It seems like everyone is on Yelp.
And by everyone we mean the uninformed, the unqualified, and the perpetrators of unchecked spelling and grammar.
Yelp struck a blow for democracy.
The user-submitted reviews—60 million and counting—turned us all into food critics. In the aggregate it’s the collective wisdom of the mob. But you don’t really want to look too closely at that crowd. There are fresh voices and knowledgeable citizen journalists, but you also get plenty of Yelpers bringing quirks, biases, grudges, and ignorance. This is hardly a crowd that’s always going to get it right.
Taste Savant is a new restaurant discovery and recommendation site that aims to get it right.
The basic model resembles Yelp with its sortable, searchable database of restaurants, but where Yelp is an inclusive, digital free-for-all with a cacophony of voices sounding off on every corner deli, diner, and taco stand, Taste Savant touts its exclusivity:
“We give you reviews from people who matter for restaurants that are worth your while.”
People who matter; restaurants that are worth your while
There is nothing democratic going on here. Taste Savant is unabashedly elitist. It presents a range of dining experiences from Michelin-starred palaces to Chinatown noodle houses, but there’s a selective, curated approach to content, so unlike Yelp there’s no slogging through the mediocre and mundane.
The reviews are curated and tightly edited as well, sorted by source: Critics, Users, and Friends. Critics are food industry insiders like professional restaurant reviewers, food bloggers, and chefs (Taste Savant calls them “people who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to food“). Users are anyone who submits (approved) content to the site, and Friends are discerning Users that you let in to your inner circle. There’s also a live Concierge service that you can tweet for personal recommendations.
Savvy or snobby?
Yes and yes.
If this sounds like so much foodie pretension taking potshots at populist dining, then Taste Savant is not for you. But that’s the point. Until the rise of social media, restaurant reviewing, like all forms of cultural criticism, was an elite enterprise. It was undertaken by individuals who brought disciplined tastes and cultural and contextual perspective to the table, and it was precisely because they were not one of us that we valued their opinions.
Taste Savant has launched its public beta site and blog covering New York City with additional cities on the way.