We see our fair share of negative restaurant reviews, yet so many are dissatisfying—all fire, no facts. There are the dramatic ALL-CAPS warnings, the multiparagraph screeds with no mention of what anyone ate, and the take-downs that seem fueled by personal grudges. Clever turns of phrase are appealing, as caustic critic A. A. Gill understands too well, but these reviews can ultimately come off as disappointingly uninformative.
So what are the characteristics of great negative reviews on the boards? They're specific, fair, and thoughtful. Two recent entries show 'em how it's done. david kaplan wasn't impressed by Wo Hing General Store in the Mission. What might have added to the paucity of Asian options in the neighborhood only disappointed with its "no better than average steam table fare."
He considered the menu's approach—authentic, traditional Chinese comfort food—and then explained how individual dishes fell short. The "rubbery and bland" oyster-egg crêpe was scant on shellfish, and the best dish, a steamed ground pork patty with salted fish, was in desperate need of condiments.
Similarly, pauliface had no luck at Jardinière. After waiting forever for a drink and being snapped at by a busboy while waiting in a high-traffic lounge area, pauliface and crew sat down to a dinner characterized by "periods of grand desertion" by the staff, occasionally punctuated by the delivery of miniature portions of food.
The brandade on toast with tomato salad seemed tiny and lacked flavor. While the main course of Monterey squid stuffed with sausage tasted just fine, it was also too small to satisfy. Dessert was a Languedoc, named after the region in France, and it featured three fried chips coated in powdered sugar served with pudding and a pile of cooked apples resembling the cobbler that latchkey kids will remember "from those old Swanson TV dinners."
pauliface concludes with a comment that epitomizes a terrible restaurant experience: "I left hungry and had a snack when I got home."
Wo Hing General Store [Mission District]
584 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Jardinière [Hayes Valley]
300 Grove Street, San Francisco