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Feed: A scientist researches restaurants

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  • linger,

    My immediate conclusion from the Venn diagram was that the Cuisine list seems largely a waste of time (as almost all of its names are already included by the other lists). Though, of course, that's an after-the-fact assessment: it’s not clear if there was any directionality involved, if for example reviewers for Tripadvisor picked names from the Cuisine list (amongst other sources).

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've been fairly skint this year, so I've relied on other people to take me to very good restaurants -- Masu in the week after it won the Metro prize was a glorious bit of timing -- but I do tend to remember reviews (again, usually from Metro).

    I kept meaning to go to iVillage after reading Simon Wilson's review not long after it opened and eventually did on my birthday. I even remembered to order the goat curry, which was as good as the review promised: dark, thick, hot and savoury in an almost winey way. Could barely move afterwards.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to linger,

    the Cuisine list seems largely a waste of time

    Except that it’s a different set of reviewers coming to roughly the same conclusion. Also you get two reviews written by different people and that can help a huge amount when trying to figure out if you’ll actually enjoy eating there.

    Also the cuisine list eliminates about half of the metro list, for good or ill.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Cazador has been revamped, so should we finally actually try it?

    I tried the revamped Cazador the other night, and I quite liked it overall. However the main dishes on our set menu all seemed to be variations on "here's a pile of game meat roasted rare and sliced thinly" which is nice, but I don't think does enough to show off the differences between the meats. The hare just tasted like... meat.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to linger,

    ...was that the Cuisine list seems largely a waste of time

    Isn't it the opposite ? The Cuisine list (sans Euro) is supported by either or both of Metro and Trip Advisor, so it is likely to be good.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Interestingly, I noticed that Samuel Flynn Scott was critical of the Cuisine Good Food Guide list for Wellington on Twitter a few days ago: only one non-European restaurant (“expensive and terrible”) on a “snobby” list that ignored some very good cheaper places such as Nam and Little Penang, he reckoned.

    Those Phoenix Foundation boys know their food, so perhaps he has a point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    From a mate, I just got the top 20 'loved' restaurants and cafes in Auckland, on Localist:
    http://www.localist.co.nz/auckland/restaurants

    (Out of over 3800 in total)

    "Takapuna Beach Cafe and Store";109
    "Circus Circus Cafe";105
    "The Fridge Cafe";101
    "Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar";92
    "Carl's Jr - St Johns/Glen Innes";92
    "International Foodcourt";90
    "Ponsonby International Foodcourt";89
    "Mexico Auckland Central";88
    "The Mexican Cafe";82
    "Temptation Cakes";79
    "Little & Friday North Shore";78
    "Sals Authentic New York Pizza Commerce Street";76
    "Zest Cafe";68
    "Mexicali Fresh";65
    "Prego Restaurant";63
    "Tanuki's Cave";62
    "Butterfly Creek";60
    "La Cigale French Market Parnell";59
    "Tyler Street Garage";56
    "De Fontein Belgian Beer Cafe Mission Bay";54

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    There are places to discover beyond the Bombay Hills. Went to Sabroso, a great South American joint in Rotorua on Sunday night. A great finale to an excellent day: a screening of the NZ film Fantail at the tiny Basement Cinema, followed by hot pools in the Waikite Valley--great clouds of steam rising into the dark sky. NZ can seem some kind of wonderful on such occasions,

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Soon Lee,

    You might find the version with the expanded Cuisine list (not all "Cuisine-recommended" eateries made the "Good Food Guide 2014") more useful?

    For me, it's about meeting or exceeding expectations, which is easier for the cheap-n-cheerful places to achieve. There's nothing more disappointing than to go to an expensive joint & have an underwhelming experience.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2013 • 141 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    From a mate, I just got the top 20 ‘loved’ restaurants and cafes in Auckland, on Localist:

    Carl's Jnr GI! Prego would be the one, though. Cool and consistent since forever.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Soon Lee,

    There’s nothing more disappointing than to go to an expensive joint & have an underwhelming experience.

    It definitely does happen. A crap service experience at Clooney, dull food at White and a terrible (and really expensive) Wagyu steak at Euro.

    I mentioned the Clooney experience at a social media conference and got a snotty response from the owner, and should have sent back the steak at Euro, but I'd just won a NetGuide award and couldn't be arsed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It definitely does happen.

    This is so true. And it's a real problem for the restaurants trying to hit the highs and impress fussy reviewers or fussy scientists.

    We recently took my father-in-law to The French cafe. It was the third time we'd been in 5 years and to be honest for me it was their last chance. Yeah the restaurant in Auckland that has perhaps set the standard for excellence was on it's last chance for me. The dinner we had was amazing and the experience lived up to all the reviews. But prior to that we had two disappointing experiences, good dishes at great prices and even sitting unattended for 20 minutes without menus!

    That's the problem with top end restaurants - your expectations are very high - as they should be because dammit you are paying through the nose. Nobody really minds if the server at a cheap and cheerful place doesn't know what's on the menu or your dinner arrives 10 minutes after everyones else's (well not really, I do mind, but I'm fussy).

    I've loved every dinner I've had at Clooney's, two with in-laws and one fantastic winemaker's dinner and I'll go again. But for a place like Clooney's there is no room for Russell to get bad service and even less for the owner to not be deeply apologetic (honestly what does it cost to apologise?).

    For many folks a dinner at some of these restaurants is a once in a long time experience - anything that sours that is really inexcusable. It's one of the reasons I loved Bowman's, the service was always amazing, you felt cared for throughout the dinner. It is getting better but I think seeing service as part of the package is still a problem in Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Soon Lee, in reply to linger,

    Both Metro & Cuisine have a panel of judges while TripAdvisor uses customer reviews which explains the more eclectic nature of the TripAdvisor list.

    Part of the fun of the exercise was to find the consensus; you should reasonably expect a good dining experience from the eateries in the intersection because they wouldn't be there if they weren't consistently good, right?

    But for me it's also just as interesting to look outside the intersection (where they "disagree"). Just because they are not in the intersection it doesn't mean they're not good. I have had fabulous meals in places other than the 14 restaurants in the intersection & putting this Venn diagram together has suggested (even) more places to try.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2013 • 141 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Soon Lee,

    There's nothing more disappointing than to go to an expensive joint & have an underwhelming experience.

    It does - because, let's face it, if you're paying silver service prices it's not just for the food. It's for an agreeable evening in a pleasant environment with waiters who know the menu and wine list rather than looking like they're one self-medication away from stabbing you in the face with a corkscrew. (I actually have mild but still unpleasant food allergies, so when I ask if something on the menu can be done without onion, it saves me a power-chunder if the waiter actually knows.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Nobody really minds if the server at a cheap and cheerful place doesn’t know what’s on the menu or your dinner arrives 10 minutes after everyones else’s (well not really, I do mind, but I’m fussy).

    Honestly, I'm sorry to be that guy but I don't think it's "fussy" to expect baseline competent service. After all, I know a few couples with young kids where that "cheap and cheerful" dinner followed by a movie requires more planning than the D-Day landings, and only happen two or three times a year. At best.

    Interestingly, I noticed that Samuel Flynn Scott was critical of the Cuisine Good Food Guide list for Wellington on Twitter a few days ago: only one non-European restaurant (“expensive and terrible”) on a “snobby” list that ignored some very good cheaper places such as Nam and Little Penang, he reckoned.

    I have no reason to say he's wrong (been far too long since we've visited Wellington), but I think the filter you've always got to run these lists through is where they're appearing and who they're aimed at. Don't mean to be a bitch, but ever so slightly "snobby" about food sounds right in Cuisine's demo. Just as I don't think this list of 'The World's 50 Best Restaurants' is pitched either at my pocketbook or taste. I'm certainly not feeling inspired to visit this wankatorium if I ever go back to Copenhagen:

    Diners at the 45-seat restaurant, located in a stripped- back warehouse on Copenhagen’s dockside, are introduced to Noma’s food via its inimitable series of ‘snacks’ – 10 servings that include the likes of sea urchin toast and caramelised milk and cod liver. These are followed by 10 further courses – a dish of beef tartar and ants among them – before the meal is rounded off with a stunning array of ‘treats’. Redzepi’s food can at times be shocking – visceral even – but diners who are prepared to put themselves in the kitchen’s hands rarely leave disappointed. With flavour to the fore, there are dishes here that slap you in the face and make you feel glad to be alive.

    God...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    cuisine list eliminates about half of the metro list

    Or the Tripadvisor list. Which just means, it’s more exclusive (a smaller number than any “top 50”), which also supports Craig’s point above about their “demographic filter”. Doesn’t entail a better experience for the average punter.
    Though, to be honest, I’d generally seek out the cheap and cheerful over the expensive and pretentious,* so I’m really not in the Cuisine target market.

    * Yeah, yeah, I know, false dichotomy. Probably. Maybe should re-state as: I would prefer to have low expectations exceeded than high expectations not met.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Can we have some Wellington representation here? What I need is a scientist to invent a time machine so I can visit my favourite restaurants that are no longer in business. I can still taste the beef rendang at Satay Malaysia, the incredible half chicken I once ate for my birthday at Mondo Cucina, a tarte a l'orange at the Provencale restaurant in Oriental Bay, and this incredible peach thing I had at Two Rooms. Part of the savour was not being able to afford such things very often (except for beef rendang, that was something ridiculous like $14).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to B Jones,

    to cap it all off...

    …some Wellington representation

    I can still feel the butter leaving my pores
    from a big night at Le Normandie

    …admittedly my ‘to-die-for’ (and may yet) garlic-buttered oysters in the shell would’ve been after Madame Louise’s time, early ’80s.
    I really needed one of those plates piled with white bread the Green ’rot (truck backing accident apparently) used to supply…
    :- )

    ...is it too soon for the Mr Creosote's 'disgustation' clip?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7887 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to B Jones,

    Can we have some Wellington representation here?

    Absolutely. But not from me. My go to source for info on wtgn restaurants is Cuisine. And seriously I get to the capital maybe once every 5 years so how am I going to know.

    So have at it, how do you track down the best dinner in Wellington?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    ever so slightly “snobby” about food sounds right in Cuisine’s demo.

    That's a little harsh, but if you look at the advertising in the front five pages, you'd have to say it's probably fair that Cuisine magazine makes their money from folks closer to the 1%.

    But I don't think that's why they review the way they do. The problem with ranking restaurants is that for reviewers who eat out a lot - it takes something special to impress them. And it's worse for the top ranked restaurants because they will be visited two or three times by different reviewers and any misstep will drop them out of the running. There are very few cheap and cheerful restaurants that maintain that consistency.

    There is another problem that isn't anything to do with the reviewers and is everything to do with the restaurants themselves. A lot of neat places to eat, with a couple of great dishes, make the mistake of having everything on the menu. If you have 30 different main courses on the menu it is unlikely they will all be your best work. If you look at the restaurants on the list they all have compact menus, things they know they can cook really well every time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Map and a dart, I reckon.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    There are nice dinners to be had in Wellington, but many of the big deal places of five to ten years ago have disappeared. I think Logan Brown and the White House are all that's left standing, although there may be new ones I haven't heard of yet. We've a handful of cheap and cheerful places that have branched out like Chow and Siem Reap, with more than one location. I suspect Blair and Allen Sts have seen better days and are more about hoovering up Friday night drinkers than providing serious eats now.

    Restaurants on Tinakori Rd come and go - there's currently a nice Italian one called Cosa Nostra - the waitstaff were half drunk when I was there, but it was still a good night with delicious steak. I've had lovely Vietnamese salad at Restaurant 88 on Tory St.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That’s a little harsh, but if you look at the advertising in the front five pages, you’d have to say it’s probably fair that Cuisine magazine makes their money from folks closer to the 1%.

    Fair point, and I’ll grant I was perhaps a tad on the unkind side. :) There’s nothing wrong with knowing your demo and pitching to it. The food/beverage side of “lifestyle” magazine publishing is like any other – there’s something out there to appeal to everyone, and it’s not like I’ve never furtively flicked through the glossy food porn section at Unity Books despite my cooking breaching multiple UN Conventions against torture and chemical weapons. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • llew40,

    Went to Masu last weekend, the food was divine, but the service let us down. A group of 6 were booked into an early slot, which (ostensibly) meant 6.00-9.00pm - or so we thought.

    As we finished the last morsel of the tasting plate (outstanding) our cheerful waitress swooped in to tell us that we needed to leave so they could use the table for more customers. And this was about 8.05, so essentially we were being kicked out after 2 hours.

    Of all the ways for it be handled, this seemed one of the least effective, and meant that our lasting impression of Masu was not of the terrific food, but of being strong-armed out of the joint after parting ways with our $250 per couple.

    Since Nov 2012 • 140 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to llew40,

    Went to Masu last weekend, the food was divine, but the service let us down.

    My experience was much the same, except of the 6 dishes we had, only two could be described as divine, the other four were OK. But the service and atmosphere made the evening one I will remember for all the wrong reasons.

    This is one of the reasons I work hard to correlate the review data. Sometimes it's only by reading between the lines on three or more reviews can you figure out that the amazing new restaurant venture of the celebrity chef of the month is actually kinda average.

    And while I understand the economics of trying to get two seatings per table, perhaps these restaurants could consider the effect on repeat business and more importantly the word of mouth value of letting a customer sit for 15 minutes more and leave of their own accord.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

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