I don’t see reviewers as enemies of restaurants: Even Anton Ego, in the movie Ratatouille, confessed that all he really wanted was delicious, thrilling food — and what won him over was the homely title dish, authentically prepared just as his mother made it. Every critic wants delicious, thrilling, authentic food to rave about. I rarely review restaurants worth less than two stars, unless they’re glam and glitzy, extracting good money for blah food. The point is to share great discoveries, not to put lackluster restaurants out of business — their customers, or lack thereof, will take care of that. (And if they’re old local favorites, devoted regulars will keep coming back regardless of what I write about limp veggies or canned gravies — for them, it’s comfort food, like Mom’s pressure-cooked pot roast — and they will rant furiously at me for not giving their faves a rave. Ditto for trendy new restaurants where the food may be far from fabulous but the booze flows freely. Then the rants are misspelled.)
Far from a foe, I’m a passionate partisan of serious restaurants, regardless of price range or food style. I go out hoping that every restaurant will be superb — and if sometimes I quibble over small flaws, it’s meant constructively. (Besides, all rave/no quibbles equals no credibility.) What a critic wants more than anything is to find exciting discoveries, share the good news with readers, and try to help honest, high-aiming restaurants survive in a very difficult business. In ethnic restaurants, I’m looking for authenticity — and deliciousness. At the higher end, I love the new “green cuisine,” but also sometimes long for a bit more intellectual/culinary experimentation, more creative audacity — along with deliciousness. This may still take a while — San Diegans (not to mention Gaslamp conventioneers) are stereotyped as conservative in their tastes, and are just warming up to culinary derring-do. But the omens are auspicious. And when they build it, I will come — and rave about it.