Visiting Restaurants Multiple Times

If I were a "real" food critic, there is no way I would write a review of a restaurant after only visiting it once. "Real" food critics, or those who by enough good fortune or groveling have found their way into printed publications, are compelled to try a restaurant at least twice (if not three times) to make sure they're able to give a restaurant a fair assessment.

The thing is, most people in the real world won't go back to a restaurant they're trying for the first time if they have one bad experience, be it hostile service, shoddy ambiance, or subpar food. Several people have told me I am wrong about Hurry Curry, for example, but when I ate there, the food was so bad that I can't justify a return visit, especially when there are so many Indian restaurants I haven't tried yet and so many places that have proven themselves to be good. In Los Angeles, competition is stiff. Didn't like Matsuhisa? You can go to Nobu Malibu. Didn't like Spago? Wolfgang has plenty of other restaurants. Didn't like Asahi? Kinchan's, Chabuya, and Ramenya are just footsteps away.

Sometimes, however, I will revisit a restaurant that I didn't care for on the first visit, be pleasantly surprised by my second visit, and then feel like a jackass. Or I'll visit a place that was great, like The Hump, only to be ignored for most of my meal and wonder if I'm eating at the same restaurant. When this happens, I generally rewrite the review to reflect both experiences. I'll also rewrite old reviews to add new photos and additional impressions from subsequent visits, or because my style has changed quite a bit since I first started Foodie Universe and I want my writing style to be more consistent throughout the site. With as many articles as I have, though, that process won't be finished anytime soon.

What are your thoughts on visiting restaurants multiple times? How often are you willing to give a place a second or even third chance? Is it reasonable to expect a restaurant to put its best foot forward each and every night, for each and every patron? Let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

For my two cents—yes, I think it's reasonable to expect a restaurant's best whenever you visit. Why shouldn't you expect that? If you go see a play, you expect the performance to be flawless. On the other hand, if you go to a ballgame, you realize that it might not go as well as you hope. I guess the question is: is eating out more like seeing a play or a ballgame? :)

Erin S. said...

This is a tough one, especially in LA where there is so much to choose from--I'm always torn between an old favorite and exploring something new off my looooonnnngg list of "to try" places. If I had an employer picking up the check, however (as most "real" reviewers do) I'd be more than happy to eat multiple times at, say, Spago, before coming to any conclusions.

joanh said...

I've been thinking about this too recently... if my second experience is vastly different from my first, then I will update my post too (and include both perspectives).. it just means that the restaurant is inconsistent or your tastes are different than others.. But definitely, many people will not go back to a place after a bad or mediocre experience..

For a fun read, you should check out Garlic and Sapphires, ex-NY Times critic Ruth Reichl. She would go up to 5 times before she wrote her review and with disguises and different people. It was interesting to note when she got the same experience whether she was "spotted" as the critic or disguised as an old lady, or if she was treated a lot worse as a "normal" average patron.