Ruth Reichl, my journalistic idol, made a concerted effort to find some redemption for any slip-ups she experienced--this forgiving mindset drew me instantly to her style. Unless everything was completely awful, she made it a point to bring some light to darkness, keeping a relatively light tone. Barely into her tenure as restaurant reviewer at the New York Times in 1993, Reichl was quickly coined "the most powerful critic in the country."
Flash forward 15 years, zip across the states and the Pacific, and land on Honolulu, where the local paper has decided to allow their guest critic to acerbically vocalize her unfair judgments to the world. In fact, Ms. Kam of the Star-Bulletin shares this habit regularly, and her words are likewise a pain to read through.
This week, the Advertiser visits Tangö and lays it on bluntly and harshly. Having said that Chef Streng's sushi are "pretty much what you'd get at Aloha Sushi," Ms. Griffith continues the assault by calling his moi "'wedding banquet food,'" which, by the way, can be very good if catered by the right people--and Mr. Streng should know, having been celebrated Exec. Chef of the Prince for years. Bouillabaisse is "ho-hum" and cedar-smoked steak "undistinguished." She does, however, enjoy the lamb and desserts. Whoopee. After such an attack, kind words are just an afterthought.
Constructive criticism takes a certain kind of eloquence, an unfortunate rarity anywhere, and in Hawaii is only found in the talents of John Heckathorn and Kawehi Haug. With dining out becoming a real pastime, local papers need to take responsibility enough to provide readers with qualified food journalists. Amen?