March 13-19, 2003
Steven Horn, The Review
Reading restaurant reviews takes imagination. One can never really be there with the reviewer, seeing the decor, smelling the aromas, feeling the welcoming presence of a good server and most importantly, tasting the food. The Review, CN8's new restaurant review show, takes viewers closer to the experience. While people won't actually eat along with the reviewer, host Steve Martorano brings them along to see the process of getting the ingredients to the table. A crew of anonymous critics seeks out the best in local dining and uncovers old favorites and hidden gems. Martorano sits in a huge club chair by a warm fire and reads off the week's review (put a snifter of brandy in his hand and he's Paul from Joe Millionaire). The review goes through each course carefully, following the chef's maneuvers in the kitchen and the final presentation. Ingredients are detailed, prices discussed and service analyzed -- all while showing off the restaurant's style and mood with interior and exterior shots. It wraps up with a scorecard for six aspects of the dining experience: food, ambience, service, value, convenience and expectations, then a final overall rating out of a possible 100. Before all this, though, some other equally engaging segments play out: "Chef's Table," a look at the food and wine of a particular eatery (it's not impartial -- the segment's a paid ad); "Table for Two," a sit-down tête-à-tête with a local celebrity; and a "Food Find" that impressed the Review gang. The show is still in its infancy: Only three episodes have been shown so far, with more slated for the future. Director Steven Horn talks about how The Review came to be.
City Paper: What inspired the show?
Steven Horn: A couple of things. 1) I think it's missing in Philadelphia, and 2) I really resent the Inquirer reviewer, Craig LaBan. I think he's just not accurate. And I like restaurants and I like to cook, I have a cooking show [The Fretz Kitchen], I work with some of the top chefs in the country and I like them and they're talented.
CP: What restaurants have you featured?
SH: Brasserie Perrier, Fork, Harry's Savoy Grill, Bleu, Continental and Mezza Luna.
CP: What have been some Food Finds?
SH: Marathon Grill's chocolate chip cookie, DiBruno Bros.' prosciutto, Termini Bros.' cannoli, the cheesecake at The Palm, the Pretzel Factory on Sansom and Paninoteca on 18th Street.
CP: Have you ever given a bad review?
SH: We don't do bad reviews. We don't believe in bad reviews. We do seven minutes on the restaurant. We film it, we film the food, we interview the manager, we interview the chef, it's a very positive thing about a restaurant. We don't want to do something and be panning it for seven minutes. We just think that's unfair.
CP: What impact do you think the show could have?
SH: We believe restaurants are not being reviewed fairly in the Inquirer or in the Zagat's guide. We don't like either one of them, we think they're a little bit heavy-handed in ways that are not right. We think that the restaurants in Philadelphia are great and we believe that we're basically not looking to critique and be critical as much as we're looking to promote what we think is really the benefit of living in Philadelphia. I mean this is not New York, there's not a lot of things going on, the restaurants really drive the social business. We have Michael Klein on for that reason. We think he does a good job with Table Talk [his Inquirer restaurant news column]. So we've included him in our lineup [doing a two-minute gossip segment].
The Review airs on Thursdays at noon on CN8. The Fretz Kitchen airs daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., also on CN8.