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The Voyage of Spectacle Restaurant Rating Methods Explained

The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Restaurant Rating Methods Explained

When I was in junior high school, we received two grades in every class:  an “Effort” grade and an “Achievement” grade.  This seemed a pretty good way to assess the performance of 12-year-olds possessing a wide array of academic skills and personal circumstances, and I think something similar might be a good way to assess the performance of restaurants in places as diverse as Monaco and Port Sudan. 

Accordingly, the “Spectacle Guide to Dining Around the World” will give every restaurant two scores:  a “Relative” Score (measured by 0-7 anchors) and an “Absolute” Score (measured by 1-100 points).

“Relative” Score – Anchors

The relative score, measured by 0-7 Anchors, is largely dependent on (1) the establishment’s location, (2) what they are “going for”/“authenticity,” (3) how they fulfill their promise (i.e. quality of food given what is promised) – this is the most essential factor, and (4) special circumstances.  Other factors such as price and service-for-the-money are also taken into account. 

Location and circumstances really count in this analysis.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Sudan is the worst country for restaurants that we’re going to visit.  A half-way decent (by absolute standards) pizza joint in Port Sudan is probably going to get at least 5 anchors, whereas a stuffy, overpriced brasserie in Monaco that serves bland, misprepared food will be Adrift (i.e. zero anchors).  After all, it’s a lot harder to execute pizza in Sudan than to execute bistro fare in Monaco. 

So, here is the scale:

“Adrift” (0 Anchors) – Really, Really Awful under the Circumstances … and if you are “Adrift” in Sudan, you are competing for “Worst Restaurant in the World.”

1 Anchor – Awful, but Grudgingly Recommended Due to the Lack of Better Options.

2 Anchors – Somewhat Charming or Better than Merely Edible But Not Both.  This is not a good score – Sort of like a C for effort in school.  You probably don’t want to eat at a “C” in Port Sudan.

3 Anchors – Somewhat Charming and Better than Merely Edible.  This is like a B- for effort.  This is decidedly not bad under the circumstances.  Average in Sudan and average in Monaco are certainly not the same, and yet they both deserve the same number of anchors under their circumstances.

4 Anchors – We Liked It Enough to Want to Go Back Under the Circumstances.  This is like a B+ for effort.  A “B+” in Port Sudan might still be pretty bad.  A B+ in Monaco is probably almost excellent.

5 Anchors – Under the Circumstances, This Is a Fine Restaurant That Is “Going for It” And Is Achieving Something Impressive.  A 5-Anchor rating is pretty splendid.  If you are nearby, you certainly should go.

6 Anchors – Shockingly Good Under the Circumstances.  The equivalent of saying, “If you found yourself in (X), you’d be absolutely crazy not to eat at (Y).”  Most Michelin 3-stars could only hope for 6 Anchors, given their circumstances.

7 Anchors – Perfection Given the Circumstances.  Unlikely ever to be awarded.

Absolute Score – Points (up to 100)

On this scale, no allowance will be made for practical considerations, and no deductions will be taken for heart-stopping expense or failure to do better in light of the restaurant’s comparative advantages. 

If things are clean, the food is reasonably edible, and the plumbing is indoors, you’ve probably got 30 points right there – sort of like putting your name on the SAT.  A place with a score below 30 is not someplace you’d want to eat.  Ever.

40 is a really bad score unless it comes under very tough circumstances.  At that point, you should be paying attention to the number of anchors.

50 is not a bad score.  It is certainly not a good score.  This translates to, “I’d consider going there for convenient takeout once in a while if it were in walking distance in Los Angeles and the price was right.”

55 is either B+ “bad” food or C+ “good” food.  You know what I mean.

60 — An especially delicious BBQ/roti/burger/burrito/pizza place might score as high as 60 and might have 5 Anchors.  That’s pretty much the ceiling for fast food (e.g, Yuca’s, Lucky Boy).  This is not a good score for fine dining.

65 points is the lower end of “in-between land” (65-70) in which I predict many sit-down, “fine dining” restaurants will land.  Just so we’re clear, a 65, without at least 4 anchors, is not a good score.  A 65 means that, while not bad, it was forgettable.  70 points means “They’re going for something here and at least partially achieving it.”  This is the big breaking point on our scale.  A 69 is not a fine restaurant.  A 70 is a fine restaurant, but only just.

75 points is the “Would I drive 30 minutes to eat a serious meal here if the restaurant (and setting and service) were in Los Angeles?” threshold.  This is an excellent score – an “A” for achievement.

80 points is the equivalent of a Michelin Star.  This is a very, very serious restaurant.

90 points is the equivalent of two Michelin Stars.  This is beyond marvelous.

Anything over 95 is an absolutely world-class restaurant in every way – previously visited examples include Guy Savoy, El Bulli, Zuberoa, and The French Laundry.

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