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Thursday, March 02, 2006



I still do want to try Dosa. Now maybe even more. Meanwhile I ate at Passand a couple of weekends ago and had an excellent meal of Southern Indian cuisine. Have you been and what do you think? I'd love to see your review of that place, it's been around forever.


I think all bloggers should read The Perfectionist by Rudolph Chelminski before getting into reviewing restaurants.


Amy, definitely try Dosa. For South Indian in Berkeley, I recommend Udupi Palace at 1901 University Ave. over Pasand. Their branch in San Jose is even better. In fact, a South Indian friend of mine likes the food so much, he's having them cater his wedding.

Barbara, excellent book recommendation! We should all read that before attempting to review restaurants.


Brett blunt, I don't think so. That so brings to mind someone running around with a hammer, belting things, no finesse in that. You are more like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, slicing through to the heart of the matter. There is nothing wrong in being critical, as long as it is done honestly. You provided a service to Dosa, which they were smart enough to take on board. Imagine if no one was critical of anything, for fear of offending feelings and nothing bad was ever changed, or worse, Dosa went out of business because no one told them something wasn't right. I didn't read what you originally wrote, so I can't have an opinion, but think about this ~ you may have helped save a restaurant.


I remember reading that whole thing, and what impressed me about it was the owner's very thoughtful & calm response - It definitely made me want to check out Dosa, while at the same time understanding that you had a less-than-perfect experience - but that happens. That's the restaurant business. Great follow-up, Brett.

FJK of Blog Appetit

I admire your ethical navel gazing but I think that bloggers occupy a special space in the media-o-sphere. We represent personal opinion, so what's wrong with presenting personal opinion, even if mainstream media feel it is snobbish? Our biases and past work are there for everyone to see.

I do think there is a difference between saying something like "this is the experience I had this one time at this restaurant that has only been only days" and saying "this is the worst food ever" and not specify you ate there only once or whatever.

Having said all that, I think your guidelines are good ones, especially for a negative review. I would also say that it is probably a good idea to give a bad restaurant a second chance before posting. It increases your credibility and gives the place a chance to redeem itself. (Of course, that gets expensive.)

I've not written any restaurant reviews myself, but like the chapter in Dianne Jacob's book Will Write For Food on the topic. (A disclaimer, Dianne is a friend of mine.)

Anjan Mitra

Hi folks - Brett was kind enough to email me right after he wrote this post. I went back to check the response I wrote to him 2 weeks ago. Based on some of the comments above I think my email response to him is still relevant and I've copied it below.

"Hi Brett - Thank you very much for your thoughtful post and we are very glad that you enjoyed the meal on your second visit to Dosa.

You hit all the salient points that are close to our hearts. You have clearly defined a set of standards for bloggers that I hope others pay attention to. While there are many benefits of blogging (over traditional journalism) it is important to strive for accuracy and fairness.

From our perspective, blogs and online reviews have been a great way to hear customer feedback especially when there are constructive comments. As first-time restaurateurs, we agonize over every criticism and have used each suggestion to improve the food and service at Dosa. Needless to say we will keep doing so to ensure we are consistently providing a great dining experience.

Emily and I hope that you and N visit us often and don't hesitate to send me any comments or suggestions you might have...including criticisms! :-)

Kind regards.


As a restaurant owner, I do consider online reviews to be a valuable source of input IF they are constructive. (Unfortunately, they can also hurt business if there are vindictive, inaccurate or done without a level of integrity). I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we have improved things at Dosa by paying close attention to criticisms that we consider valid.

Since bloggers don’t have an editorial staff looking over their shoulders, I believe it’s important to define to guidelines, as Brett has attempted to do, especially since many readers do give a lot of credence to what is said online. (I know I pay close to attention to criticisms that are written in the vein of providing us feedback that we can act upon).

From the perspective of a business-owner (who needs to worry about making payroll, rent, PGE, vendor bills, etc :-)) I am much more receptive if I believe the foodie blogs are trying to help us improve our business rather than going out of their way to hurt us. Here are a few suggestions (some of which build on Brett’s comments)

• If you absolutely must comment before the 1-month grace period make sure you visit the restaurant again and *update your review* (as Brett did) after you’ve given them a chance to correct things.
• Before the one-month mark you always have the option of sending feedback to the restaurant directly via an email or a phone call.
• Visit a restaurant a few times before writing your review. If it’s only based on one visit please clearly indicate it. Some do, however, most don’t. Again, if your experience changes during a follow-on visit to the restaurant, update your review. (I had an expensive and less-than-stellar first experience at what is now one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, EOS.)
• If you’re criticizing a restaurant, seriously consider if you are making a fair argument. We have been criticized because my wife was not South Indian and because most of our servers were white. In my opinion, both arguments were absurd. (Btw, NEITHER were Brett’s initial criticisms).
• We have received calls from food critics or their editorial staff to check facts about our food and the restaurant…after they have visited us anonymously. As bloggers, you might consider doing the same. If the restaurant owner does not respond at least you can honestly claim that you attempted to check your facts.
• I much prefer blogs that allow a restaurant owner to respond in their own words. Some of the online review sites don’t offer such an opportunity. :-)



Venkatesh Iyer

Really have a try at Dosa. Along with it try Sambar and Chutney which are no doubt South Indian Dishes. You will really love it.

las vegas games

It’s interesting to know about the “Jumping Monkey” I would definitely. I have been living in Philippines for the last 20 years. Once i visited India along with my parents and the food culture there was really amazing and very diversified. Each and every state there has it’s own speciality in especially in food (language cloths, and tradition would be other terms). If in future i will get a chance to visit India, I would not like to miss it, exclusively for Indian Food :) like to visit there.

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  • sar·dine (n) 1. a young herring or similar small fish. 2. a metaphor for the small and often less well-known ingredients, restaurants, farmers, and artisans that San Francisco-based chef Brett Emerson writes about in this website.
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