Weighing vegetarian options in a restaurant review

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This week’s “Ask Tom” (that’s Tom Sietsema, restaurant critic) feature in the Washington Post has an interesting question with regards to how he rates restaurants and how a particular restaurant’s rating is affected by their willingness and ability to deal with vegetarian requests.

Washington, D.C.: Hey Tom: Do you ever include a vegetarian companion, or request a veggy option, while reviewing a restaurant? It seems to me that the way a chef deals with a vegetarian customer can be a good, shorthand way to distinguish good kitchens from truly great ones. Many very expensive places can muster only some variation of pasta primavera or a mix of their side dishes for the evening. Truly great places (I’m remembering specific meals at The Inn, Elysium, La Grenouille in NYC) see it as a challenge and often devise something so wonderful that other diners leave wishing they had ordered a veggy option. Should a kitchen get the coveted 4th star if they lack the flexibility and imagination to cook something amazing without meat or fish?

Tom Sietsema: I eat from the full range of a restaurant’s menu, so if there are vegetarian options available, chances are, I’ll try them. All the restaurants that I consider to be worthy of four stars can do amazing things without meat or fish.

“All the restaurants that I consider to be worthy of four stars can do amazing things without meat or fish.” I like that.

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