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Pete Wells Explains Why He Used the Decoy at Daniel

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Pete Wells jumps into the comments section of his three-star Daniel review today to answer some questions from readers. One person asks Wells just why, exactly, he decided to employ the use of a "decoy" to review the restaurant. The critic explains:

As I suggested in the review, I'd heard widely diverging accounts of the service from people who'd eaten there, and so I wanted to take a closer look. Immediately, I suspected that I wasn't just getting better service from other tables — I was getting different service. That, and the layout of the dining room, made me doubt that my usual tactics were going to be enough. So I arranged to have a colleague eat there on the same night. I'd do it again if I thought it was necessary and my employers agreed, but I don't think there's any reason to do it with all prior and subsequent reviews.
The critic also addresses why he criticized the VIP treatment at Daniel:

Here's how Wells begins his lengthy response to one reader's question about VIP treatment:

There's nothing wrong with rewarding faithful customers, at a place like Daniel or a coffee shop. And as you suggest, a few of the attentions that I got but my colleague didn't — the second amuse bouche, the extra splash of wine — can't be bestowed on every table if a restaurant wants to stay in business.

But some of those attentions should be part of the standard package. How much money do you need to spend at Daniel before somebody asks if you liked even one of your courses? And how many times do you need to eat there before you're asked if you'd like your coffee with dessert or after?

He concludes his response:
[I]f you're the kind of restaurant that brings out finger bowls after a course that requires customers to eat with their hands, then you shouldn't decide which of those customers deserves to degrease their fingers and which don't. I think there's a subtle insult in the two-tier treatment in this case — it implies that the customer who didn't get the finger bowl doesn't know any better.
For more on the subject of VIP treatment, check out Eater's Ask the Chefs post from yesterday.
· Serving the Stuff of Privilege [NYT]
· All Coverage of Daniel [~ENY~]
[Photo: Daniel by Krieger]


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