Tired of trolling Yelp for restaurant recommendations? Taste Savant Los Angeles, a curated restaurant discovery site that draws on critics, chefs, your friends on social networks and — if you need them, general users — is launching today.
Taste Savant started off in New York City in 2012, launched in Chicago last year, in Boston two weeks ago and now it's finally arrived in L.A. After test-driving a beta version, I can say the crisp, clean design is a relief for sore eyes trolling Yelp or other such sites.
The Los Angeles site isn't fully built out yet (I suspect that will happen rather quickly once more people start using it). Even so, it already seems useful, easily linking to reviews and restaurant menu pages. There are links to OpenTable for reservations and to Seamless for food delivery to households deeply engrossed in "House of Cards" or the latest episode of "Girls" or "the Mindy Project."
Each restaurant entry on the site is organized with tabs so you can filter comments by critics, friends or general users. The critics tab rounds up reviews from a variety of sources—Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, Tasting Table, and more, displaying a short excerpt and then linking to the full review. An editor gives the restaurant a rating on a point scale of 1-10 based on the review.
Founder Sonia Kapadia says that in doing her research she found that most people don't have the time to read through the full review and just want to get an idea of whether it's positive or negative. To help with that, next to each review is a list of the recommended dishes.
In each city, she's asked chefs to weigh in on restaurants, too. L.A. has just two at the moment—restaurateur Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger and Dakota Weiss, executive chef at the W Los Angeles-Westwood. Let's hope more chefs will sign on in the future.
Kapadia is a veteran of marketing and brand management at a number of startups. She always wanted to start her own business, but just didn't have the right idea until one day she was planning a date night with her husband. She remember it took hours--reading Yelp reviews of restaurants, looking up critics' reviews, checking the menus on the restaurants' websites to see if there was anything that might appeal to her vegetarian husband, and then making a reservation.
"That day the light bulb went off," she says. "There's got to be an easier way to do this, a portal where users could see what the critics are saying, what friends are saying, what people you trust are saying about a restaurant."
Taste Savant has all that, plus top ten lists compiled by an editor. The choices can be a bit idiosyncratic. For example, Maccheroni Republic and Gorge are listed along with Providence and Ink as one of "Top 10 Special Occasion Restaurants." Seriously? And Edendale Grill is grouped under "Dinner with the Cool Kids." I can think of lots of places that would be better suited to that category.
It's got all the usual stuff, too. Search by neighborhood, cuisine, price point—or occasion. You can even search for restaurants with a valet. But here's a feature: their concierge service. You can also tweet or write on Taste Savant's facebook wall with a question—say, I'm in Hollywood and need somewhere to eat close by. Someone will get back to you.