On a recent trip to Beijing, I made a friend, someone who offered to show me around the city. After taking in sunset at Jingshan Park and exploring the hutongs near the Drum and Bell towers, we stopped to eat at one of the many restaurants lining the streets. “This place comes highly recommended on Yelp,” my friend said, so in we went. After glancing through the endless menu, I asked if Yelp recommended any particular dishes before stopping short. Checking out reviews before making a decision was a habit I was trying to kick, I explained. Paying for a bad meal is annoying, but stomaching the occasional misstep is worth it if I can keep the beauty of surprise.
With almost one zettabyte of information at our fingertips, it can be easy to go overboard when searching for information. Thinking about making a reservation at that new brunch place on [insert street name here]? It just makes sense to check out reviews on Yelp, HungryGoWhere, Burpple, or wherever the Google search lands. More than just the food quality, others may feed you in about what you can (or should) expect from the ambiance, service, crowd, whatever you are curious about. This can be helpful of course, say if you are trying to pick the right place to host a special event or a large crowd. But for everyday meals, it can unnecessarily taint an unblemished palate and ruin the joy of discovering something new. When you finally arrive at the restaurant, and your mind is chirping with reminders of others’ opinions, do you dare order an unreviewed item?