How can one more restaurant review app make your smartphone any smarter? While "To Yelp" has become a popular verb in some circles, Zagat is making a comeback bid with a slightly different approach.
So not only can you look up restaurants and find out what other Zagat-eers think of them, but if you have a mind to, you can read blog posts such as "Coco Laurent Debuts New Wine Bar Downtown" and "Cronut King Dominique Ansel Debuts the Frozen S'More." Though you specify your location when you start the app, the blog posts aren't specific to your region. Of the first five posts in one recent random sample, only one was specific to Southern California.
There are also multiple lists — another blog staple — and, again, a mix of regional and national. You can find the top-rated restaurants in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Long Beach, or the best sushi restaurants in eight cities and the best "pizza joints" in the U.S.
What about the reviews? If you've ever read Zagat (and is there anyone today who hasn't?), you know what to expect: A number rating followed by lots of long, patched-together sentences made up of sometimes random-seeming quotes from member reviews.
Providence on Melrose Avenue, for example, gets a 28 rating for food, 26 for décor and 28 for service (on the app, it's hard to establish a context for where this fits overall). The review reads: " 'Everything is exquisite' at this 'world-class' fine-dining destination in Hollywood, where Michael Cimarusti turns out 'amazing, innovative' seafood dishes like 'delectable works of art' in a 'luxurious' setting that's an 'oasis of tranquillity'; factor in 'superb', 'knowledgeable' service — fittingly rated tops in the LA Survey — plus a 'fantastic' cheese platter wheeled tableside and it adds up to a 'delightful gastronomic experience', albeit one that 'doesn't come cheap'; P.S. the six-course dessert tasting menu will 'blow your mind'."
On its chief competitor Yelp, by contrast, the scoring is simpler and very straightforward. Providence gets 4½ stars out of five from 1,413 reviews (sample size is especially handy with crowd-sourced material). This is followed by what appears to be a computer generated list of the most popular phrases from the reviews -- "def coming back to try the tasting menu with wine pairing" in 520 reviews (Question: Did 520 people really say "def"? Well, it is Yelp); "food was great including two amuse bouche courses." In 208 reviews; "definitely order the foie gras saute if you're into foie gras" in 144 reviews (obviously dated).
Will the addition of the more blog-like material be enough to lift this new Zagat app past its competitors? Can you hear yourself telling someone to “Zagat” something? So far the crowd-sourced reviews have not been good. On the