Why Yelp (and the New Reviewer Card) Sucks; Restaurant Week is Here!

PLUS: A sustainably fished stunner; X2O’s Black Cod with Honey and Sake Glaze is delectable

Why Yelp Sucks

Here it is, folks, the most loathsome rectangle to hit restaurants since Esquire critic John Mariani distributed his business card and Daiquiri recipe when visiting restaurants. Of course, I could only be talking about the new Reviewer Card, a helpful piece of plastic when it comes to extorting free meals and identifying yourself to restaurants as a total dishrag.

From the Reviewer Card site, “Here’s how it works: 1) Display at local businesses. 2) Enjoy premium service. 3) Build Rapport. 4) Repeat.” I especially love that you’re supposed to display the card before you enjoy all that “premium service”—can you imagine how that particular exchange would go? Do you tape it to your forehead?

The site explains why you need a Reviewer Card. “What’s in it for members? Members will get to enjoy the premium service they deserve, while continuing to provide insightful, honest, and valuable reviews to other customers.” In other words (as one start-up writer once gushed when trying to get me to link to her blog), the card entitles you, like that newbie blogger’s business card, to snag free shiznit at target restaurants. The skin crawls.

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Although the Reviewer Card is an extreme case, it does point out the flaws inherent in the crowd-sourced review system. Primarily, Yelp et al (I’m looking at all of the other sites, too) create a Wild West environment that encourages the dual scourges of comp extortion (à la Reviewer Card) and pay-for-play reviewers. To be honest, this was already a big problem with those little bloggistas flapping around their business cards. The big question is, who is left with the bill? I’ll tell you who pays: It’s those extorted restaurants and diners whose choices are formed by Yelp. My own experience as a restaurant critic dining in Westchester and elsewhere is that Yelp posts can be wildly inaccurate (if not downright suspicious). Sure, there are honest Yelpers, but it seems like there are a lot of posters with vested interests, too.

Here’s the thing about all that anonymity: Those John Q. Yelp Helpers are not actually personally responsible for what they write. If I write that I love, love, love an, in fact, mediocre restaurant, then I have to deal with the professional consequences of leading you astray. And by consequences, I mean that I lose your readership and, potentially, my job. The same goes for when I pan a restaurant—editors will be flying up my butt like Oz monkeys and that restaurant’s owner will be on the phone. My career is on the line with every word that I write, so I’d better be able to back up what I say with clear, valid, and truthful points. This is not the case with John Q. Yelp Helper, whoever that guy is.

And just a word of warning to those of you who may be tempted to join the Reviewer Card program: It’s wise not to accept the food prepared by people who you are attempting to extort. I mean, anything could be in it. Enough said.

Have you used Yelp? What did you think? Share your Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, etc., story in the comments section below or send me a private email on the EaterLine at jsextoneater@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

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hudson valley restaurant week

Hot Dates

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week continues through 3/24.

So, here is one of those evil Cookery bulletins that I get every once in a while. “Ok! Also we have a s*** ton of funky Cookery specials that we are running in addition to our Restaurant Week menu! Will you be writing about this exciting week at all?” Why, yes, The Cookery—I will be. Folks, in case you don’t know, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is upon us and many local restaurants are offering sweet discounts. Check out the HVRW site to see which restaurants participate and whether they have weekend exclusions. Remember: Tip generously during Restaurant Week and be a little understanding about the crowds.

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Hot Flash

AJ’s Burgers will be on Food Network’s Restaurant Stakeout on March 27.

You’ve seen this show: Restaurant Stakeout—it’s a somewhat “heightened” reality show that pits restaurant workers against hidden cameras. What will happen at AJ’s? Will those naughty workers misbehave? Tune in on March 27 to see the not-so-real deal.

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black cod dish at x2o

Hot Plate

X2O’s Black Cod with Honey and Sake Glaze

Crisped skin; moist, milky flesh; and a subtly sweet/salty glaze make this stunner by Chef Peter Kelly one of our favorites. It arrived with Del Cabo organic tomatoes and broccoli rabe with woodsy morel jus. Underneath was a ragout of orzo to absorb every precious drop. And guess what else? Black cod is a sustainable fish, so you don’t even have to feel guilty about the pleasure.

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