Moving a discussion from the UK/Ireland board over here:
There is a relatively new Hunan restaurant in London's Chinatown, which has been praised by various London chowhounds. See link here:
On April 24th, The Independent (a London newspaper) published a very negative review of the restaurant. Here's a link to the review:
When I started reading this restaurant review, it became immediately clear that the reviewer knew very little (if anything) about Hunan food, or Chinese food in general. At first I thought it was funny, and a perfect example of how what some people find delicious is what other people find disgusting. As an example, here is how the reviewer described his appetizer of pig-ears:
"I plumped for the pig's ear with chilli, reasoning that pig offal could be lovely; I've had braised pig's face at Wild Honey and very nice it was too. This should be a spicy treat. Unfortunately, it was a small plate crammed with extremely cold and glutinous offcuts of what looked like anaemic bacon. Each slice had a central ridge of white muscle or cartilage, which made it interesting to chew. Any actual pork flavour was hard to detect, partly because it was coated with chilli oil. As it slithered out of my chopsticks and across the table, I had to admit it wasn't a success. Perhaps in Hunan circles it's like eating pork scratchings with a cold beer during a football game. In a restaurant, its presence is simply perverse."
As fans of this dish know, what the reviewer describes doesn't sound like a bad version of the dish at all. It's simply that the reviewer doesn't like it! He doesn't compare it to other similar dishes he's had elsewhere, but judges it purely on his own preferences. And of course eating this dish isn't perverse! I've had it at a few different Hunan restaurants as a cold starter.
Unfortunately, this carried through the entire review, and on my second read, I started to find the whole thing quite offensive, and borderline racist. The 1 star rating and insulting review seems to be based purely on the fact that the reviewer doesn't like or even remotely appreciate Hunan food, or the "weird things" that Chinese people eat (jellyfish! duck with the bones still in it!!). It's unclear what the reviewer was expecting, but there is no indication in the review that the restaurant did anything wrong at all! So is it fair that this restaurant received a 1 star review?
More than a question of whether it's fair, I'd like to question why the Independent felt that this was an appropriate review to publish at all. I personally don't think it is - why hire a reviewer to review food that he knows nothing about? And what makes the reviewer think it's acceptable to write a review like this? Should I be writing a letter to the editor?
Everyone has their own food preferences, which is fine...but to fault a Hunan restaurant for serving Hunan cuisine seems unfair and pointless.
The good thing is that other major London papers have written much better reviews of this restaurant. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...