A restaurant can have fabulous food and an awesome atmosphere (bear with us), but snotty service can truly sink the ship. But the converse — where stupendous service solidifies a stellar experience — is just as plausible.
Okay, that was terrible! But the point is, many reviewers latch on to the merits of a particular server or chef, and make them the focus of their reviews. Observe the following three cases:
• On June 18th at the suspicious hour of 3AM, “Gilbert” left a review entitled “Best server” for Smith & Wollensky:
I ate at the Grill at Smith and Wollensky and had the most delightful server, a sincere, funny, intelligent and knowledgable young man named Dan. It was myself and 5 business associates, he knew how to read our table, he knew the menu very well, had many good suggestions. He was attentive but not obtrusive. He was funny and interesting, He made our evening amazing. If you go to Smith and Wollensky be sure to eat in the Grill and make sure Dan takes care of you if he is working that evening…
We have a feeling that after dinner, Dan took care of Gilbert real well. Mwahaha! Failing that, this review doesn’t make any sense.
• A few hours later, “Dionna” implored the world to “Get a Roberto Roll” at Midori:
I previously reviewed this Sushi joint but have decided to add on to it. Robert has been with Midori for almost 19 years and it shows. He’s awesome at what he does. He makes this tasty roll called the Roberto Roll that you just have to taste to believe. Please don’t ask what’s on it. I couldn’t tell you. I devour this thing the second the plate is laid in front of me. Spicy, sweet, taste bud popping goodness. I am not just whistling dixie here. You know those times where you take a bite of something and the sides of your cheeks hurt from the flavor pop? This is it. I have never been disappointed dining here. Not once. Also, treat yourself to a Roberto Martini. It’s tingly good,too.
I can leave here spending under 20 bucks if I skip the drink but why?
We could tell you what’s on it, and we will: the roll contains shrimp tempura, snow crab meat and spicy sauce wrapped with rice for $10.95, and it does sound good. Also, from now on, our metric of excellence will be when “the sides of your cheeks hurt from the flavor pop.” Hurt? Why!
• Finally, in the most shilly-but-probably-not-a-shill review from June 23rd, “Alan” calls Cyrano’s Bistrot “A corner of Paris in Chicago”:
No matter what city I am in, I always look for a good French restaurant. After having tried six or seven such in Chicago that ranged from mediocre to rather good, I finally hit on Cyrano’s. It is not only the best French restaurant in the city, it is one of the best I have found outside of France.
The menu includes more than the touristy type dishes like steaks frites and confit du canard, although they are available as well. Rognons de veau, a connoisseur’s delight, is delicious. Chef Didier even promised he would make me coeurs de canard (hearts of duck) if I would call in advance. That is a dish I have seen on a menu and eaten only once- in a restaurant in Nantes.
The wine list is just the right size and features many selections from chef Didier’s home region of Languedoc. The prices are reasonable and the service friendly and personable without being intrusive. The atmosphere is authentic and convivial, a little corner of Paris in the heart of Chicago, but well away from too touristy Michigan Avenue.
Why is this not a shill?
1) No shill for a French restaurant is so masochistic as to deride their steak frites and confit du canard, even as obliquely as this
2) The reference to Nantes’ duck hearts is too awesome for a shill to generate
3) Trustable people en masse (i.e. LTHForum) seem to like Cyrano’s
4) Okay, the namecheck of Languedoc is a bit suspect, but whatever
We’re satisfied that “Alan” is satisfied.
[Photo: a pile of duck hearts in China, via tconn1/flickr]