dream of ordering it at a concession, I do think that individual entrepreneurs can better understand the market, choose their own hours (ie: open early and later depending on events that are going on) and still provide the parks board with  needed revenue. It is important of course that these private owners respect the neighbourhoods they are in, and are very aware of their impact in the parks. It is the job of the Parks Board to interview, train, and follow-up with these businesses, but yes privatising can be a good thing.

Well it has already been discussed a number of times on this forum. Most recently here: Park Board Eyes Concession Overhaul . I don't see that Gill had any revelations.

Cheers,

Anne

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She has lost any credibility she had left (I admit it was not very much to start) by highly recommending Fiddlehead Joe's. I think the best way to consume her reviews is to read them, and then do the opposite. (Ok, I'll grant her one point for slamming Tojo's - it is over-rated.) But highly recommending Fiddlehead Joe's? Please.

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I was flipping through my Bourdain book tonight at the Yale and wondered if the A.A. Gill Review of the book on the back cover was the same person.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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I was flipping through my Bourdain book tonight at the Yale and wondered if the A.A. Gill Review of the book on the back cover was the same person.

Probably this guy.

John

"Venite omnes qui stomacho laboratis et ego restaurabo vos"

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Definitely "that guy".

If you think Alexander has been nasty try this on for size:

"The Bell

It is not just everything I despise and loathe in lunch, but everything that embarrasses and depresses me about tweedy Albion"

AA Gill

Gastronomista

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  • 2 weeks later...

I must say, her latest review does strike a good chord. I'm in 100% agreement with her latest article - very well written if I say so myself. It shows that she's done a bit of her homework this time too.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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I must say, her latest review does strike a good chord. I'm in 100% agreement with her latest article - very well written if I say so myself. It shows that she's done a bit of her homework this time too.

Oh, I so agree.

the interior is dark and depressing. The carpets are brown, the leather booths are brown, the table tops are speckled brown and the rough-hewn wood back wall is stained brown (with only a scattering of mirrored tiles to lighten things up).
Very true. I was very dissapointed to see that.

Nice staff, friendly, but not aware of things they should be, or what we would hope they would be. Sustainability? Um, what is that? Wild or farmed seafood? Um, we aren't sure.

Extremely expensive too.

Call me radical, but I'd just rather support the struggling independents with heart and passion than line the pockets of an extremely wealthy family that already dominates the market with mediocre food and corporate conformity.
I concur. I used to like some CFD's to a certain degree, but lately they have become so mediocore, and bland. It's become quite sad, I see a real decline in quality of service and product. Unfortunately. unless one is in certain areas, the only choices are these CFD's.

"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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Timely this, as the families (mine & my X's) got together with our sons for a colective birthday & Father's Day dinner at the Joey's on Lougheed. I won't bore you with the predictable details, but two incidents did stand out.

1) J & I ordered a bottle of "Smoking Loon Viognier" (fairly priced at $32). Server looks me in the eye and asks "Um ... is that wine?" I replied (as politely as I could without snickering) "Yes" and trying to be helpful, added "it's a white wine." Server again looks me in the eye and says "Could you just give me the number?" (their wine list is numbered). I obviously didn't understand how thinks worked. "A bottle of #123 please!"

2) My brother orders a Warsteiner, one of several imports on their beer list. Same server, "Um ... is that beer?" Brother replies ... "Sorry, I don't see a number beside it on the menu."

Casual fine-dining chains have their place. They provide predictable, fairly consistent food in comfortable surroundings that project an aura of pseudo-sophistication without being too intimidating. They're kind of like the Starbucks of dinner. And in smaller rural communities, they're often the best thing going, or at least a safe bet.

I think this is the most informed thing Alexandra has ever written. In our situation, Joey's was the best thing between Burnaby & Pitt Meadows. Our other option was the Earl's in PoCo, but it was shut down for reno's

Still, for the same price as a dinner at Joeys, I could buy a much better meal at Bin, Lolita's, Cru, Aurora Bistro, Hapa Izakaya, Cassis and numerous other casual fine-dining independents, where the servers have sass and the rooms have sizzle.

I agree with that, except in light of what Gill said above. In the less urban centers, there are few if any options. It'll be either ABC (and their award winning BBQ!) or some CFD joint. It's a liscence to print $.

As far as the article being well researched ... I dunno 'bout that. Is glomming info from the company website research? I'm pretty sure much of this information has been discussed in these fora by Maw, Morrison and others ad infinitum. Hell, if I know who owns these places it's just this side of common knowledge!

A.

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Alright, let's not drag James Joyce into this. Sure he's a bit obtuse at times, but he's the best food writer that ever lived:

I respectfully disagree with this notion; by his own admission, Joyce much preferred the food writing of Proust, but like A.J. Liebling, wondered if he might haven written more profusely had he been blessed with a greater appetite.

Liebling famously remarked on how remorselessly Marcel Proust had exploited a mere madeleine:

"In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world's loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiners Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece."

He was referring of course to Remembrance of Things Past, which is rather longer than War and Peace.

Personally, I think Joyce was the premier motor sports writer of his day and were he still alive he'd no doubt be writing for Motor Trend or Biker Babes.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Another of her claims is patently false. The Fuller family is not enormously wealthy. Comforatble, certainly, but the three sons work six day weeks, travel on business constantly, and put their trousers on one leg at a time.

Working six days a week and dressing yourself is not necessarily incompatible with wealth, or even enormous wealth. It may even be a pre-requisite, unless fortunate enough to be born into an enormously wealthy family. The Earl's franchise probably does just fine compared to the rest of us proletariat. Calling her writing "Patently false" might be a little strong?

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