The Gobbler has often expounded on the role that subjective tastes play in the enjoyment of a particular meal or restaurant. Mrs. Gobbler, for instance, likes to dine in sushi bars and tiny English tea parlors, while the Gobbler prefers giant, smoke-filled barbecue establishments and unruly burger joints. During our time wandering the sprawling landscape that is New York City fine dining, however, we have noticed that not very good restaurants, like Kobe Club (reviewed this week, and which of course, not everybody thought was so bad), tend to have certain characteristics in common. So here are a few of the Gobblers tips for anticipating when your dinner might really suck.
Bigger is usually not better. The Gobbler is a fan of some monster dining establishments, like Buddakan, but as a general rule, the bar area should not be bigger than a prison yard. If it takes more than five minutes to walk to your table, get the hell out.
Beware of blimp-size ceiling decorations. Again, there are exceptions, like the Mothra-size lanterns hanging at Matsuri. But if anything larger than a garbage can is suspended from the ceiling, you probably dont want to be there.
Location, location, location. Certain regions breed mediocrity, like East 14th Street, York Avenue, and the entire Upper West Side. If you happen upon a fine restaurant in any of these death zones, smother it with attention or, like a flower in the desert, it will quickly die.
Beware of matre ds who act like Secret Service agents. Its not a good sign if there is more than one hostess at the door; nor if the hostesses are wired with flesh-colored mikes and ear pieces.
Check the butter. Fine, creamy butter is the essential reference point from which all culinary goodness springs. Good restaurateurs know this. Bad ones dont want to spend the money.
Adhere to the Kobe ratio. This states that if the word Kobe is mentioned on a menu more than twice, chances are your meal will cost a lot of money, and will probably suck.
Inspect the wine list. Simplicity and variety, good; chattiness and over-selling, bad. Selling a bulk wine like, say, Far Niente Chardonnay ($35 retail) like they do at Mr. Chows downtown, for $108, is really bad.
Remember the truffles-truffled paradigm. When the dreaded term truffled (as opposed to the more neutral, less exhibitionist truffles) is mentioned on the menu, your meal will probably suck.
Family-size fondue desserts are a bad omen. Or flaming desserts, or desserts bigger, in general, than your mothers handbag. Adam Platt