It's a good premise overall- they do not hold back when they do not like something. However, the editors seemed to take short cuts with the Seattle edition. The restaurants they chose were predictable, and there weren't any real wild card restaurants that they threw into the mix. Plus they almost entirely left out brewpubs that brew their own beer. One of the great things about the Portland version of the Fearless Critic is that it rated the beer selection instead of or in place of the wine selection. Craft beer is kind of a big deal up here in the Pacific Northwest- wine isn't always the automatic libation with a good meal. At any rate, I bought this book sight unseen based on how much I enjoyed the Portland version and I was disappointed.
I'm a foodie, live in Seattle, and love restaurant guides with editorial opinion -- so I like the concept of this guide. Unfortunately, when I read it, I was rapidly appalled. Instead of the guide being "fearless," a better adjective would be "insulting." Those insulted include both the restaurants being reviewed and readers who are presumed to want extreme and overly opinionated ratings where summary judgments stand in for reasoned analysis.
To take one example: a high-end restaurant I won't name appears in various other "top 10" lists (and no, I have no connection to them). It is dismissed here as being a "tourist trap" and as having "bad" food, and is rated below places such as student restaurants in the University District. This could be justified, arguably, by a quality-to-price score but not by any rational comparison of the dining experience. To state baldly that a long-time, successful restaurant that others rate highly has categorically "bad" food is a disservice to the reader and an insult to those whose tastes are different.
Much better would be to explain exactly why the authors think this, what would be better, and to offer contrasting examples or simply to state more judiciously that the food appeals to some but not to others. And again, say why that is the case, so readers can filter the information appropriately. To be sure, I agreed with some reviews here, but that is beside the point. Rather, the point is that an opinionated guide can be useful without being aggressive. A good model there would be the Time Out restaurant guides.
The book triumphs its "independence" but also takes pride that its panel includes "undercover chefs." What? It is not independent when chefs are given printed space to run down their competitors anonymously. If you're familiar with how restaurateurs often judge each other, you'd be hesitant to trust their comments.
A recipe for a better guide would be: full disclosure of the parties' interests; consideration of alternate points of view and different tastes; and toning down extreme comments that are passed off as analysis. Wit, point of view, personal tastes, and vigorous writing are all good; unbridled opinion and insults are not.
To be "brutal" in their model, I would give the book only 1 star, but I'm adding 1 more because -- unlike the authors -- I recognize the limits to my own opinions and I understand that others might want a guide that pushes extreme points of view. And, unfortunately, there are guides that I think are even worse (namely, ones that average ratings, emphasize "points," and provide single paragraph blurbs).
There are admittedly few printed restaurant guides to Seattle ... exactly because the town is so highly connected and "digital." Skip this book and instead look to editorially coherent online sources that match your taste, the local newspaper's coverage of restaurants, or the detailed and generally trustworthy review and reservation aggregators that are popular with foodies (although, as another review mentions, avoid the general-public popularity engines).
Find a critic who agrees with your taste, not just one who is "fearless" in random directions. And most of all, enjoy the great food in Seattle!
I appreciate reading restaurant reviews written by people who are clever and can string together compelling sentences. There is no flowery, eye-rolling, corny text. Are the reviews sometimes a bit snarky? Absolutely, but I feel like that tone is used judiciously. If a dish or a restaurant is praise-worthy, it receives it. On the other hand, if something is disappointing to disastrous, no punches are pulled. A guide called "Fearless Critic" can't be all sunshine and lollipops. And certainly there are some places in Seattle that deserve pointed criticism. I found myself nodding in agreement and smiling at many of the reviews both positive and negative.
Fearless Critic Seattle is an entertaining read and a conversation (or argument) starter. What more can you ask of a book of restaurant reviews?
I really like the premise of these books and the intersection of social media and traditional print that they represent. By working with food bloggers and giving strong editorial oversight, they created a guide that covers a lot of ground with greater depth across the restaurants it reviews than you would get from a pure crowd-sourced approach. I especially like the different tables in the front that make it easy to scan a list of places that are good for breakfast and also see where they are, what type of cuisine they offer and at what price all on one page.