Hong Kong Food Bloggers Never Write Bad Reviews


That’s one of the first things I was thinking while reading this hilarious takedown by the NY Times of Guy Fieri’s latest restaurant in New York.

Hong Kong food bloggers (at least most of the English language ones) are not visiting restaurants anonymously, as a paying customer might.  They are generally writing their reviews based on invitations from the restaurant or tasting sessions held for the media.  (I’ve heard tell that some of these bloggers actually call restaurants to ask/beg/threaten for a free meal.)  However, real food critics go to restaurants anonymously so that they are treated the same as any other customer, pay for their meal, and often revisit the same spot more than once before finally writing a publishing a review.  Meanwhile, the English language magazines in HK will criticize restaurants to some extent, but a one-star review is extremely rare, since they’re not about to alienate potential (or current) advertisers.  About the only place that consistently published negative reviews was this guy, who stopped just over a year ago.

Anyway, Pete Wells has written this review of Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, located in Times Square.  I don’t think the review will matter to the success of the restaurant.  Guy Fieri is a celebrity chef and the people who go to Times Square will be mostly star-struck tourists who’ve watched him on TV and never look at the New York Times.

Be that as it may, here are some tasty nuggets from the review, which is set as a series of questions to Fieri, starting with wondering if he’s ever actually eaten there:

Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?

Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are? If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds? Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?

Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers — called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?

Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?

Okay, Hong Kong food bloggers, it’s your turn.



12 thoughts on “Hong Kong Food Bloggers Never Write Bad Reviews

  1. Steve

    I suggest you read the Chinese-only HK food blogs if you want more critical reviews written from a seasoned perspective. They’re mostly short “I ate here, here are some photos and maybe some general quick impressions” type posts, but they’re a lot more useful than most newspaper reviews (HK or USA). NYTimes is one of the rare few newspapers that has restaurant reviews worth a damn.

    A periodically updated list of HK food blogs is kept here

    The Deli-Prince blog is particularly good and he posts in (comically bad) English.

  2. Longtimenosee

    I recall a review from you on Osteria that was really rather positive, whereas the Target reviewer pans it.
    I accept that you did state the conflict of interest in your review, but perhaps you also gilded the lily when given a chance to be honest?

    1. Spike Post author

      Steve – I read Deli Prince Club regularly and sometimes leave comments there. I especially enjoy that he reviews the kinds of places that few other English language bloggers even enter.

      Longtimenosee – “I accept that you did state the conflict of interest in your review” – Yes, I did state right up front that I was invited and comped. And so?

  3. Longtimenosee

    No I agree, I was mentioning that to your credit.

    I just am making the point that your review was exactly in line with what you seem to be complaining about in today’s post. You were the reviewer decribed in 2nd paragraph.
    The Target review of the same establishment makes it hard to believe that it could have been anything other than dismal.

    1. Spike Post author

      Longtimenosee, it is possible that the lily was gilded, but I did start off my review by writing “Full disclosure – I received one night’s free stay at the hotel as well as free dinner and breakfast, presumably in return for posting reviews here. Naturally this might incline me to be more positive than usual but I promise that everything here is my honest opinion; feel free to treat this with as many grains of salt as you’d like.”

      While I enjoyed reading Target, I didn’t agree with all of his reviews. Be that as it may, he visited Osteria a year before I did. Isn’t it conceivable that in a year they might have fixed whatever issues he spotted?

  4. Longtimenosee

    Once again I am fully with you on your above comment. A perfectly fine position to take.

    I just see that you lament the lack of “real” reviewers here in HK, offer up the definition of what that should be, challenge other bloggers to go for it…
    Perhaps a revisit and anonymous review of Osteria?

    A comment from a long time reader of your blog. Take it with a heavy pinch of salt I suggest :)

    1. Spike Post author

      I get where you’re coming from. I’d love to go back to Osteria. These days I can’t afford it!

  5. Kelly@thehungryegghead.com

    For an unbiased review one must spend their own money, go anonymously, and go more than once.

    For example when I was a guest of The Peninsula, the afternoon tea set they gave me was 100% better than when I went as a paying customer. They even gave me different items and everything was just made by the chef 5 minutes. If I wrote about that experience they were a 10/10.

    But as a regular Joe, the items in my afternoon tea set was stale even though service was still top notch.

  6. Jim

    I miss that Target guy. Perhaps he kicked the bucket from overeating – he did not sound that healthy. Amusing ‘though.

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