Open For Criticism, Ctd

by Brendan James

A reader takes issue with the idea of starting restaurant reviews on opening night:

Luke O’Neil’s argument that restaurants should be reviewed as soon as they open shows a complete lack of understanding of how a restaurant gets put together and underplays the complexity of the process. His analogy to theatre previews is apt. I’m a Broadway theatre professional and can attest that the preview process is not a mere courtesy to work out the kinks – it’s an essential part of the creative process. Indeed, I have never seen a musical that is remotely the same on opening night as it is at first preview. There are fundamental things that can only be learned by performing the show in real-time, in front of a real audience. I am certain the same is true for restaurants.

Preview theatre audiences know that they are buying an early sneak-peek at a show. As a foodie myself, I know that hitting a restaurant in the first week or two will mean sacrificing perfected operations for a priority view. There’s no attempt to hide the story by the operator.

A first preview review of “Wicked” would not review the show that tens of thousands have since seen. A first night review of Momofuku Ssäm Bar would also not be a review of the restaurant you can now go visit. Early reviews serve neither the reader nor the broader goal of establishing a written history for the industry at large.