Jimmy yells DOWN WITH ZAGAT!

Robin and I had suspected for some time that Zagat food ratings are meaningless, and this weekend, on Sunday, after a glorious dinner in Manhattan with the lovely Anita from Married…with Dinner, we got proof. Resto, in Gramercy Park, is rated a twenty. A twenty! A twenty means that when Frank Bruni selected Resto as one of his favorite restaurants of 2007, he was off by literally over a thousand spots. A twenty means there isn’t a Japanese restaurant in the city whose California roll isn’t tastier than maple- and lime-glazed pork belly, and deviled eggs served over deep fried pork jowls.

Photo by Alexandra Solmssen

A twenty means you’d be better off grabbing a hot dog from the greasy racks of either Hot Dog King or Gray’s Papaya than you would being served short ribs by the charming, laid back waiters at Resto — beer-braised short ribs, that is, served over french fries with apple conserves: an entrée so in-your-face tasty and decadent you’d think its presence on the menu would preclude such refined desserts as almond financier with the perfect amount of thyme, but no! A twenty means talented chefs and designers, not to mention top notch beer and wine lists and excellent cocktails, don’t mean anything. A twenty means DOWN WITH ZAGAT!

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8 thoughts on “Jimmy yells DOWN WITH ZAGAT!

  1. lrfoodies says:

    I agree with your disapproval of Zagat. I’ve had the opposite problem, going to places that are highly rated and getting a poor experience. DC does the top 100 restaurants, and I don’t trust half of that sometimes based on personal experience. I guess there are always exceptions to everything: you could walk into the best restaurant in town and get the server who’s girfriend just dumped him, or you can walk into an “average” place with honest ingredients and a solid menu that doesn’t try to hard and get the most enjoyable experience ever. It’s all too subjective to accurately objectify with ratings, starts, etc. All you can do is write about what you had, and hope someone listens. The difference between a Zagat review and any other person’s review is that people have chosen to listen to Zagat, whether rightfully or wrongly.

  2. iamnotachef says:

    Keep your voice down! Resto is on my short list of restaurants that I must try, and if you tell people it’s great then I won’t get the reservation I want.

    Zagats is a good list of restaurants; it’s got addresses and phone numbers and all sorts of useful information. Just ignore the ratings and you will be fine.

    Oh, and if you think that the New York ratings are ridiculous, just take a look at some of the suburban scores. I live in a town with a restaurant that received a 27 from Zagats, and it’s an 18 on a good day.

  3. jamessal says:

    I must admit, though I’ve know better for some time now, I took Zagat far too seriously before I met Robin. Going to a place like Resto, learning after the fact that it was rated a twenty — it makes me wonder how many other kick-ass meals I missed on Zagat advice. It makes me YELL!

  4. I’m glad I’ve knocked a little sense into you Jimmy. We have had great dinners at highly-Zagat-rated places, but you know, it’s only ones that we knew would be great with or without the stinkin’ rating (Daniel, Babbo, USC…) so F ’em. I say it’s NYT Reviews all the way, baby!

  5. hey you two! just finally catching up on my must-read blogs…

    What a blast it was to meet you guys after all this time, and to share that amazing spread of porky goodness. 😀 When you come out to SF, we’ll go to SPQR and have the West Coast version of that heartstopping tete de cochon sandwich.

    Zagat, yeah… well… as my boss says: “The problem with ‘the wisdom of the crowd’ is that sometimes the crowd has very little common sense.”

  6. This reminds me of the story of a street beggar, holding up this sign:

    Wars 2
    Legs 1
    Wives 2
    Children 4
    Wounds 2
    -----------
    Total 11

    A point-rating system is easy for people to understand, but for experiences that depend so much on subjective observations, it really doesn’t make sense to reduce a complex set of parameters (even if each one were quantifiable, which is debatable) down to a single number.

    And speaking of subjective observations, the other problem with Zagat and all other consumer-driven ratings is that they often reveal more about the reviewers than the subjects under consideration. This isn’t to say that people who participate in these reviews are a uniform class of dolts, but to extract value out of them, we need to apply our own filters to these reviews instead of trusting them blindly.

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