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Tanya Steel is a well-known food writer and Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning food Web site, Before joining Epicurious, Steel was the New York Editor of Bon Appetit magazine, where[…]

It’s a complex calibration of many factors, says Steel.

Tanya Steel: Judging a restaurant is a very complicated process, and you always have to first take it into its context.  What is it aspiring to be?  And I always judge a restaurant from the moment I make a reservation.  So the way the hostess is . . . or hostess with me on the phone.  Are they kind of condescending?  Are they lovely?  It depends.  You know that’s kind of the first barometer.  When you walk in how are you greeted?  How long do they take to seat you, which gives you a lot of information about the service.  Little things like do they automatically give you water?  Is the bread warm, or is it kind of just bad bread that they’ve thrown at the table?  How quickly are you given menus?  Are you explained . . .  Is the menu explained to you without either going into too much detail or kind of throwing the menu at you?  The service – are they pacing it well?  Are they intrusive?  And then . . . then we get to the food.  So I mean there’s a lot of steps before you even get to the food.  And food is . . .  Depending on what the chef is trying to aim for, you know you always are critical.  Or you’re judging things like the temperature of the food when it comes out.  Do the flavors marry well together?  Are each of the dishes . . . the recipe’s ingredients perfectly cooked?  Cooked in the way that they should be?  Is it in any way creative or innovative?  What is the chef really trying to push for?  Those are things that also come into stark play.  But for me it’s very important that the service and the food are almost of equal importance.  Because you can go to an amazing restaurant where the food is so incredible.  But if it takes 25 minutes for the waiter to bring . . . just take your order, then I’m never gonna go back.  So it is crucial . . .  It’s the Danny Meyers school of restaurants – that you really do need to have hospitality as important as the food that you’re served.