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Dining News: Sac Bee Critic Dings Dime, Defends Review


Sac Bee restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson recently reviewed Capital Dime, which underwent a change in chefs from opening chef Noah Zonca to former Tuli chef Stan Moore. Based on media reports, the switch happened around the beginning of March.

This is what Robertson wrote in the Sac Bee on April 20:

But we began to wonder if Moore was as attentive as he needed to be, as we encountered many inconsistencies and outright cooking miscues – overdressed salads, under-seasoned chicken and improperly cooked waffles. Over three recent visits, the food ranged from mediocre to disappointing...

The poutine – yes, everyone’s doing a version of French fries, gravy and cheese these day – was one of the worst dishes I can remember eating. The fries were bland. The gravy was lukewarm. The mozzarella was cold, and so was the braised veal. The whole thing was awash in soggy saltiness. As luck would have it, I had just eaten a tremendous poutine with duck at Carpe Vino in Auburn, and Capital Dime’s was nowhere close. Is this a Dime dish? No, it’s $15.

Because the fried chicken and poutine were both miscues the first go-round, I felt obligated, given Moore’s reputation, to order them again during my next visit. Maybe it was simply an off night in the kitchen. The chicken the next time was slightly more flavorful, but the waffles remained overcooked and dense, rather than crisp and light. The poutine was identical.

Read the entire review in the Sac Bee.

I generally agree with Robertson's review. I've eaten there twice in the last month, and found much room for improvement on the service and food side. But I hold out hope that the new chef will be able to fix some of these issues as he settles in.

In the week and a half since the review ran, I've talked to a lot of people around town about the review. I've talked to people in the restaurant industry, media and frequent restaurant-goers. The one comment that everybody talked about was why the focus on a Zonca, who was no longer with Dime? Out of the nearly 1,700 words in Robertson's review, more than 600 were spent on a chef whose food and service diners who read his review would not encounter.

(Note: Another common, although not universal, comment was that Robertson should have given new chef Moore additional time to fix the kitchen. I don't agree with that. If they're taking your money, they should be willing to be judged on their food, service and experience.)

Apparently, it wasn't just the people I associate with who wondered about the extended section on Zonca. The Bee published a letter to the editor on Sunday taking Robertson to task.

When I open the paper to read a restaurant review, I expect to be directed to the establishment based on the reviewer's opinion of the food, the server and the ambiance. Opinions I sometimes ignore, often to my chagrin or delight.

Imagine my surprise to find I was treated to the reviewer's personal opinion of the past owner, Noah Zonca.

How in the world is that relevant or pertinent to driving Sacramentans or visitors to our city to this restaurant?

Read the entire Letter to the Editor in the Sac Bee.

While I agree with the portion of the letter I excerpted, the rest of the letter accuses Robertson of being biased. I don't think Robertson was biased in this case. As I said above, his experience was generally in line with the ones I had.

Catherine Enfield, aka Ms. Munchie, asked Robertson on Twitter about it. Here's their short exchange.

@ms_munchie He designed the concept. He was the front man. He created the buzz. He took it in a different direction. Then he left.

— Blair A. Robertson (@Blarob) April 29, 2014

Robertson is a much better reviewer than I'll ever be. He's a better writer than I'll ever be, and he has the budget and time to eat at restaurants multiple times before writing about it. But I think he's wrong about this. Devoting more than a third of a review to a chef who isn't even with the restaurant as part of an overall negative review seems excessive to me.

Capital Dime is located at 1801 L Street, and can be found online at CapitalDime.com.

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