Earlier this month somebody posted a restaurant review on Charlottesville-Dining that was not altogether complimentary. The anonymous contributor reported that s/he had gone to Mas, had a tasty dinner, and then became violently ill. The illness was labeled “food poisoning,” with the contributor claiming that others have had the same problem after eating at Mas.
Mas’ owner and chef Tomas Rahal spotted the review and was upset, and wrote Charlottesville-Dining creator Fred Telegdy, asking him to take it down. Simultaneously the original reviewer wrote Fred, also asking for the comment to be removed, judging it too harsh. The review was erased (as was, eventually, Mas’ very existence in the site’s database) but the e-mail battle between Fred and Tomas went on.
In this week’s Hook, Barbara Nordin steps in, siding with Mas on the basis that the rather serious charge of food poisoning wasn’t based on any medical opinion. (Nordin doesn’t identify the website or the restaurant. I’ve done so here because it’d be mere minutes until somebody identified each in the comments.)
There are a few lessons to come out of this interaction. The first is that it can be a real pain to run any website that takes public comments (though y’all have been sweethearts for years now). The second is that local businesses have got to keep an eye on area websites and blogs to be aware of when they’re being written about and what’s being written. And the third is that there’s another tapas bar named “Mas”, over in the UK — how weird is that?
51 thoughts on “Mas vs. Charlottesville-Dining”
that’s funny chit right there. i love mas, but i’m gonna have a hard time ‘forgetting’ that story…
thanks for sharing.
From the Hook article:
Okay. I’ve had food poisoning before. I had “mussels” at a upper end restaurant in Santa Monica California several years ago. And I can say if you’ve ever had food poisoning – you know it’s food poisoning without the medical opinion. My experience was an entire day of vomiting with severe diarrhea, and feverishness that came on with no warning the minute I woke up and didn’t end until almost midnight of the same day.
Unless you plan on trying to put the restaurant out of business, and or get some cash out of it via a lawsuit (if you even could)… A doctor’s “proffessional opinion” is to me a waste of money, (assuming you can even get to a doctors office while you’re sick) usually they’ll just tell you “it’s food poisoning” and that you need to try and drink a lot of liquids to keep from becoming dehydrated, and then charge you for an office visit (and that’s 1- if they even have time to see you the same day. 2- if they don’t tell you to go straight to the E.R if you think it’s an emergency). And if you take a trip to the emergency room, all they’ll really do (if anything) is to hook you up to an I.V. for the same reason, and charge you even more than an office visit.
And if you’re going to have the health department check on a restaurant- it helps if they don’t know in advance that someone’s going to be checking up on them. As for the statement about the vomiter not seeking medical attention well I direct your eyes back up to the first and 2nd paragraphs of my comment.
The bottom line is that more times than not you’re probably gonna find places cutting corners, and unless you work at the place it’s probably going to be tough to catch.
Just for fun I’ve included this about some of L.A’s bad restaurants. (And it used to be a lot worse but I couldn’t find the original news story where the same guy went undercover at the most popular places before L.A. adopted it’s new ratings system for food. ) It’s the type of reporting you won’t find in Cville.
that’s a pretty funny read. the only mas gripe i have from the one time i went there is their seating policy. we had a large group (10+) coming, but only about half of us were there at the time. they told us that they couldn’t seat us until our entire party had arrived. the reason was, in case another large party arrived, they didn’t want to keep those folks waiting if we weren’t fully occupying a 10 person table.
now, i can understand reserving large tables for large parties. but this instance really pissed me off for several reasons. 1. it was 530 on a weekday, and there was literally nobody else there. 2. once a majority of our party arrived, maybe 8 of us, they still refused to seat us until 9 and 10 showed up. 3. once we were finally seated, there were plenty of other tables still available that could have accomodated another large party.
if you’re slammed, and two people roll in and request a table for 20, i can see making them wait til a few more folks show up. but when your joint is empty and six people ask for a table w/ a few extra chairs for latecomers, come back down to earth and accomodate your actual patrons instead of your potential ones.
They had that waitron (tall blonde woman) who like to torture people by not bringing their food, but I’m not sure if she’s still there. It was a coolness thing. That was back around when they first opened. Good chow. I wouldn’t take ONE report seriously at all.
Now, how about that other seafood restaurant that got the lowest health dept. ratings in all of cville! Seafood! But my theory is they pissed off the inspector with their inchoate hipness. Haven’t heard of anybody dying from it.
The place I always feel bad after is College Inn, but it’s not food poisoning just some tough grease or something they cook with these days. I’ve had food poising, from a buffet left out at a political protest all afternoon, and like described above, you can’t mistake it for anything else. And there were multiple reports.
One of the problems here is that the phrase ‘food poisoning’ is tossed around all too lightly when blaming a restaurant. As the Health Department will tell you, an individual will often not have a physical reaction to food poisoning for 8+ hours after eating, sometimes not feeling poorly until having eaten something else in between the illness and the food actually causing it. True, you can have a more immediate reaction if a chemical etc. has accidentally come in contact with the food, but typically the last thing you ate was not what actually caused you to feel bad.
LOL! Do you all even know anything? “Best Grocer 29-N” Whole Foods has raw sewerage going through the deli every few months!
Sympatico, if you have some sort of special information about raw sewage at Whole Foods, perhaps you should alert the Virginia Department of Health, who has no record of any such problem in the past few years. In fact, Whole Foods’ record seems a great deal better than most eating establishments, at least compared to many other restaurants that I’ve looked up on the VDH inspection website.
More on topic, here’s Mas’ inspection report, including a complaint-prompted inspection on the 13th. I wonder if that inspection resulted from the website review?
Waldo – Either I’m a liar or VDH is turniong a blind eye. Your choice.
That doesn’t make you a liar. I’ve often believed things to be true that were not; I was simply mistaken, not lying.
You are often mistaken, Waldo. That’s not news! However you wish to minimize this, my statements are factual.
Then I’ll repeat what I wrote: If you have some sort of special information about raw sewage at Whole Foods, perhaps you should alert the Virginia Department of Health.
The local Health Department does not turn a blind eye to much of anything, certainly not sewage in the kitchen. I know of places in our area where excessive rain will cause backflow, possibly leading to the problem Sympatico mentions, but the VDH would almost have to be conducting an inspection at the time to be aware of it unless someone with inside information reported it.
Angry e-mail to me from the manager of our local Whole Foods in 3…2…1…
“Angry e-mail to me from the manager of our local Whole Foods in 3…2…1… ”
Good! Maybe next time said manager will think it’s important enough to get it permanently fixed!!!
Sympatico, you clearly have a story that you want to tell. You’re anonymous on here, so why bother being mysterious?
BARBARA NORDIN writes issue 0526 of the HooK (June 29, 2006):
“Here’s my view of the situation: The website owner posted an anonymous accusation that Spoon had not only made the accuser gravely ill through bad seafood, but that “many people” had had “similar experiences” there as well. Claims like that can pack a very scary punch for restaurant owners– and website owners should be mighty careful before they hand the (anonymous) accuser a megaphone.”
Perhaps, Barb, you may want to consider your own integrity when brandishing your own personal megaphone!? Fact is the Food Business is tough. Many small and large participants may decide to cut [unacceptable] corners periodically if they can get away with it. Web Review sites, regardless of domain, are a last-defense for many consumers with moderate pocketbooks. And web sites like Charlottesville-Dining cannot afford to second-guess their contributors. Besides, the truth has a way of bubbling to the top. Didn’t you know? If there are a few bad comments and many positive ones, readers can make up their own minds. We don’t need you to tell us what to think and to be a mouthpiece for local eatery owners, but rather to actually represent “THE FEARLESS CONSUMER”!!!
Of course we can. Why do you think Charlottesville-Dining holds all reviews until its proprietor approves them? The sole purpose of that is as a second guessing mechanism. About once a month somebody (presumably with the best of intentions) submits a wildly inaccurate story to this site. It’s my job to look into the story first and make some attempt to authenticate it. At least once a day somebody submits something to nancies.org that’s wrong, usually a setlist for a concert review.
I can’t seem to parse the phrase “cannot afford.” We can’t? Why not? What will happen if we do second-guess our contributors? I’d argue that we can’t afford to not second-guess our contributors, in order to avoid losing all credibility.
Waldo – We’ve already disagreed on that point concerning food-dining reviews before. You censored my comments about a Dish reviewer reviewing an eatery as if she had actually ate there when the place wasn’t even open for business yet! Talk about sleeping with your subjects (the Dish Review).
No, there’s a difference between a Web site *postponing* a post for decency or blatant SPAM, and outright censorship just because the web site owner doesn’t like what has been written for whatever reason. In this particular case, it is unacceptable to require a restaurant patron to provide proof of food poisoning before allowing a comment to be posted. I’ll go so far as to say Charlottesville-Dining chickened out of its very purpose! When an independent review site cannot keep reviews of a certain establishment because its proprietor was unhappy with the comments, it’s failing at its own duties (and its value)! I am sure there were many other reviews of Mas posted. Where are they now? What, those posters contributed in vain?
By acting as an intermediary, you are invalidating the whole process!
PS – We’ve always found Mas quite good (a dozen or so visits). We particularly like the knowledgeable, timely and helpful service, the Tapas format and 9/10 of their dishes (avoid their tomato base such as that served with Gambas). That said, I do see areas of possible discontent that may have bloomed from there. We’ve been fortunate, but the Mas experience can be quite different every time!
“I can’t seem to parse the phrase “cannot afford.” We can’t? Why not? What will happen if we do second-guess our contributors? I’d argue that we can’t afford to not second-guess our contributors, in order to avoid losing all credibility.”
A Review web site’s only value is in the objectivity of its evaluations. If the site bows to pressures from the commerce, the site will eventually be seen just as another advertisement venue. Of course, if your goal as a web site owner is to grow into just that, with advertisement streams from the businesses you review, then you will be just another shill for a defective system!
Your model should be http://www.tripadvisor.com/
This web site has the right dosage of review validation: SPAM, vulgarities and such are not present. Yet personal experiences from hotel patrons are not eliminated just because some can be quite negative!
As I said, if Mas has an overall good score and a couple of patrons have negative ones, let the reader decide what to believe or do about it! But if you put branches in the spokes of the wheels of the review process, or you make the hurdle too high for a reviewer to post his/her grievance, then you are failing at your very purpose!!!
I most certainly did not “censor” your comments. You submitted a ridiculous and over-the-top freak-out when The Hook reviewed a restaurant in which they said that it would open by the time they went to press. The opening was delayed by a week, which they mentioned in the following week’s issue. Your submitted story accused The Hook of inventing reviews of food that they’d never consumed. I checked with The Hook. In fact, the reviewer did something quite common, which was to eat the food prior to opening day, much as movie reviewers see movies before they’re actually available in theaters.
I explained this to you then, and I’m explaining it to you again. You make my point perfectly as to why prior restraint is necessary for websites to maintain any credibility. Had I published that story I would have looked like an idiot. My failure to publish your wholly inaccurate submissions does not qualify as “censorship” but, rather, good common sense.
You have the benefit of being completely anonymous, and clearly feel you can make a fool of yourself without concern for any repercussions. I don’t have that luxury.
You don’t seem to understand the premise of this story: the Mas reviewer asked for the review to be removed. S/he felt that the review was inaccurate.
You also ignore TripAdvisor’s terms of service:
You’ve made a distinction without difference.
“I explained this to you then, and I’m explaining it to you again.”
You can “explain” to me as many times as you want your inaccurate, biased understanding of the matter, it doesn’t change the fact the Dish reviewer was quite obviously promoting a locale that was not open, that she could not have tried out as she described in detail, AS IF IT WERE OPEN. She essentially portrayed something that could have only been in her imagination based on the description the owner gave. I call that advertisement, NOT a review.
And dancing around this one more time is not going to change the facts and the bias. So, no, Waldo, you don’t look like an idiot… you look like someone whose own interests are in play!
AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD NOT INTERVENE IN THE PROCESS!!! It’s not your business to verify – or, in my case, COMPREHEND the review! Why? Because your own tremendous bias overrides everything! You need to let the readers decide what to believe and what to reject; basically the readers should be given the opportunity to decide, by way of having all the facts (not only those that have passed the web site owner’s own bias).
You also ignore TripAdvisor’s terms of service:
TripAdvisor reserves the right to use the Content as it deems appropriate, including, without limitation, deleting, editing, modifying, rejecting, or refusing to post it.
You’ve made a distinction without difference.
I’m not ignoring anything! Waldo, once again, you show your lack of maturity! It’s not because you are *allowed* to do something that you should do it! Maturity is knowing when and how to do or not do something.
What are you, Waldo? A freaky lawyer? It’s not about what you are allowed to do! It’s about what is *appropriate* to do! Trying to bring everything down to the level of legality is jettisoning the whole value of the review process! Sure, you are allowed as the site owner to not publish *any* negative reviews! But the real question is should you? This is the very reason you should not censor reviews other than for vulgarity or SPAM!
I can see that there’s no point in continuing this particular exchange.
wow, just like the old days Sympaticor going off the deep end.
Anyhoo, that web site isn’t that great to start out with. I did a quick glance at the mexican food section. Man everyone on there is saying the Quad sucks because it ain’t ‘real’ mexican food. THey were offended because they were from Texas or Zona and the poor people in CVille don’t know real mexican food. Again, more then half the people who didn’t get the great service is ALWAYS going to post something bad. And just a minority will say something good.
Who freakin cares?
I am actually the owner of Mas thought that much of that site. I mean I personally don’t use it for a reference to eat.
I’m assuming that’s a typo and you mean Guad as in “Guadalajara.”
Guadalajara is “Gringo Mexican.” It’s not authentic mexican food. Of the few things in the restaurant that might be authentically mexican are the employees (at least at the location I ate at). :) However, It is what it is. And having said that, I’ve eaten their a few times, and I’d probably eat there again, I’m not picky. But like most places it’s usually hit or miss.
“That doesn’t make you a liar. I’ve often believed things to be true that were not; I was simply mistaken, not lying.” — Waldo. So W. was mistaken about WMDs and not a liar?
I have to side with sympatico. Reading blogs is like listening to pop songs– say one thing then say the opposite. Waldo doesn’t censor ridiculous or freaky content, he simply doesn’t allow it to be posted. See the difference? Why is it so hard to say– yes, I censored your content because it was ridiculous and freaky?
Censorship in Charlottesville? No way! (sarcasm) How can it be censorship if the word censorship is not used? huh?
Only if he legitimately thought they were there.
Is it “censorship” if you write an article and send it to the Daily Progress and they don’t publish it? Is it “censorship” if you record a video, send it to WVIR, and they don’t broadcast it? Blair, what if I e-mail you something inane and you refuse to post it on your blog? Are you “censoring” me? Or is it possible that I simply don’t have the right — and you simply don’t have the obligation — to publish anything that any random stranger e-mails you?
You want to post something stupid here? Post it as a comment. Post it on Charlottesville Blogs. Post it on the online chalkboard. I give you lots of options to make a fool of yourself. If I’m in the censorship business, I’m remarkably bad at it.
Waldo – The only problem with your rant is there was nothing inane, freaky, or otherwise ridiculous about my post. It simply took to task a reviewer for publishing a glowing account of an experience she actually did not have! That, you legal one, is ridiculous, biased and just plain wrong!
Your example of a movie critic seeing a presentation prior to release is stupid! The movie will be the same upon release. But the food locale she supposedly reviewed was in fact weeks if not months away from opening! She talked about ‘atmosphere’ of the place, the service and all the things that make a dining experience an experience outside of the food on the menu. The write-up was a derivative of the owner’s advertisement pamphlet! Nowhere did she state she was extrapolating based on the information provided her by the owner. In fact, I wrote in my piece my wife and I went to the restaurant based on the review to find NOTHING but a construction site!
The fact you chose to censor my post suggests some “scratch my back I’ll scratch your back” type of small-town affairs! And that’s not the case, you are even more troubled than it appears!
Wrong. Here’s the review, here’s the Hook story from a week later saying the opening had been delayed by a week. Not months. Barely weeks. Try ten days.
“Atmosphere” does not appear in the review. The closest the reviewer got to that was describing how the bar looked. The bar was obviously completed well prior to ten days before opening.
On the one hand, I have you, an unstable and anonymous stranger, claiming that The Hook lied, inventing a review for a restaurant that they did not eat at, providing no evidence of that. On the other hand, I have The Hook saying quite clearly that they did eat there, as evidenced by their review and the fact that the place opened about a week later. Being familiar with restaurants, having worked in several, I know that The Hook’s claim isn’t just plausible, but likely.
But you know this, because I’ve explained it again and again. I’ve let you bitch about this in the comments on this site — you can’t claim you’ve been silenced.
Start a blog. Write about The Hook’s unethical restaurant reviews. Write about them every day. Have fun. But go sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.
Wow… what’s with Sympatico? Thirteen angry messages to this board so far. Calm down, dude (or dudette).
The only issue I have with Mas is how mean the wait staff is there. It’s as though they’re trying to make you feel terrible about yourself. Doesn’t make for a fun night out.
Ditto on the wait staff. The food is wonderful, the atmosphere is fine, but the wait staff is rude, hipper-than-thou, and is clearly reluctant to deal with patrons. I once had the same table-waiting experience that somebody else described here, when showing up with a party of ten.
Tomas and Coran are great guys — so no angry e-mail, please — and I’d like to go back to Mas real soon. But those waitrons are lucky to scrape up 15% from me.
Waldo – based on your latest comments on the waitstaff at Mas, which is one of their highpoints rather than the “rude” qualification you give them, and you incapacity to understand basic logic concerning the Hook review, I can hope you don’t one day obtain any real authority as you are what I would consider a village idiot. Bye now!
Just a little clarification…
I have NEVER removed a comment because a restaurant owner was unhappy about it. I HAVE removed comments at the request of the comment poster (after IP address verification) and when VERY obvious cases of self-promotion have taken place. As for Mas no longer existing on the site, I made the decision long ago when I first started the site that if a restaurant owner did not want their restaurant listed and requested it to be removed, I would remove it. Some may disagree with that decision, but in the end it’s my decision. Mas was not removed until Tomas requested it to be removed.
I suppose it would surprise you to learn that the FAR majority of ratings are either middle-of-the-road and/or favorable, wouldn’t it? I did some research recently and found that about 50% of ratings average a 4 or 5 and about another 30% averaged a 3. That left about 20% that averaged a 1 or 2, or unfavorable. The discrepancy was so much that I had to completely rethink the newest version of the site I’m working on because I thought it was more 50/50.
Anecdotally, I’d say the comments are 50/50 and it’s just as likely for me to approve a string of favorable comments as I am to approve a string of unfavorable comments.
From xxx’s review of Atomic Burrito weeks before it was open:
“Ordering is made fun thanks to carpenter-designer Brandon Copeland’s curvaceous silver-topped bar, papered in gray, black, and red polka-dots– all part of the retro, sedated Jetsons scheme Copeland designed with Vaughan and Yowell.”
That is a present tense, is it not, Waldo-the-village-idiot?
Here is a bunch more experiences Christina Ball seems to have had: “First choose your tortilla (white or whole-grain), then your rice (white or coconut whole-grain), then your beans (pinto, black), your filling (grilled chicken, veggie, marinated steak, braised pork) and… well, you get the idea. The extensive menu of “after-dark smoothies” includes fresh-fruit frozen margaritas, daquiris, and piña coladas.”
Waldo, grow a brain!
Phred – I’m glad the owner of Mas didn’t intimidate you enough to affect your compliance with restaurant owners’ request to remove them from your graded listing. That said, I think that’s a mistake, IMO.
Waldo – You don’t think an honest journalist, whether amateur Hook or “big town”, should *at least* preface her ‘review’ that the eatery was not open for business yet? On the other hand, you want patrons to provide NASA0-certified proof they had food poisening before telling other they think a restaurant has tainted food? What are you? The poster-child for NEOCONS?
You’re insane. Do us all a favor and drop it, or take your complaint to The Hook and become their problem.
I’m “insane”? Why? Because I point out some local food reporter doesn’t have a sense of objectivity or even professionalism? Because I challenge your decision to *bar* this issue to come to light? Because, now, again I side with the side of free-flowing information and opinions, rather than let business dictate their views? As I said, you are either an idiot or you have a neocon agenda.
Seriously, Sympatico… what’s wrong with you? It’s a holiday, go enjoy yourself and stop stewing over this. You clearly have way too much time on your hands, and this blog entry has turned more into a display of your insanity than a discussion of actual issues. You said “bye” on Monday at 10:34 a.m. and have since posted four more entries. GO AWAY. Or at least post your name so the rest of the world can know to avoid you.
Oh, btw, go enjoy yourself and stop stewing over this.
GO AWAY. Or at least post your name so the rest of the world can know to avoid you.
I’ve eaten at Mas a few times. Great olives. Good wine. Yummy bread with sweet olive oil. But not the kind of place that you’d go to have dinner. Alas, that’s not the point of tapas – as far as I know it. But I’ve never been to Spain. The chairs are too low at the bar, and the rest of the seating is uncomfortable also. Some months back I had a really bad brunch there. Silly menu, cold food, lousy portions. Not gunna try that again. Service tends to be good despite all the backstabbing and drama that I’ve heard goes on with the staff there. But I’m glad the place is there and hope it sticks around – even though I don’t go there much. Does anybody know why Coran Capshaw can’t own or manage any of his restaurants ?
Having read the exchange between Tomas and Fred, I’d say Tomas has succesfully done more damage to my perception of Mas than that negative review did.
whew… a lengthy and bawdy conversation brought to an abrupt halt. Gee, I wonder why..? What did somebody say ? What did somebody do ? Seems like it’s pretty easy in Charlottesville to make even the most heated conversation, uh – just go away. poof.
“what ? who ? uh, I dunno what you’re talkin’ about , man.. uh, I gotta go. You didn’t talk to me. You hear me, man.. This conversation NEVER happened !” (…just keep your mouth shut – if you know what’s good for you…)
Suddenly all the rabble rousers in CVille become old men in Sicily..
It’s not just Charlottesville. It’s the South. And Virginia wants to be more southern than southerners! People making a fuss, even justified, are not loved. “Spidermush” is exhibit-A. Get used to it. [Of course, that means nothing ever really gets solved, but hey, we’re waiting for the sky to fall here, so just be patient!]
gee, i never dreamed the moshpit would get so crowded. just a bit more clarification. if anonymous persons wish to post false statements that is their right. however, they must face the ramifications for doing so. why hide behind anonymity, why not come out with a full-page ad supporting the opinion posted? you censor yourself by creating innuendo and sleaze, not taking responsibility and hiding behind the disclaimers of websites and webmasters who in turn use you for a foil in case of a defamation suit. we’re not talking Swift or Pope or Michael Moore here with pithy satire and timely criticism, just some bitter, misguided people who thought to lash out and hurt somebody, no matter or whoever they harmed.
whenever i read a post with talk like “people are cutting corners”, that is the same slanderous bullshit that passes for fact on most blogs. if you have proof of malfeasance put it out there you chickenshits, syms, or other deranged posters. you’re not going to get a hug at Mas or any other restaurant because you come in with that same negative perspective about other people giving you service when what you really want is servants. sorry. wrong century for you neo-confederasses. i just wanted to right a wrong and even offered to take care of the poster when next he comes to my restaurant, simply as a token of my goodwill to all customers.
as for service at Mas, well, clearly it’s a work in progress, but after having quadrupled our staff in as many years, we do our best to train and inspire and bring out the best in our staff. when that’s not good enough, it hurts and doesn’t feel good for the staff either. remember, they are paid proportionate to their positive service. we try to provide a living wage and good environment for all our staff. we don’t give up on them and we hope they won’t stop trying to become better at providing good service. we appreciate all the kind and critical comments, just not lies or fabrications. that’s not censorship. it’s the real world baby. we’re here for the long haul and love our relationship to our neighbors in Belmont, as well as the many in-town and out-of-town regulars we serve. Mas is more than just a concept – it is a network of farmers, vendors, customers, school tours, employees and yes, bloggers, who all come to enjoy our food, atmosphere, and drinks. we proudly stand by our work, my name is on the front door. no anonymity problems here.
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