Following up in a general way to my comments about not just the pluses, but the minuses of Teh Intertubes, yesterday, Yelp strikes me as a service that has a whole lot of both.
- Excellent way to find services—particularly restaurants—surrounding any particular well travelled area.
- It generally has quite a good number of reviews for most places, because just a few reviews is probably worse than no reviews.
- It takes time and effort to write a review, so the Yelp business model is based upon volunteer users creating the majority of their content (an understandable allure, eh, Zuckerberg?).
- It tends to weight to the side of negative, because people seem to harbor their negative feelings a bit more than they do their positive ones. After all, is the gossip that abounds in your social circle very often of a positive nature?
- It’s extremely easy for decent business establishments to be treated with high levels of unfairness, often dripping with veiled envy and plain old hate on various reasons of projected misery.
…My wife is weird. Very weird. Let me tell you just how weird.
She’s so weird that she was just interviewed on a popular Bay Area radio station (KBAY), being picked as their Teacher of the Month. They started rolling the 60-second segment of the interview last night on the radio and there’s an in-depth, 15-minute interactive interview with her class as well. …Can’t seem to find links on the site but will post when I do. I heard them from emailed audio files.
…But anyway, she’s also so weird that instead of going to the Vietnamese $7 haircut place a minute walk from her classroom that would just thrill me to death, she likes her same hairdresser, who happened to move up and take a stall in a place just off Union Square a few months back. Bea had a Saturday appointment and I said what the hell: let’s spend an afternoon and evening in SF.
Not mentioning to her, preferring a surprise, I went to Yelp to get a bead on some French restaurants near the French Consulate, having frequented Café de la Presse a number of times in the past—where I could have a properly served whiskey or café, read French newspapers and periodicals (catch up on Paris Match! the French equivalent of People Magazine, but much better) and then get a plate of boudin noir.
She dropped me at the theater where the Bloomingdales is, to take in a film (Will Smith’s sci-fi deal with his son, After Earth—which I liked enough, but also knew what I was in for…unlike film critics who prefer to judge performaces based on what they prefer them to have been, and not upon what they intended to be). We met up at the bar at The Daily Grill after she was done. …I had simply left her a voicemail: “you know where to find me.”
…So earlier I had checked out the restos on Yelp but was dumbfounded by all the very negative reviews, especially of Café Claude. Too salty. Bad Service. Watery soup. And on & on. I’d been in the area and I know it’s just like a half block from the French Consulate and wondered how they could possibly get away with doing things poorly in a very highly, densely competitive market like SF. The French, while willing to pay dearly for restaurant service, are nonetheless good practitioners of unspoken standards. They won’t Yelp. They just won’t go back.
Anyway, I was a bit depressed (I am not that familiar with Yelp, anyway) and figured I’d just do what I normally do: walk around until we see an attractive restaurant with a menu I like, that’s full of people—but not so full we can’t get in within perhaps about 30 minutes. Just enough time for un apéro at the bar, always the perfect way for me. I had not discussed any of this with Beatrice, not a word.
…”Hi.” I’m sure she had on just the right smile and look of eye to signal: notice and compliment my hair, now.
I turned around in my barstool and there she was, knowing exactly where to find me.
“Your hair looks nice. Worth it? Did you have fun? Feel pampered?”
“Every penny, and yes. …By the way, Sylvia said that we absolutely have to go to to Café Claude.”
Now, I suppose I could have prayed to my personal God to guide me to the right restaurant, but I’ll take serendipity every time, not to mention the word of a hairdresser a block away. Café Claude” it was, absolutely.
The service was typically French, totally proper and our 20-something waitress was from Bordeaux. She got a kick out of the fact that I was a navigator on FNS Colbert in ’90-’91, right before it was decommissioned and went to be a museum ship in Bordeaux until 2007. She knew about it being there, but had never visited it. Small world nonetheless.
Here’s the review I posted to Yelp, slightly edited:
We’re in San Jose, heading up to the city last Saturday afternoon for my wife to take care of some stuff, so I looked at Yelp to potentially find a restaurant near Union Square we’d not been to. Knowing of the French places near the French Consulate, I focussed there. I’m a former resident of France and appreciate the cuisine tremendously.
Unfortunately, there were so many negative reviews of so many of the places, including Café Claude, I just set it aside in desperation, figuring we’d just walk around and pick a place based on a pretty full restaurant (actual attendance speaks louder than reviews). But coincidentally, my wife’s hairdresser just a block away, highly recommended Claude; so we went.
Superb. Except for them serving bread and butter (unsalted butter, as per usual except in Bretaigne—so I have zero idea of what all the “too salty” reviews are talking about) before the meal for ignorant American expectations, it was totally authentic.
1. The veal sweetbreads (Ris de Veau) were divine. I saw a vegetarian reviewer actually complain about the name (‘sweet bread’). Uh, how do you even respond to that kind of utter ignorance? They were succulent, essentially natural meatballs in a preparation that allowed them to stand largely on their own.
2. The Steak Tartare was precisely French. Hand chopped, like I do at home (it’s not hamburger folks) and even in the “spicy” configuration I asked for is “French spicy,” which means more of the provincial herbs, spices condiments…not hot, not salty, not peppery.
3. They know how to serve a whiskey: ice cubes on the side.
4. The Onion soup was actually FRENCH onion soup and not AMERICAN onion soup so many of the ignorant, negative reviews complain about. See, French onion soup is not served such that it burns your mouth (French serve all food not extremely hot nor cold—except ice cream—because you get more flavor when food is in a smaller range from room temp, warm or cool). Nor is FRENCH onion soup thickened with corn or potato starch to make it “hearty.” It’s a near demi-glace beef broth made from roasting bones & marrow, boiling them for a long time, letting the broth reduce and concentrate flavor, then introducing onions. Many French really don’t even eat much of the croutons or much of the cheese, because it’s never a meal. It’s all about the oniony flavor of a light, deeply flavorful beefy broth one appreciates for the deepness and complexity of the flavor.
5. They had a lamb shank special and it was perfect. So Frenchy.
In all, a perfect meal where I left invigorated, massaged with flavor, pampered with good service and made the drive back to San Jose without the slightest hint of comatose remorse after so many American styled meals of excess.
My takeaway for you is this. Yes, use all those new tools and weapons at your service and disposal, to affect the crowd source judgment that’s part & parcel of them. But please don’t forget the positive! Be a responsible practitioner of concealed carry. Don’t just think to Yelp when you have a truly bad experience that needs to be accounted for. Recognize that in the larger scheme of life, it’s actually more important to salute the good stuff, and if for nothing else, to try to balance out the natural tendency of people who focus on the bad, because they now have access to all these powerful “weapons of mass destruction.” Everyone now gets to pretend via smart phone that they are actually creating something of value, when in reality they’re just tearing shit down and displaying the worst tendencies of the entropic beings we all are—lazy ass mutherfuckers, basically. It’s soooo easy, and we get a little boost from doing absolutely nothing worth much of a shit by faking the esteem of tearing something down that was built with a larger measure of self esteem, though imperfect.
Or, what’s the best strategy in life? Fight endlessly against the bad, or exalt the good at all opportunity? Think about it. Would you rather promote fighting bad, or propping up good? Does the bad shrink more in response to criticism, or more in response to informed contrast?