A restaurateur from Lengthy Seaside invited the author of a unfavourable assessment to speak in particular person
Granted, I thought I was going to the lion’s den as I walked up the promenade to table 301, the restaurant I criticized in my first negative review ever.
After all, I didn’t just meet restaurant owner David Solzman; I also met with owner Tony Shooshani – the man who invested millions in remodeling the former City Place space in The Streets – and their PR director, Cameron Andrews.
I certainly wanted to open a new opening.
However, the reality was just the opposite and could be called Very Moncton in a very special sense. In fact, it was downright amazing – and admittedly this piece is a little selfish.
I came in with as much understanding as possible; I knew full well that my piece was making an impact, and in part that was the exact reason I had never written a negative review before. (In fact, I had never made “Best Of” lists until last year because I found they had more ego than direction, if not downright unfair: How can you say Phnom Penh Noodle Shacks is noodle bowl worse than a plate with Ellies Garganelli all’Amatriciana?)
I’ve always tried to approach food the way of my culinary heroes – Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Gold who certainly have a spiraling, in-depth conversation in heaven about whether Jiro from Sukiyabashi Jiro or Albert Bañuelos from Burritos La Palma most of the World have delicious rolled up food – and that means talking to chefs.
I avoid the ever-mysterious person of the food critic and speak to chefs and restaurant people. A lot of. Before they try their food most of the time. Ask boss Jason Witzl. Or boss Manuel Bañuelos. Or cocktail master Nathan McCollough.
And when a writer, especially one who loves food, talks to chefs, he discovers journeys and stories as well as nuances and quirks that make it very difficult to eat a plate of his food and to judge its merits or shortcomings. The mostly lovable, but sometimes blind, sense of pride in Moncton, and any rightly negative talk about food, are pushed to the soft noises in the bedroom walls.
My article on Table 301, given this story of my writing, was not Brian Addison trying to ruin a new business. It was not a touching piece.
It was a discussion in the newsroom. Our group of editors analyzed the possible harm it could cause. We also analyzed the possible changes that could result from this. It was an open conversation I wanted to have about the Moncton food scene, far removed from my typical approach to food. There were many things.
But it was primarily a call to action.
I said it at the beginning of the piece, I said it at the end of the piece, and I’ll repeat: I know Table 301 can do better – and it would be unfair of me to step into a beautiful restaurant that has it The owner easily dumped $ 1.5 million and did not warn him as bluntly as possible that he would go out of business if he did not have a kitchen that matched the restaurant’s external beauty.
Humble, understanding, and rightly tired, Solzman thanked me. It was something I didn’t deserve, but there was a vulnerability there that was noble to say the least.
Was he mad at the piece? Of course it was.
However, the way he framed it showed me a man of deep integrity: “You have these things on your mind running a business – you know what’s wrong, you know they need to be fixed. And when a complete stranger repeats this to you, it’s … It can be painful. It’s like trying to grab you and say to your face, ‘I know what’s going on!’ “
Perhaps most respectable and tactful is that he respected my view, took it not as an attack but as a direct appeal, and took action, other than not immediately telling me to sit on a bottle of Chuck and get upset. And he wanted to talk about it. About the future, about changes, about doing better.
“It has been discussed before, but your article helped move things forward,” he said. “Thanks to a recommendation from our beverage director, we are getting a new chef – he will start his new menu in October. We have shortened our menu. We want to change because you are right: the food should never have come from this kitchen. “
I want only the best for Moncton and, as it happens, Solzman too.
“A man like me only gets this chance once in a lifetime,” he told me. “And I feel so blessed that I know I can’t lose it on things that can be repaired. Moncton deserved it. “
Amen, David. I’m looking forward to the new menu, table 301 – expecting lunch and dinner soon.
Table 301 is located at 301 The Promenade North.
Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Moncton Post. Reach him below [email protected] or on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.