By Larry Sheingold –

It changes the dining out experience when you write for a restaurant recommendation website. You go from asking yourself: am I enjoying this restaurant, to: would I encourage others to try it. The answer may not be the same for both questions.

It’s not that I can’t deal with friends questioning my judgment. (God knows). And it’s not that good food isn’t good and bad food bad no matter what the setting. But experience teaches that not every diner measures excellence, or even acceptability the same way.

Apparently some people have a dollars-per-ounce standard. Small portions mean substandard. Others have a dollars-per-meal standard. The insult is the price, not the food.

But it’s curiously true that different people can dine at the same restaurant, eat the same food prepared and served by the same people and leave with opposite reactions to the experience. Kind of like watching a Tom Cruise movie.

Maybe it’s about expectations. Different occasions. Different days of the week. Different moods and degrees of adventurousness. Yes. That’s a paragraph with a lot of differents in it. All leading to something about no accounting for different tastes.

One thing, however, is universal. Bad execution makes a bad meal. And in the competitive restaurant business, it usually means diners won’t be coming back.

That’s how I feel about the Sacramento spot I tried for the first time last week. Why won’t I go back there: the short rib was cold. Not hot-and-allowed-to-cool cold. But refrigerated-and-never-got-hot cold. Obviously pre-cooked, then warmed up inadequately. Served with tepid edges and a still-chilled center.

A short rib is a fatty cut of meat. Prepared correctly, the fat melts into a buttery flavor enhancer. But chunks of cold, solid fat? Opposite of enhancement. Worse, our waitress, whom we liked, was too busy to check on us till the others at my table were half way through their meals, though not their cold mashed potatoes.

By then I’d eaten the luke warm edges of my short rib. Too late for a redo, even if I were still hungry for it. Even if I were interested in assuming the position of quality controller.

Sorry, but when I dine out, I don’t want to worry about lapses in supervision, execution and follow-up. I’d say, once burned. But my short rib never got that chance.

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