Hey OpenTable, Pete Wells is talking about you! He’s criticizing those reservation time GUESSING GAMES you make us play. End the madness and just tell us when there are available seats, OpenTable!
Pete Wells of The New York Times publishes an insightful critique of the James Beard Award semifinalists. Here’s what’s also curious: That Jewel Bako is one of two New York spots running for “best restaurant.”
There are many good sushi spots in Manhattan, and while Jewel Bako is surely one of the better of the bunch, it’s not a name that’s regularly mentioned in the same breath as 15 East, Sushi of Gari or Ushiwakamaru (at least in my entourage). Furthermore, it’s surely not a restaurant that’s deemed by anyone as among New York’s best restaurants. Thoughts?
Something interesting happened this week in the world of culinary journalism; New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells didn’t critique a restaurant. Instead, he used his column space to advise diners to eat downtown, penning a fine love letter to those “temporarily shuttered” by superstorm Sandy.
This critic, in turn, took a somewhat analogous course, forgoing a review to advise restaurants on what they could do to better serve diners in preparation for the next natural disaster.
One of my chief suggestions raised a few eyebrows: More good restaurants need televisions, especially when the power’s out. Conventional wisdom, of course, is just the opposite. Here’s what Sam Sifton had to say about the matter early last year when he was still the NYT food critic:
All fair points. I like to think that social contract is voided once the lights go off in half the city. I don’t go to the library, to town square, or to the local barbershop when things go dark. Rather, I go out to eat. And when the lights come back on, I go out to eat again. Restaurants, for many of us urban dwellers, are the centers of our communities. They’re our surrogate kitchens, civilized extensions of our living rooms.
So when the lights go off, I wish I could watch the latest edition of “60 Minutes” in the bar area at Empellon Cocina, Mission Chinese, The Brooklyn Star, Marea, or even Frankies 457.
I had similar issues with Blanca reservations as well, though I’ll discuss that further when I file my Bloomberg News review sometime before Christmas.
In the meantime, allow me to make a suggestion: Tiny spots like Blanca and Brooklyn Fare should switch to electronic-only reservations. It worked for Momofuku Ko, Alinea, Next, Seiobo, Shoto, The NoMad Rooftop, and other pricey restaurants with limited space. With online bookings, there’s never any busy signal, never any straight-to-voicemail. With online resies, you get an immediate answer. It takes three minutes out of your day, instead of three hundred redials over an hour.