My ex-friend Yelp

In The Art of Travel, 7. Travel 2.0, Paris by Howard

Besides eating at a restaurant, another important activity closely relevant is to find a restaurant. But how do I find a restaurant?

The way I usually did before was to ask for recommendation. There were always people around me who have tried really good restaurants so I simply asked them. Most of the time they would tell you what they ordered and the best thing about that specific restaurant. Even though everyone seems to have very much different taste and criteria on restaurants, but surprisingly, I was rarely disappointed by those recommendations. The only problem with this means is that it relies hugely on, firstly, less homework in school (So my friends can get more time to explore the beauty of taste) and, secondly, their parents being rich and open-minded enough to let their kids spend much on eating. Often after a short while, I ran out of recommendations for good restaurants and so my numbers of visit to McDonald drastically grew.

After those years of ignorance and limited knowledge on food, I went to New York and came to know my ex-friend Yelp. We are not that close so yet I still don’t know his full name. He’s probably a communist (with all the red outfit he has). A modern-day foodpedia. Always the right one to ask for advice. But this friend of mine, weirdly, does not have any opinion of his own—he only gathers other’s opinions. This is good in a way I can easily know what public (or the majority of people) think of a restaurant. I am also a normal person, so most of the time I end up liking the restaurants they like. Still, sometimes my friend doesn’t have any critical thinking skills. He never judges any of those reviews on restaurants. Some of them rate a restaurant five stars out of five while the only reason is the service was nice, while I, on the other hand, care only about the food! Bearing for a while, I still maintain good relationships with Yelp. There was even a time that restaurants asked me to say something good about them to Yelp and so I could get a $10 cash back. I did. After all, we are not that close.

Things changed after I got to Paris. Yelp was by no means a bilingual person, but still he could get me the right address on the restaurants. Though he’s a big fan of apple map (why would I man with clear mind choose Apple map over google map?). After some days in Paris, nostalgia was swelling in my body—I want Asian cuisine! So again, I asked Yelp for recommendations; Numerous choices were handed out by him, yet few of them are good. I tried some of the restaurants which are said to be really good but according my friends’ and my Asian standard, the restaurants will be closed down in Asia—they are just too bad. I started to wonder if French people even know what a good Asian cuisine tastes like. However, on the reviews Yelp told me about, they are all very satisfied. Even with the watery BUBBLE TEA. How can I not taste tea in Bubble Tea?

I’m upset. Not because of Yelp (he is brainlessly innocent). I’m upset because he takes in every review they instill, without judging them. It makes sense that tastes are varied from people to people. Aesthetics too. But that does not mean everyone could become a gourmet. There are always people who can taste the slightest difference in food, or having tried a lot that know what is good; there are always people who are free from prejudice, and would not give a five stars for $10 (I’m guilty); there are always people who actually have sound reasons on why they think it is good.

Now Yelp, beware of the friends you make, and we should probably stop seeing each other for a while.