I’ve always been of the opinion that my word as a food critic should never be the last one. Sure, maybe I start the conversation with a review, but I’ve always wished and hoped that owners and chefs who disagree with my assessments let me know. I’ve always said I’d be happy to print such disagreements on my home website Hungry magazine, www.hungrymag.com.
I understand the subjectivity of a food experience as well as anyone, and while I try my best to get it right I’m just as fallible as anyone. One of the great things about the web is that the greater amount of aggregate information out there and its ability to give a fair and balanced picture, or in the case listed above, a chance to print lengthy responses, rather than short letters to the editor which may never be seen by the original readers of a review.
Still, given these circumstances, few owners and chefs have ever responded to my critiques. I understand why they might not, as certainly I suppose I could (and some writers certainly can be) capricious egotistical beings who might hold such a response against those folks for the rest of their career.
One person who did respond was Angela Hepler Lee, the owner of Veerasway, a mod upscale reinterpretation of Indian food in Chicago’s West Loop. I’d always been a fan of her upscaling of Mexican at De Cero, a gourmet taqueria, but my experience at Veerasway was filled with promise, but ultimately disappointment.
Lee had actually not disputed much of what I said, but agreed that she’d harbored similar concerns I’d written about in my review, but that her cooks at the time were dismissive of her protests. She invited me back sometime to check it out.
A couple of weeks ago I finally dropped in (anonymously still of course) and was really impressed with the changes she had made. I’d complained that a mutter paneer had soggy cheese and was bland and dry. The cubes of paneer were now much firmer and the spice and salt balance on the creamy tomato sauce was brilliant, and the fresh peas had integrity and flavor and were not gloopy as at traditional Indian spots.
The samosas, spicy potato, pea-stuffed pastry triangles, were as good as ever, and priced at $2.50 were cheaper than on my initial visit when I suggested the were overpriced.
Curry leaves once served droopy as garnish on buttery poached scallops swimming in fruity spicy coconut emulsion, were now crisp.
Frankly, while I doubt my words had very little to do with the improvements, it was encouraging to see a restauranteur step up and make adjustments to ensure the longevity of their establishment. One could argue that spending money in this recession on an upscale version of what are usually commodity ethnic eats doesn't seem smart. That being said, Veerasway has a fresh tasty artistic touch that warrants the extra dough.
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