War Without End

The first of this morning's PR shots came from the folks at Abacus--something about AAA's Five Diamond Award and, more importantly, revisiting the moment when chef Kent Rathbun lifted (as in picked it up off the ground with his bare hands) an elk on Iron Chef America. But you can read about that on D's SideDish blog.

When I bumped into Rathbun at an event last week, he launched into a 'the Dallas Observer should be nicer to restaurants' conversation. The sensitivity of certain chefs is understandable these days. Although certainly Rathbun and his restaurants have little to worry about, reputation-wise at least, an economy teetering on the brink of depression is enough to make anyone outside the Bubble think through their dining choices carefully.

The Observer always sets out to be accurate in its reviews (a commitment some confuse with not nice-ness). But if anything, the economic situation demands even greater scrutiny on the part of critics.

After all, it's your money. Why spend $200 on a somewhat-above-average dinner for two at Pyramid when, for less than half that amount, you can grab a pretty-well-above-average meal at Bolsa? Or step it up to half that amount and experience average-can't-spot-it-with-the-naked-eye at Tei An?

Not surprisingly, I've been accosted by restaurateurs before. Years ago (during the much better Clinton hangover days) the owner of Mattito's ranted passionately about the critic-restaurant owner divide. The problem with my sort, he said, was that we don't take into account the "time, effort and money" his sort put into their establishments.

My response? "Nobody cares."

I mean, we all appreciate that some people sacrifice normal life to open restaurants. Neither in bad times nor in good, however, do patrons spat out rancid pork then shrug, "oh, well--they've been working 90 hour weeks and hocked the car to get the place open, so it's OK."

There are closings and rumors of closings. But, sorry, it's really never a good time for restaurateurs or for critics to shortchange the customer.--Dave Faries