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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Restaurant Reviews: Overview


It's no secret that the restaurant scene in the Bay Area is one of the most dynamic and exciting in the nation, constantly evolving in new directions, incorporating influences from around the globe, and infusing local sensibilities to arrive at a cuisine unlike any other.   It should come as little surprise, then, that a significant portion of this site will be devoted to critiquing and discussing dining establishments.

From time to time, I will post an assessment of a particular restaurant here on the front page.   I have long believed that the reviews done by most major publications suffer from one important flaw, and that is that the evaluation scales used (e.g., 1 to 4 stars, or 0 to 3 points) are so compressed as to make meaningful comparison between restaurants virtually impossible.   For example, a 1 to 4 star system often results in a large number of restaurants -- of wildly differing quality -- all being given 3 stars.   To avoid this, I will use a 10-point scale with 0.25 point increments.   Here is the basic significance of the numbers on my scale:

Ratings Key
9 - 10Spectacular
7 - 8Excellent
5 - 6Good
3 - 4Average
1 - 2Not Worth Revisiting

I will provide ratings in five categories: Food Taste, Food Presentation, Service, Atmosphere, and Overall.   I will also evaluate each restaurant in terms of price, using the following scale:

Price Key
$$$$$Over $125 per person
$$$$$100 to $125 per person
$$$$75 to $100 per person
$$$50 to $75 per person
$Less than $50 per person


You may notice immediately that both of the above keys are skewed in an upward direction.   That is, eight of the ten numerical scores on the ratings key correspond to average or better; and virtually all of the price key categories correspond to dollar amounts beyond what most of us spend on a typical meal.   The reason for this is that the reviews on this site will tend to focus on fine dining establishments, not places that are merely mediocre or restaurants at which one can grab a quick and casual meal.

In order to allow readers to attach the proper significance to each review, I will indicate the number of times that I have been to the restaurant using the format “Number of Visits: X.”   A review posted after several visits should obviously be accorded more weight than one submitted after a single visit.   Note that for present purposes, I will only count visits that were made during the tenure of the current chef and - unless otherwise noted - those that were made during the restaurant's dinner service.   Once I have been to a restaurant more than 15 times, I will stop providing a precise numerical count.

Finally, I will provide a brief narrative description of my experience at each restaurant.   I will discuss pertinent aspects of the atmosphere, service and food, and I will give each particular dish a numerical rating for taste and presentation, using the same 10-point scale described above.

Restaurant reviews are, in some sense, a subjective exercise.  What one person views as phenomenal, another may consider to be merely good.   Accordingly, I fully expect that others will disagree with my evaluations, and I certainly hope that everybody will feel free to contribute his or her thoughts and comments in this regard.   And over time, through the input of several voices, we can hopefully arrive at a collective consensus on just how well our local restaurants truly measure up.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Olivia said...

I've been toying with the idea of doing my own numerical ratings for some time. Thank you for both the clear reference point for your reviews and the food for thought.

December 14, 2005 10:10 PM  

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