With hundreds of hits each week, the Dining Out column of the Pattaya Mail is one of the most read columns in the newspaper, and it is obvious that people do follow the Dining Out team around. Some restaurateurs have even reported having diners coming in with the Pattaya Mail newspaper in their hand and referring to it as the evening goes on.
For some restaurant owners, one worry has been just how many people will come and dine? I know there have been occasions where other reviewers from different sections of the media have arrived with a football team in tow. We do not do that. For the Pattaya Mail Dining Out team the reviewers are myself and one other, unless there is a specific children’s element to it, or some real reason for there to be more than two people. Items such as fondues often need more than two people to make it work, for example. We choose different items from the menu and sample each other’s choices, so we end up with some consensus as far as the item is concerned.
Some restaurants want to provide special items for us to try, but we do not believe in that either. The food we review should be the same food that you can order - exactly the same. That goes for the size of the portion as well. We do warn the establishment that we will be taking photographs of the food, so huge helpings given to us, but not given to the ordinary diner, is soon shown in the photo.
For the above reason, we do not come for Dining Out to sample special food that the chef had specifically made for us, and find it is something which is not on the menu. To write “the truffles were excellent,” when there are no truffles on the menu, is not good for the restaurant at all.
In the review we like to give an indication of the price ranges the diner may expect. Not doing so is a disservice to both the restaurant and the potential diners. To find that the items are beyond the family budget when you actually sit down to eat and read the menu is embarrassing for everyone. Of course, you must remember that food prices can alter between the week of doing the review and the actual printing in the Pattaya Mail, so please don’t start a fight with the maitre d’ if the price of the lobster bisque has gone up 20 baht.
We have been asked why there are no ‘bad’ reviews, but we counter that by saying, “What earthly use would that be?” Diners are not going to try a restaurant that receives a bad rap, are they? And contrary to some of the feared reviewers in the US and the UK, who can make or break a restaurant, we do not feel that our function is to break someone’s rice bowl. No, if the restaurant does not come up to the standard we would expect, we advise the owner/manager and stop the review at that point, and do not write about it. We advise what is wrong, and if and when they are ready in the future, we are happy to come back for the full review again.
Following our dining, we confer on the event and our final summation takes into account the overall dining experience which covers the venue and the ambience, the food, taste and presentation, and the service staff. In a cheap and cheerful restaurant we do not expect silver service - but in a fine dining establishment we do. However, all restaurants should know by now that white wine is served cold and red wine served around a cool room temperature, and preferably allowed to ‘breathe’ for a few minutes.