3.5 Stars is the Sweet Spot

A couple of months ago, Tara told me about this viral TikTok video where some filmmaker claims the best Chinese food comes from restaurants with average reviews. Apparently, 3.5 stars is the sweet spot.

I was skeptical at first. It stands to reason that a restaurant with 5-star reviews would have superior cuisine, right? Bigger is better and all that jazz? I lived in California long enough to know there’s a whole lot more shakin’ goin’ on in a magnitude 5 earthquake versus a 3.5 tremor. By that logic, the Kung Pao chicken from a restaurant with a 5-star Yelp review should run circles around that dished up by a restaurant that has only managed to cobble together 3.5 stars.

Not so fast, declares Freddie Wong. Here’s the thinking behind his theory.

I guess, in a perverse way, that makes sense. Cultural expectations and all. Americans are so hellbent on service, while the Chinese are more concerned with cooking delicious food. So, when we found a Chinese restaurant here in town with perfectly middling reviews, we were thrilled. Sure enough, they delivered!

Well, not literally. We had to phone in our order and pick it up ourselves. But the food was quite good! And the staff is wonderfully brusque. Very abrupt over the phone. They don’t want a name and won’t accept a credit card. Come in, tell us what you ordered, pay us then. Last time Tara picked up our food, the guy in front of her was hemming and hawing over what to order, so the cashier barked at him to step aside and let my wife go first.

Shades of the Soup Nazi, huh?

Nevertheless, we’ve eaten there several times, and have always enjoyed our meals. Had some last night, and the oyster beef was phenomenal. I’d give them a great Yelp review, but that would probably cause a tear in the space-time continuum and lead to a rapid downfall in quality, so I’mma just let it be for now.

Speaking of Chinese food, I had planned on making it Saturday night. For most of my life, I’ve associated Chinese food with New Years. Case in point. No idea why. I make killer fried rice and a pretty mean spring roll. How good? If Mark My Words were a Chinese restaurant, we’d have a 3.5-star Yelp review, baby!

I once came up with this whole concept for a Chinese restaurant that included baby corn on the cob, sweet ‘n sour soap dispensers in the restrooms, and fortune cookies that stroke the ego.

I’m nothing if not a dreamer.

But the more I thought about it, the less inclined (i.e., lazier) I felt about doing it myself. I don’t want to spend New Year’s Eve toiling over a wok, and Tara doesn’t want to spend January 1-4 inhaling the lingering odor of fried food in a small apartment. Hence the Chinese food last night. Tomorrow, we decided to change up our plans and do a little bar-hopping instead. Here in Fort, within walking distance. And we’re thinking late afternoon/early evening instead of hanging out until midnight with everyone else. We can get our buzz on and then finish up the night with cards/records at home.

Best of both worlds!

By the way, Bloganuary is coming back. You might recall I was totally on board…for a whopping three days. And then I decided it was too much work. A few days after that, I realized I missed doing the prompts and regretted quitting.

I’m nothing if not a wishy-washy dreamer.

Don’t worry, I probably won’t be blogging every day in January. But I refuse to put that in writing. Err…

What do you think of Freddie Wong’s 3.5-star Yelp review theory? What’s your go-to Chinese dish? Got any exciting New Year’s Eve plans? Are you participating in Bloganuary?

(Rivergirl and LA are exempt from that last question. Every day is Bloganuary for those two.)

43 thoughts on “3.5 Stars is the Sweet Spot

  1. Sweet and sour soap dispensers? Eat his dust Elon… that’s pure gold!
    We’ve done the early New Years Eve bar hopping thing and loved it. No crowds, no waiting. A crab cake here, a lemon drop martini there… who needs Auld Lang Syne?
    As for the blog a day January, no challenge there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s a clip in Schitt’s Creek where David (the gay son) told someone (his future boyfriend) his plans for New Year’s:

    I’ll probably take a pill, cry a little and fall asleep early. (paraphrased).


    I think it’s going to be similar here, but instead of a pill I’ll be pouring a few glasses of something tasty, instead. 🥂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think your new year’s plans sound perfect. We often do a neighborhood thing but we are always in bed (with just each other, not the whole neighborhood… I thought I should clarify) by 10 or 11.

    We have a go-to Chinese place too, although I haven’t checked their Yelp review. They are really nice people so I’m afraid it might be pretty good… maybe 4 or 5?

    I’m not a fan of daily blogging, but your posts always manage to amuse me so I might make an exception 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No Chinese food, although I did just improvise a portobello/bok choy/peanut concoction- roasted rather than stir fried thing over rice noodles that turned out incredibly good. I will be in bed at 10 tomorrow, then laying awake until 1 when all the neighborhood fireworks finally cease. No Bloganuary this year for me. I really wasn’t fond of the prompts and I have commitment issues- too much stress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Commitment issues and obligations were my main reason for bowing out last year, too…but then I really enjoyed some of the prompts. I think I’ll pass, though. Maybe just use a few of them for inspiration. Your improvised meal sounds amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That 3.5 rating thing makes sense because so many Americans value portion size (gigantic), speed of service and cheap food or freebies. Which do not a great restaurant make. I’m not a Chinese food fan but will be looking for 3.5 star Thai restaurants in my area. Have a great and early celebration–the best kind!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I’m wondering whether that 3.5-star review theory applies to other cuisine. Thai is probably a good bet, but once you start looking into Mexican or Indian food, I’m not sure. Maybe you’re better off with 4 or 5 stars for those types of places.


  6. Andy and I laughed over that TikTok. There’s a lot of merit in what he says, although the absolute worst Chinese restaurant food in the history of Chinese restaurants has been open near us for over 20 years and has 4 stars. We don’t go out for Chinese food unless we’re meeting family for dim sum for the most part, though, because Andy objects to paying for what he can make better at home. However, since he’s looking at surgery for his dominant hand and 6 weeks in a cast, I should probably start checking out reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was especially curious for your (and Andy’s) take on this. Glad to hear there is probably some truth in what he says. I hated living in the Bay Area, but I will say, the dim sum was to die for. That’s something I miss! Though apparently there are some good places here in Madison to check out.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Freddie sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. However, my DIL claims there is very little authentic Chinese food in America. Probably because none of us want to eat chicken feet or bunny head. Yes, those are her two faves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your DIL is absolutely right about that! The vast majority of what we call Chinese food is Americanized. I’m a pretty adventurous eater though and would love to try some more authentic dishes.


  8. Well, our end of the year celebration depends on the weather. If it’s sunny, we’re going to an outdoor concert at 4:30 and picking up a pizza on the way home to help us ring in the New Year. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we might opt for Chinese. But I’ll have to check the Yelp reviews first!

    Speaking of Chinese:

    January 22nd celebrates the Lunar New Year of the Water Rabbit. The year ahead will bring less anger, more sensitivity, intuition and the way of inner peace. It’s a lucky and auspicious time for all of us.

    Let’s hope so! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good point. I was going to ask about CNY. Tik tok blogger sounds like an attention seeker to me – is bad service the sole reason for a 3.5 star review? No one reviews food?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I saw this TikTok and completely agree. This is the case with our favorite Chinese restaurant, and they never disappoint.  But I must confess that, until 1989, I thought LaChoy from the grocery store was authentic Chinese food. 

    Have you ever tried Filipino cuisine? It is my personal favorite Asian cuisine. Vietnamese is my second favorite. I was planning on making lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) tonight, but the house would smell like fried egg rolls for the next week. As you said…😂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t think you need me to answer that last question.
    Visiting a rude Chinese place is now on my bucket list. The guy’s logic seems sound. You saying your restaurant would be 3.5 stars means you intend to be rude to your customers. Uuuummm…
    I don’t particularly care about NYE, but NYD we traditionally have Hungarian kolbasz (aka kielbasa to the layman), cabbage, potatoes, wine, and sparkling cider. Thanks local European deli!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Be still my partly-Hungarian heart! That sounds delicious. For many years, my aunt had us over on Christmas Eve for a Russian celebration that included pelmini. Oh, how I miss that! (The borscht, not so much.)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Having bern out late at my brothers Friday night, in turn throwing off the cats internal clock because i wentto bed at one he allowed me about 4 hours of sleep…so on NYE i was out at 9:40 PM and woke up at 3:30am to feed him….heard absolutely no one ringing in NYE

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this post. Fortune cookies that stroke the ego? Yes! And the soup nazi – made me laugh. And for the record, what we love about you Mark is that you are a dreamer — and very often deliver, unlike your Chinese restaurant.

    Happy New Years! Wishing you a fantastic 2023!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. At first, I thought his theory was hogwash, but after listening to his explanation, he’s a genius.
    I laughed at your restaurant people barking at customers who don’t know what they want….that is an authentic Asian for you! They are not around for pleasantries; work needs to be done, let’s keep moving!

    I couldn’t take the smell of fried food in my house for more than an hour myself, so you’re better off ordering in.


  14. First off…you made me laugh….. let’s see…I don’t buy the 3.5 star thing…my favorite Chinese dish depends on the place we are getting Chinese…one place does a cumin lamb that makes you cry it’s so good. Another does these Dan Dan noodles and dry pot chicken that’s crave worthy. There are some dumpling places that are outstanding, and one hole in the wall with the most outstanding hand pulled noodles….

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I guess I might have to reconsider the Chinese place I found in my new home, then?
    I “reupped” for Bloganuary but have already lapsed in pursuing it. No surprise there.
    My NYE was quiet and OK except for the umpteenth toilet clog I’ve endured since I’ve lived here! And I didn’t know this situation constituted an “emergency” in a one-bathroom apartment because they don’t list it as such anywhere in print. Anyway, I hope it’s one I won’t have to deal with again since I got a new toilet on Jan 1.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If it doesn’t have 3.5 stars, you might want to change up your dinner plans and go with Mexican instead! Just make sure the restaurant doesn’t have any sombreros on the wall. But that’s a whole ‘nother post…

      Liked by 1 person

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