Archive for the ‘Restaurants’


Most Online Reviews Are Completely Useless?!

According to this MarketWatch article, 20% of all Yelp reviews are written by paid shills located overseas. These ‘paid shills’ are paid between one and ten dollars per review because a one star bump in review status can mean between five and nine percent more customers for a particular business. While Yelp does its own policing, the sheer volume of these fraudulent reviews means that it’s become nearly impossible to catch them all and only 16% of these reviews were marked as the work of shills.

From the article:

Fraudulent reviews are growing as more businesses become aware of the importance of social media and compete with rivals for public affection. “The problem is definitely more widespread than the Attorney General’s investigation,” Luca says. “That’s just one small piece of the puzzle.” (A Yelp spokeswoman says its software helps filter many fakes before most users get to read them.)

Consumers can also be influenced to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Of the top reviews on Amazon analyzed in a 2011 study by technology entrepreneur Filip Keeler and Trevor Pinch, a professor at Cornell University’s department of science and technology studies, over 80% were positive. The study, “Free Lunch,” concluded that 85% of the most prolific reviewers are part of “Amazon Vine”— the site’s “most trusted” reviewers — and received free products from publishers, agents and manufacturers. This, Kessler says, can make them unpaid agents rather than consumer advocates. “Consumers should not rely solely on Amazon reviews,” he says.

[…]

How can consumers tell if a review is not what it appears to be? Consumers should look closely at the source and language of one-star reviews to see if a company could be dissing a rival and pay equally close attention to five-star reviews in case the business itself has decided to award itself the highest praise possible, Luca says. “There is little incentive for a business to leave a mediocre review,” according to “Fake It Till You Make It.” “Hence, the distribution of fake reviews should tend to be more extreme than that of legitimate reviews.” That’s why some sports — like gymnastics — use a “trimmed mean” where the highest and lowest scores are discarded. Ratings for legitimate reviews show a “sharp peak” at four-out-of-five stars, the study found.

While the majority of people still place a lot more weight behind the recommendations of those they know personally, these sorts of games are happening across all sorts of online review sites including Yelp and Amazon and more should be done to raise the general public’s awareness of the existence of such scams.

We here at Lazy Lightning do a much better job at policing the comments that come under reviews written here than what you’ll see elsewhere and you can guarantee that any comment approved from previously unknown authors is placed under careful scrutiny by myself and the rest of the community. While this methodology is by no means perfect, it is far better than what you’re likely to see elsewhere and we take great pride in ensuring accurate and unbiased original written reviews and commenter submissions.

What do you think about this one? How much faith do you put into the reviews of others when you make your own purchase decisions? Do you consult Yelp, Urbanspoon, Amazon, etc reviews prior to purchasing a product? How much salt do you take them with? Do you regularly concur with the opinions of others you know personally more than those you read online? How often do you agree with the reviews penned on this site and how likely are they to influence where you spend your money?

Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen: Burnsville, MN

On Monday night we hit up Food Court Wars winner, Pimento Kitchen in Burnsville Center Mall for dinner. Based on user reviews from the various rating sites as well as the restaurant’s own website and its beautiful food photos, this looked like a perfect place to hit up for some fresh and bright food, turning the typical food court style entree on its head.

We arrived at around 6 PM, premier dinner time and looked over the Chipotle-style menu board. With limited options, Pimento has a real opportunity to concentrate on their Jamaican dishes and put out stellar meals which stand out against the usual fare presented in food courts and mall restaurants in general. All of their entrees are $8 or less and they offer sides of Coconut Rice and Beans ($3) as well as Sweet Fried Plantains ($3). We chose their non-vegetarian options of Boneless Chicken Bowl ($7), Slow-roasted Pork Wrap ($8) and their One Love (Chicken and Chopped Pork) for $8. We attempted to order a side of Coconut Rice and Beans as well as their Sweet Fried Plantains but they pushed back saying they were running low on both and that they would include them with our food instead.



Please compare the picture of the One Love wrap above to this picture on their website of the same item. Note what we were served did not actually contain any pork (a possible oversight to be sure), the vegetables/peppers, herbs, or really anything we would have come to expect based on previous reviews or what their website suggests as what you should receive. Now, to be fair, their menu doesn’t claim to include any of these things, however, one would expect more from a sandwich than simply beans, rice, and meat unless of course they were dealing with the quickly defunct Pita Plus Grill previously located on MN-13.

The food itself was fine but certainly with a lot of room to grow. The chicken and pork were tender, the jerk spicy and flavorful, and the provided sauces named “Minnesota Nice” (mild) and “Kingston Kick” (hot) followed the same trend although the difference in heat between the two sauces was negligible at best. For $26 I would have expected a little more, especially considering their likeness in design, menu, price, and serving style (warming trays, rather than freshly made) to Chipotle.

While the lack of vegetables surprised me, I was mostly shocked by the lack of sides available as well as the fact that they were using boring mass-produced tortillas for their wraps. There were 10 to 15 plantains, almost black, sitting on the counter towards the back of the restaurant in clear view of patrons, yet we were told they didn’t have enough for service. We were provided a total of 8 *SLICES* of Sweet Fried Plantain mixed in with our entrees. Yes you read that right; they gave us eight tiny slices of fried plantain pulled from a warming tray that had maybe 35 slices total right at the height of dinner service and they didn’t seem interested at all in preparing anymore than that. Their website shows some wraps done with tortillas and some done with flatbread and filled with avocado and sitting next to some mango slices. While I am no dummy and don’t expect picture-perfect prepared foods to match their PR photos in style, I do expect at least the ingredients to be available. I’m not even going to get into great detail on the small paper boat of rice/beans, chicken, and dry slaw which was presented as their ‘bowl’ and how it compared to what I would have expected that to be based on the website’s photo because, well, that would be beating a black plantain.

We purchased the episode on Amazon and watched it Monday night after our dinner. I was surprised that none of the individuals on the show, who purportedly live in Minnesota, were on-site on Monday evening. While the individuals working the counter looked the part and spoke with Jamaican accents and urged us to visit their nation for vacation, something I admitted I was unwilling to do as caravans outside of resorts are usually protected under armed guard, I would think that their brand is at least partially tied to the show and those individuals should be on hand to sell their wares.

The most striking point from the show that sticks out in my mind is that they ran out of plantains during the middle of their final challenge and one of the owners said that, if they won, they would never run out again in the future. Well, they definitely know how to keep the plantains from running out by only doling (no pun intended) out a handful of slices at a time.

There is a lot of potential here with Food Court Wars winner Pimento Kitchen; however, if they continue to push out high quality meats and sub-mediocre everything else, their year of free rent is not going to get them very far especially if Sbarro continues to have a longer line during Burnsville Center’s 20 patron ‘dinner rush’.

Have you eaten at Pimento Kitchen at Burnsville Center Mall? If so what did you think? Do you expect food shown on a restaurant’s website to at least somewhat match what you get on your plate when you order? Would you pay $8 for meat, tortilla, and rice/beans only? Have you watched Food Court Wars on the Food Network? If so what do you think about it? Whatever you have to say, go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Address:
Pimento Jamaican Kitchen
1178 Burnsville Center Food Ct
Burnsville, MN 55306

Phone:
(952) 435-5552

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

A Much Needed Respite

One of my 2013 goals was to spend more time with my family and spend way less time on the website:

3. Better prioritize my time and how I spend it.

Less time spent on work, school, and Lazy Lightning and more time on The Wife, The Rooster, and The Koala. This has been a long-running argument between The Wife and I, especially after 2010. I thought I had done a much better job managing my time but she disagrees. In 2013 I promise to strike a better balance and make my family (i.e. The Wife) happy.

I have a real problem letting go of things (go figure) and after writing on this website every single day for the last five years, I decided I had to make a clean break. Instead of spending weeks putting 20+ posts into the queue for our annual vacation to South Carolina, I decided to simply take time off and write if I felt like it instead. Well, vacation was more hectic than expected, especially with 3800 miles of driving and two kids under the age of 4 and I just didn’t have the energy during or after to get much done on the site.

Over the last few months we’ve bought a cabin and spent 4 days a week there, went on a 3800 mile road trip passing through 16 different states and I have done a lot of reading, watching movies, and traveling to Southern California for work which included a tour of Stone Brewery, taking photos of sunset from the beach at Santa Monica, and eating lots of great food.

Some more granular details include:

  • Reading Phil Rustad’s two novels based largely in Minnesota.
  • Seeing the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial/Museum, something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.
  • Smoked lots of meat including wings, ribs, and porketta.
  • Drank lots of local beers including: Lucid, Indeed, Third Street, Summit, Surly, and Big Wood to name a few.
  • Enjoyed many sunrises and sunsets over lakes and oceans.
  • Played lots of Golden Tee 2013 and have been loving it.

I am back at it again and while I can’t promise that I’ll be posting 5+ days a week from here out, I do plan to spend some time doing what I used to love to do: scouring public meeting agendas/minutes/videos and writing about them as well as exploring local food both in and out of my kitchen.

What did you do this summer? What books did you read that you enjoyed? Where did you travel to? What foods did you eat either at home or at restaurants that you found noteworthy? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When Does Attentive Service = Too Much?

Last week we enjoyed a fantastic farm-to-table (very unlike the Sysco-truck-to-table restaurants which have proliferated across the South Metro) meal while on vacation in South Carolina. Most everything was sourced from a local farm, which the waiter referred to as “their farm”, and what couldn’t be was sourced from 6 other local area farms and/or sources of proteins such as fish. Being that we had just visited Asheville, NC earlier that same week, a hotbed for the local food movement, it was nice to see a Hilton Head Island restaurant doing the same sort of thing that so many of their restaurants are doing successfully, nevermind the multitude of restaurants here locally which do the same thing.

While the food was pretty darn good, I have to admit that was completely and utterly turned off by the overly attentive service. Perhaps it’s my too-many-years-spent-in-Minnesota rubbing off on me but I did not at all appreciate our date night, sans children which in order to dine at this restaurant you have to have kids 14+ anyway), being regularly and routinely interrupted by the 6 or 7 different workers and the owner himself.

Their attention included telling me exactly how I should eat my meal, scraping crumbs and/or other detritus that had fallen from our forks several times, refilling our water glasses by reaching across the table without asking first, and asking over and over again how everything was after what seemed like each and every bite.

While I was turned off by it and I wanted to say something more direct as my non-verbal cues were not helping the situation, The Wife asked that I just ignore them and continue to pay attention to her instead–a good plan indeed. The question here is what level of service do you expect from a restaurant and at what point does it get to be too much? Would you have said something if it were getting on your nerves? Do you think this is something that was happening because I am accustomed to the standoffish approach of Minnesotans or have you experienced similar service at restaurants elsewhere recently (I haven’t even though I’ve traveled to many different parts of the country since living in MN).

Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.