Flaming Don’s Signature Flaming Beef Don – S$17.90
It is not difficult to make food look good to me (not saying that there is no skill involved). The topic of food itself lends to have a positive impact on my impression of something. A messy plate of home cooked food is equally as attractive to a well decorated gourmet meal with artistically thought out plating. Depending on mood, hunger levels, laziness… etc. tons of other factors, sometimes the messy plate might even appear to be more desirable. As long as the food subject has a taste that I can imagine and like, it is easy to like food pictures or videos.
But whether I like it or not, it is a fact that the presence of food in online media often boils down to making it look good and having people desire it. Given the correct lighting, highlights, angle, emphasis on a subject, an accompanying essay or personalities giving approval, a restaurant or food can look way more attractive than it really is compared to when you actually eat it.
In case this still isn’t clear, I didn’t like what I ate at Flaming Don. But rather than pouring out my own thoughts, I want to compare available online reviews of Flaming Dons. A review of online reviews of Flaming Don, if you may.
The Blog Reviews
We look at Flaming Don as an example, and first look at several blogs promoting the restaurant. The blogs chosen will be based on the first and second pages of Google search, using the terms “Flaming Don Review”.
EatBook rated 6.5/10, but with the descriptions you would have thought it is higher, citing low prices and delicious dons despite some meat being a little tough and chewy.
In the example shown, only the final sentence said negative points about the Don. Overall, 6.5 is a pretty respectable score, and the description along with the nice pictures did make me feel like visiting Flaming Don. From here we also understood that the food is ordered using a self service kiosk.
AroiMakMak opens with saying it is delicious, affordable and quality. Instead of saying there is no service, the words “self service concept” is used which made it sound a lot nicer. The post itself is not quite a review, but more like a promotion since it is stating what Flaming Don offers with tiny chunks of personal opinions saying “I like this”.
Fundamentally Flawed is yet another promotional post. Literally nothing neutral or negative is written.
Thoughts after reading the blogs
Nothing seems to be wrong with Flaming Don. Food bloggers seem to like this place. Of course, they were obviously sponsored, but it should be good right?
In Comes the Community Reviews
Having dined at the Flaming Don at Bugis+. it made me realise the importance of community based reviews. That is, an aggregate review of a product that is formed by using the average reviews of all members of a community. Examples are pretty common for movies. You have sites like RottenTomatoes and IMDB with a review score, but the numbers given are not a review done by just a user. Instead, you have a score that is representative of all reviews by members of the RottenTomatoes or IMDB community.
Of course for food, the communities would be different in the form of Google reviews, TripAdvisor, Hungrygowhere, etc. As long as there is a platform or community for people to put reviews and ratings, I would consider that a community review.
Already the numbers don’t look good. There is a decent number of Google reviews, so it is unlikely that those are random anomalies or haters who just put low scores without reason. Most reviews talked about food quality being bad or overpriced.
Of course, I did select the worst reviews here, but I can see people giving these scores on the spot right after eating.
So what about the Fat Boi’s opinion?
Just from eating the Signature Beef Don, I feel that I am eating at a Yoshinoya at twice the price. It is a fast food place with the price of a restaurant.
I added S$1.99 for free flow Miso Soup and hot green tea. Miso soup had measly ingredients in terms of tofu, wakame. Served in a cup, which made it hard to drink and seems like a very weird choice. Hot green tea is terrible, and was diluted or not steeped for an appropriate amount of time before serving (I mean serving as in being put into that pot where you can get free refills). S$2 is absolutely not worth it. Didn’t get a refill.
Best part of the Don is the egg, which was warm and runny and delicious. The beef is alright, but forgettable. Sauce does not pair well with anything and took flavour away from the beef. Garlic chips look crispy but are obviously left there for pretty long periods of time from the airy texture. The Don is a S$20 worth of disappointment, and I left the premises forgetting that I was supposed to clear the utensils myself.
Having Google reviews match with my opinions taught me the value of community based reviews like this, and is definitely a tool I will be using more often the next time. Of course, just use some common sense and use them alongside your usual review avenues. Community based reviews are not worth much if only 2 people reviewed them on the site with no additional comments. At worst, a bad experience with food is still a new experience, and accentuates what makes good experiences truly good.
Oh, and there is a chip on the bottom of the bowl.