Wildly Different 'Reviews'

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jmakinen
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Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by jmakinen » Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:30 pm

I was thinking of going to Siciliano in Helsinki this next week.

I had a look at eat.fi and the results are all over the map - best pizza/worst pizza - greatest Italian/horrible Italian - etc etc.

It's clear friends and relatives - as well as competitors - distort reviews significantly - but I wonder if anyone has any input on this kind of 'problem' - can there really be that much quality variation - or maybe personnel is in a permanent musical chairs game.



Wildly Different 'Reviews'

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tuulen
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by tuulen » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:07 pm

There could be politics involved, at least informally. After all, Finland did take the top pizza prize with a smoked reindeer pizza in recent years, and in doing so Finland beat their Italian competitor, too. So, as a matter of national pride it might be awkward for a Finn to find anything attractive or particularly good about Italian pizza. Of course, there could be genuine differences in regional taste, too, but I would not discount the political aspect. ;-)


jmakinen
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by jmakinen » Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:15 am

Agreed otherwise - but the pizza aspect was only a small part of the range of reviews. What sends me around the bend is that the reviews themselves vary TREMENDOUSLY - with supposedly the menu and staff probably remaining pretty much constant. Of course people's taste and ability at critiquing vary considerably but I would think a great lasagne is always going to be at least a good lasagne.

One thing perhaps worth noting is that people's reviews stick to rather general terms and are not terribly specific and detailed. It might be good to keep that in mind when one is themselves writing a 'review.'


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wunderbier
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by wunderbier » Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:47 am

I've noticed this as well with eat.fi (and Amazon, and Yelp, and you name it). I've also reviewed beers, bars and brewpubs online for going on eight years now, so I'd like to think I have some sliver of insight into the dynamics of online reviews. With websites like Amazon the extreme opinions tend to be over represented; marginally satisfied consumers are less likely to take the time review a product that hasn't impacted their lives significantly. Specialized review websites (beer or wine, for example) draw out those middle of the road experiences as well, perhaps fueled by a collector's desire to tick off experiences. Eat.fi, where there are both registered users with dozens of reviews and unregistered reviews, is probably somewhere between those two extremes.

Anyway, such discrepancy in reviews doesn't surprise me. The human palate varies so much from person to person, and the biases of perceived value and mood are so strong that scores are bound to range significantly. What is friendly service to one person is overly casual and interruptive service to another. A tasty doughnut to one is a sugary mess to another. :wink: Tasty Indian food or fiery mouth-melting death? Steak: bloody or leathery? On the other side of the coin, is the management doing an adequate job of training the staff to present the same experience to every customer? Is the quality of the raw ingredients consistent? For all these and more, specific reviews are rarely as interesting as the average.

Re: generality, I read an Amazon review this morning:
I bought this book based on a review in Saveur. It did not give me the information that I wanted and at $50+, I thought that it was very overpriced.
Truly enlightening. But also, could most people accurately identify all five basic tastes, know the difference between taste and flavor, differentiate between bitter and astringent, or know that the often taught tongue map is fictional? People might know whether or not they enjoy something, but lack the necessary vocabulary to describe the experience. I wouldn't expect someone with limited kitchen experience to exclaim that a red sauce has an overwhelming oregano presence, just that it's too...something.


jmakinen
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by jmakinen » Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:55 am

I'm afraid I agree with everything you say. :)

It is much the same as how I would have answered my 'question' - but it does surprise me that a 'general taste' product like lasagne could draw 'both extreme' comments.

One assumption has been is that the staff is the same - this needn't be true - especially in such a mobile labor market as the food trade - where I know myself many who work on an 'on call' basis - and often only for some hours.


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wunderbier
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by wunderbier » Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:55 pm

I wonder how often kitchen and wait staff are permanent vs. temporary here in Finland. I just started chef's school in Tampere and I follow the mol's adverts for restaurant jobs for fun/research. There's a probably a 50/50 mix of jobs offered by restaurants versus temp agencies. I know that Amica, Sodexo and the like (Restel, Restmax, etc. too?) bank on temporary labor fairly often (and lots of free work practice as well...) but don't know how it works further up the culinary ladder. I figure it's ultimately like every other job market in that it's who you know that's important and most jobs probably go to the bold who contact the employer directly. But, perhaps because of shiny newness, it would seem disingenuous if a fine dinning restaurant -a place most definitely selling flavor as well as experience- regularly used temporary staff without proper training. I suppose it would be reflected in the quality eventually. *shrug*


jmakinen
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by jmakinen » Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:06 pm

True enough - but these joints like Siciliano and La Famiglia (quite bad - dunno about Siciliano yet - reviews certainly leave some doubts) - are hardly 'fine dining' - but these kind of places in Finland never seem to catch on the concept of having consistently good quality at an everyman's price.

And I hope no one comes charging in on what terrible high prices there are in Finland and exorbitant pricing is the accepted rule. (even with the food trade paying on the lower-lowest salary scales)

I was this last autumn in Barcelona - said in all the books to be one of the more expensive cities in Europe. I had several EXCELLENT lunches at 2 different Italian places for 9-10 euro - and as have traveled in Italy extensively - as well as being brought up in an Italian neighborhood - I think I can say they were also genuine.


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Bubba Elvis XIV
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by Bubba Elvis XIV » Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:12 pm

Off topic
jmakinen wrote:I was this last autumn in Barcelona - said in all the books to be one of the more expensive cities in Europe.
I think...For the people who live there it is. Some of the worst wages in the EU (compared to the cost of living) and some of the highest rents, that's what I have heard. I was thinking of moving there but a bit put off by what I read. (Some people like to investigate before they pack their bags!!)

Just booked a ticket to Barc. PM on the way...Looking forward to eating plates of garlic.

But italian food in Spain :?
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jmakinen
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by jmakinen » Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:32 pm

But italian food in Spain
Yes I was wondering too - but there is a large Italian sub-culture in BCN - and I kept running into them at every turn - most were studying and working part-time hotels, etc. I found an absolutely great tapas bar in Sants-Montjuic area - 2-3 euro for Shrimp, Serrano, Pimientos Padron,Sardines - amazing lunch of paella, roast chicken etc. at 3,90 - all prepared EXCELLENTLY! Good beer at 1€ - so it was about 60% eating there - and 40% at the Italian places.

(In any case, Italian food tends to 'travel well' - I just got back from Havana - and the best restaurant food there seems to be Italian (yes - better than Cuban) - and Tallinn has had some very good Italian restaurants - better than anything in Finland (eg DaVinci - no relation to the one in Hki) - Ljubljana has excellent Italian but of course it is a border country - the US of course but there are millions and millions of Italians there)


jmakinen
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Re: Wildly Different 'Reviews'

Post by jmakinen » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:50 pm

went to Siciliano - definitely not worth a visit.


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