Restaurant criticism: A beginner’s guide

Right now I shouldn’t be writing this post, because I’m on deadline for a restaurant review. Restaurant critic is an intriguing job, and everyone wants to know how it works, so I put together this handy FAQ.

Q: Do you tell the restaurant who you are and when you’re coming?

A: Of course. Otherwise I might not get special treatment, and I live for special treatment. Generally I call several days in advance and ask the restaurant to procure the largest possible lobe of Grade A foie gras and begin marinating it in grand cru Sauternes. On the day of my meal, I call to confirm that they have sufficient Iranian beluga on the premises. So pretty much the same thing you do when you go out.

Q: Who do you bring with you to the restaurant?

A: Generally it’s me, Kid Sensation, PLB, Maharaji, and Larry. Larry is a white guy, but he is a real estate investor who makes a lot of money, so we bring him along to cover the caviar.

Q: Isn’t the newspaper supposed to pay for your meal?

A: If you’re implying that our bankrolls aren’t fatter than the foie gras, this interview is over.

Q: Do you tell your guests what to order?

A: Yes, with the caveat that Larry is a vegetarian, and he is getting seriously tired of grilled portobellos.

Q: How do you decide how many stars to award the restaurant?

A: I take into account the food, the service, the decor, and intangible factors, such as:

  • The restaurant’s name is the same as its address (e.g., 727 Pine): minus one star
  • Waitress is smoking hot: plus one star
  • Prices on the menu lack decimal places or dollar signs: this must be a cool place, plus one star
  • Grilled portobello: minus one star

Q: Do you ever wear a disguise?

A: I have a closet full of hand-tailored gorilla suits.

Seriously, now, I watched Kitchen Confidential before it went on hiatus, and one episode had the most awesomely misinformed restaurant critic plotline I’ve ever seen. The New York Times reviewer made a reservation and everyone knew it was her; she came to the restaurant alone on opening night; and the review ran the next day. Plus she was hot.

6 thoughts on “Restaurant criticism: A beginner’s guide

  1. Dan Shiovitz

    I believe now that I-901 got passed, it’s illegal for the waitress to be smoking hot within 25 feet of the door.

  2. Liza

    The best review I read of Kitchen Confidential described it as a show that, more than any other, deserved to be tied in a gunnysack, weighed down and thrown into the harbor.

    Having seen just one episode (the critic one) I can see where that’s coming from.

  3. mamster Post author

    Yes. The trouble is, every time we do this, sucka MCs want to battle, and that can totally take the bouquet off the Margaux.

  4. Andrew Feldstein

    Just finished Steve Shaw’s Turning the Tables. He points out that the good restaurants know who the critics are anyway.

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