Restaurant reviewers over the ages have figured out a few tricks to make their jobs go smoother. Sometimes it happens during the actual review dinners – things like asking for copies of the menu, wearing wigs so that we won’t be recognized, making reservations under an assumed name – that kind of thing. But often the spin happens after the fact. In the writing itself.

There are a few clues that you, the consumer, can detect to help you read between the lines, so to speak.
1) The use of the word “interesting,” as in, “The sweetbreads seviche with red bell pepper puree had an interesting flavor.” What you are really being told is that the dish tasted like poodle poop. It was disgusting.

2) The word “spare” is always a sign of trouble. If the restaurant decor is described as “spare,” what the reviewer is saying is that the room looked empty, cold, uninviting — sort of like a cross between a tasteful funeral parlor and lockdown at Soledad.

3) Here’s another red flag: if the critic goes on and on about the decor, you can be sure that they are vamping for time. They are struggling to write something positive. In other words, the food stinks. So they’re concentrating on other, safe things rather than the culinary agenda.

4) Relentlessly chirpy, upbeat commentary — especially if there’s a long passage reciting the background, history and close family connections of the owners — is a sure sign that this isn’t a real, anonymous review but a feel-good package of promotional writing, designed to flatter the owners (read: advertisers) and above all, to avoid saying anything negative about the food, the service, the value for the money.

(to be continued. . . )