Tuesday, April 11, 2017


The Surprising Review

If there is one thing that captures public attention in the world of restaurant reviews, it is the unexpected review-- when a great restaurant is judged to be terrible, or when one we expect to be terrible is exalted.

Along those lines, people were shocked by Pete Well's positive review of Senor Frogs in Times Square for the New York Times. Marilyn Hagerty's legendary review of the Olive Garden in Grand Forks is equally compelling, in its own way.

Most recently in this genre (albeit on the flip side-- a horrifying review of a "good" restaurant) we have Jay Rayner's review of Paris legend Le Cinq.  Among other things, he says this:

There is only one thing worse than being served a terrible meal: being served a terrible meal by earnest waiters who have no idea just how awful the things they are doing to you are. And so, to the flagship Michelin three-star restaurant of the George V Hotel in Paris, or the scene of the crime as I now like to call it. In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job. This, it must be said, is an achievement of sorts.

It wasn’t meant to be so. Irritated by reader complaints about the cost of eating out I decided to visit a classic Parisian gastro-palace, as a reality check. I imagined it less as review, and more as an observational piece, full of moments of joy and bliss, of the sort only stupid amounts of cash can buy. We’d all have a good laugh at rich people and then return to business as usual, a little wiser. I chose Le Cinq, restaurant of Christian Le Squer, named chef of the year by his peers in 2016. I assumed it would be whimsical, and perhaps outrageous. Never did I think the shamefully terrible cooking would slacken my jaw from the rest of my head....

... Other things are the stuff of therapy. The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification”, a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says.  

Really, please-- go read the whole thing.


OMG - I can't get past "...it's like eating a condom..." and "Barbie's silicon breast implant...". I am scared to read further.

I like to offer a review on a site I frequent after eating a fantastic meal at an out of the way place that the location and the visuals of the site suggest is an unlikely place to get a great meal. Recently had two: a realy good authentic Thai meal at a hole in the wall place in Cleburne, Texas! and a fantastic authentic Ethiopian dinner at Samson's on Camp Bowie Avenue in Ft. Worth, served in the Ethiopian manner. Neither place had an exterior that suggested the high quality of the food, and neither place had furnishings that would get a positive response from a professional restaurant critic, but both were clean and the food was fantastic at a very reasonable price.
We gave Space Aliens in Bismarck, ND a better review than that!
Prof, thank you for suggesting a most entertaining piece of journalism! Restaurant critique is no easy feat; in fact I think every journalist worth their salt should have a go at writing about food. One of my favorite columnists for the New York Times is Frank Bruni and for years I enjoyed reading his restaurant reviews.
If the little outrageous tidbits you quoted had me intrigued, Rayner had me at “thick carpets to muffle the screams”…

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