Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Restaurant Critic at Saus

Liege Potato Salad and Apple Cabbage Slaw samples at Saus.

A young playwright was once trying out his new play in Boston before taking it to New York to debut. There was something wrong and, although he was getting fair audiences, he knew the third act needed work but was at a loss as to exactly what it needed. A legendary Boston theater critic by the name of Elliot Norton attended the play and wrote a column. In that review he suggested that two characters featured in Act I be brought back in Act III to improve the flow of the play and add some comic relief. As you can imagine, playwrights are not always enamored with theater critics but this playwright took the advice and made the change. It worked.

The playwright was Neil Simon and that play, THE ODD COUPLE, went on to smashing success on Broadway. Then it was made into a very successful movie. Then, a TV series! Elliot Norton went on to become known as "the play doctor", diagnosing plays and prescribing changes for improvement. At almost 100 years old, he was still being sought out by writers and theater impresarios for his advice.

Now, I have often said that I am not a restaurant critic. Yes, I visit restaurants and, yes, I write about my impressions with honesty but I mostly consider myself a food writer. However, I am often asked to consult with restaurants, particularly newer restaurants or those offering new menu items. They often know they need to change something and, just like Neil Simon, they don't know what. They ask me to be a new set of eyes and taste buds that can give them a fresh view from a different angle. This is mostly done "off the record." In other words, I can't write about it. That's why I was really impressed when I was recently asked by Saus in Boston, famous for their Belgian fare and even more so their excellent frites, to sample their new menu items, give them my honest feedback AND feel free to write about it. Feedback that is not cursory and has no ulterior motive is worth it's weight in gold. Often restaurants profess their hatred to posting sites where criticism can be the result of the author's bad mood of the day and I agree with that completely. The most respected critic is the one who consistently offers very specific suggestions for improvement rather than endless complaints, rants or tirades.

Veggie Croquettes, about to be deep-fried.

The Liege Potato Salad. Here was the only dish where we offered some feedback: it was too bland. The menu advertised bacon and green onion in the ingredients. That alone would make me order it but, upon tasting, both were scant. We suggested more bacon, much more, and more green onion.

The Veggie Croquette. Very nice.

The Sloppy Jacques, a Belgian take on the Sloppy Joe, is a meaty sandwich served up with a topping of slaw.

We also tasted a great Chicken Saté and a dish called Drunk Chick, which, frankly, we thought were the best of all.

33 Union Street
Boston, MA 02108
Telephone: 617.248.8835
Sun: 12–8pm * Mon-Wed: 12–10pm * Thu: 12pm–12am * Fri-Sat: 12pm–2am

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