Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Coming Attractions

Restaurants are our second hobby. We try someplace new every Saturday, and over the last four years we've hit a substantial portion of the spots in Boston and Providence. I've seen a significant number of hits on the one restaurant review I've published, so there's obviously demand for more — and I've got both the experience and the capacity to meet that demand.

It's also a good fit, since my primary purpose here is to woodshed and I'm not exactly expert at writing restaurant reviews. Practice will do some good, and if I can fill an existing need then so much the better.

With CD reviews, I have no problem writing free-form since I've got the expertise for the subject. I'm not a chef, though; and although I'm a great cook, the difference between a cook and a chef is the difference between a guitar teacher and a concertmaster. I know my stuff, but I'm going to be talking about theirs — so I'm going to need some guidelines.

I've decided to steal from the best. Charles F. Sarkis is the chairman and CEO of the Back Bay Restaurant Group, the company that owns Abe & Louie's and Papa Razzi and Coach Grill and a half-dozen other Boston landmarks, and Sarkis says the industry hasn't changed in the 40 years since he opened his first restaurant. He says that diners are always looking for the same three things: quality, value, and hospitality. So with compliments to Mr. Sarkis's expertise, those will be the three categories I'll critique.

I won't score each restaurant (à la Phantom Gourmet), but I probably will use a rating system. All cliché aside, they're useful: It's a clear way to signal your opinion to the reader before he begins your review, and that frees you from having to clumsily make the point in your lead sentence every time. Maybe it's not creative, but there's a lot to be said for utility — and not much to be said for writers who can't achieve the former without abandoning the latter.

So that's what's coming. I'll aim to publish one a month, maybe more. If you live in New England, keep an eye out. And if not, keep them bookmarked anyway. You never know when you might find yourself in Boston looking for a bite to eat.


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