Ask Tom, Answer Gansie: Bad, Bad Blogger
NW D.C.: I was out with my wife at a well-known, hard-to-get-into place this past weekend and overheard a conversation at another table. The diner was complaining at their table about the service and indicated that “He is a senior member of a well-known area food blog, and the lack of service will be noted.” Well, the waiter calmed him down and comped the person a full bottle of wine. I checked the blog (will not mention) and sure enough there was an entry, and there was a mention of the lack of service, but no mention of the comped wine. Do the boards hold that much sway over restaurants that they are fearful of bad posts?
Tom Sietsema: It’s a big, bad — but never boring! — world out there in the blogosphere. I think restaurants DO care what is posted about them online. And I think some online scribes are taking advantage of the fact.
Re bad blogger: Restaurants, like so many other places, rely on reputation. This chat has demonstrated that a bad reputation can devastate a restaurant. For a blogger to take advantage of that is despicable. The blogger in question should be outed. I for one would like to know who is blackmailing restaurants and I’m sure the restaurants would like to know who should no longer be considered a decent blogger.
Tom Sietsema: Ah, that’s a sticky, sticky path! I think it’s up to the monitors of the boards to police their chats and/or discussions. Here at the Post, for instance, reporters have editors — a safety net for which I’m very grateful. I don’t think the same can be said for many amateur food sites.
gansie: I’ve only wanted to do this once. Every other dining experience, good, bad or drunken, I’ve never felt the need to disclose the fact that I am reviewing the place. Clearly by the fact that I write this Ask Tom feature, I closely follow his guidance: never announce your critiquing presence. Even when my friends have wanted to leave little notes saying check fill-in-the-blank publication, I always take the high ground. But, no dining establishment tempted me as much as… Westend.
Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert is crap. I took 80 there (by request) for his birthday. And although we were celebrating his getting older, the waiters treated us like effing 15 year olds.
I went to the bathroom when we first got there (journeyed through a bit of a bar crawl on the way over and saw some MLS players!) and when I came back, the ever-eavesdropping 80 thought he heard some sort of interesting special being offered, but couldn’t gather the details.
So when the waiter came to take our order, he didn’t preface it with the specials list. I therefore asked and he said, “Um, it’s a chicken sausage.” With that condescension and lack of detail, we obviously didn’t order that appetizer. And I was pisted!
80 ordered a rabbit salad (um, kinda like a chicken salad) over toast and I ordered a fried duck egg over asparagus. The egg was pretty cool – it was breaded and fried and oozed yolk. But the asparagus was frighteningly cold.
During this portion, we overheard our waiter at the next table generously offer a loving explanation of the chicken sausage. Holy shit did that piss me off! I mean, I almost wanted to leave. Ugh! I actually don’t really want to talk about it. That’s how pisted and embarrassed I was about the lack of respect.
For the entrees, 80 choose the skate with a side of bitter to the point of inedible butter-braised endives. And I got the steak with shallot sauce. Twenty-five bucks with no side. An order of fries was clearly in need to supplement, annoyingly.
The skate was fine. The steak was good, and cooked to my medium-rare liking. (Although I can’t say Edouble and miked’s salt and olive olive grilled steak wasn’t just as good, or better.) But I was still terribly upset. And, the meal was ill paced. We got our appetizer fairly fast and only about 2 minutes passed before we got our entree. Um, we get the point – you want us out.
And to make it even more fun, the table next to us got all this FREE shit. I think they got both an appetizer and a dessert for free. Two girls, not even cute.
Because it was his birthday, we ordered a dessert that really wasn’t that good, which I can’t find on the website and don’t remember the name. Something with caramel and some chocolate and sea salt. But that too a bit bitter, and just off.
When the hefty bill came, we debated the tip. Do we tip like we normally would at a nice restaurant and show to the waiter that just because we look young does not mean we don’t appreciate fine dining? Or, do we say FUCK HIM and tip low? Or, do I let him know that I am writing a tell-all about his shit service and this shit restaurant?
We tipped low.