Monday, February 25, 2008

How sulit is sulit: A quantitative approach

Sulit, or value for money, is a concept we often use when reviewing restaurants. Basically, it is the difference between the value of a meal (i.e., how satisfied we are with the experience) and the price we actually paid for it. By definition, sulit is a subjective measure since we are comparing something subjective (value) with something objective (price). In this post, I will present my subjective quantitative measurement of value, which I will then use for subsequent reviews.

First, let us identify my five criteria for measuring restaurants:

Quality (Q)-- refers to the quality, freshness, and authenticity of the ingredients used in the dish. Presentation, cleanliness, and temperature of the dish are also considered in this scale.

Taste (T)-- refers to the overall taste and texture of the food.

Quantity (W)-- refers to the serving size of the dish.

Service (S)-- refers to the attentiveness, friendliness, and efficiency of all crew who have contact with customers. Their attention to detail and management of complaints (if any) are also considered.

Ambience (A)-- refers to the overall quality of the restaurant's physical space. Considered here are ambience (of course), cleanliness, facilities, and even parking availability.

All scales are rated from 1 (very bad) to 10 (perfect) with 5 as barely acceptable. For criteria Q, T, and W, if more than one dish was sampled (which is often the case), the rating will reflect the average rating for the dishes. Value (V), which is our main interest, is expressed in peso terms and is a function of the five criteria with the form
V = (QTWSA)^(2/3).

The result of V(.) is my subjective valuation of the meal in current pesos, so it represents the maximum I am willing to pay per person for a meal in the restaurant given their scores in Q, T, W, S, and A. Thus, for a perfect restaurant that scores 10 in all criteria, I am willing to pay P2,154.43 per person for a meal. On the other hand, a restaurant that scores 5 in all criteria (just enough not to piss me off and still walk away with a smile) is worth P213.75 per person at most.

Sulit (S), then, is defined as S = V/P where P is the actual price per person for a meal. If S is greater than one, the restaurant is considered sulit; less than one it is not sulit; equal to one it is neutral.

WARNING: Technical Content (apologies to Mythbusters)

Any student of Economics will recognise the form of V(.) as a Cobb-Douglas utility function (homogeneous of degree 10/3). In this case, however, I am taking liberties with the definition of utility and I'm attaching a peso value to the utility measure (i.e., one unit if utility is equivalent to one peso). To illustrate, consider the following graph in Q-W space (forget about T, S, and A for now since I can't draw in five dimensions):

The 45-degree line from the origin represents increasing price and value given in pesos. Now consider the blue curve: each point in the curve represents different values for Q and W that yield the same V; the curve crosses the 45-degree line at only one point so the peso value is unique. Thus, restaurant A, with its low quality but big serving size, can have the same value as restaurant B, which has high quality but a small serving size. Restaurant C, however, being on a lower curve, has a lower value than restaurants A and B.

Suppose now that restaurants A, B, and C charge a per-person price of D pesos. A and B would then be considered as sulit restaurants while C would not.

To illustrate, consider some restaurant K which I rate as follows: Q = 7, W = 6, T = 4, S = 7, A = 7. Thus, we get V = P407.70. However, you can expect to spend around P500/person for a meal and a drink in restaurant K. It therefore registers S = 0.82 < 1, so it is not sulit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Angel's Kitchen

After getting all psyched up by the positive blog posts about the restaurant, my Dear and I finally tried Angel's Kitchen over at Connecticut Avenue in Greenhills, San Juan. The place was exactly what the posts said it would be-- very cozy and homey, with lots of warm yellow to enliven the place. The restaurant has ample parking (well, good for at least eight cars), and a very clean rest room-- very important yet often overlooked aspects. The service was also very friendly and efficient. And now the food:

Toast with liver pate (free)-- Well, the name says it all. This is the standard house appetiser, and it isn't bad, with plus points for uniqueness (at least this side of Asia). I found the liver pate quite good-- good texture with a mild flavour-- but I'm not much into liver (or any other innards for that matter) so I didn't get much of it.

Garlicky Caesar Salad (P258)-- Honestly, not worth the price. There is usualy a tradeoff between size and ingredient quality that would justify any price; neither aspect in this salad justified its price. The serving size was small and the ingredients not exactly gourmet. The dressing was pretty good, but it was closer to a garlicky ranch than garlicky Caesar. For just P40 more, I could get a much bigger and much better solo Roka Salata at Cyma, and with recognisable parmesan cheese at that.

Sardine Pomodoro Pasta (P268)-- This was what my Dear ordered for her main course. It was pretty good, just the right amount of spice from the Spanish sardines and sour from the tomatoes. The serving size was also decent and well worth the price. However, it doesn't come with bread, which surprised me. And since it's pasta, I'm pretty confident I can make it at home if I buy some of those gourmet sardines they sell in the restaurant.

Honey Garlic Spare Ribs (P308)-- This is what I got, upon the advice of the server who said it was a popular dish. I like fried spare ribs, I like garlic, I like honey, but this dish just didn't work for me. It totally did not work for me. Now, I've had quite a few honey-something savoury dishes, like honey-mustard bangus or honey-apple chicken barbecue, and and in all those cases you'll barely see the honey and just have a hint of its sweetness when you taste the dish, the honey enhancing the flavours rather than overwhelming them. For this dish, think of the garlic fried spare ribs that you might find in Chinese restaurants. Now smother it with loads of sweet raw honey. Really, that's what it was. No kidding.

Banana Cream Pie (P118)-- This was the reason we went to this restaurant, the raison d'etre for this restaurant, we were told by the blogosphere. It was good. Very good, actually. But not spectacular. Maybe we just got all hyped up by the write-ups that we set a pretty high bar, but I can't say it's the best banana cream pie I ever had. And I'm just talking about banana cream pies in this country.

Lemon Tart (P98)-- Now this was the spectacular dish of the evening. So far the best lemon tart I've tasted, and I'm very much into lemony/citrusy desserts (the balance of sweet and tart is just perfect). The flavour of the tart is very balanced and the crust is rightly bland so it doesn't interfere with the flavours, plus there's a very thin layer of crunchy caramelised sugar* on top to enhance the texture. If anything, I'll come back to this restaurant for this and this alone (as soon as I forget what I got for my main course).

Caffee Lungo (P88)-- Full-bodied brewed coffee. No more, no less.

Usually I have a bottomline to summarise my review, but I guess I'll stop here.


* "Caramelised sugar" is a redundancy because, technically, only sugars can get caramelised. Caramelisation involves the oxidation-- i.e., browning-- of sugars, be it sucrose from table sugar or fructose from fruits and vegetables. Meats, on the other hand, cannot be caramelised since its browning is not due to the oxidation of sugars but due to the reaction of amino acids and sugars (i.e., the Maillard reaction). However, caramel-- that sometimes rock-solid sometimes gooey sweet stuff-- can be made either by caramelisation or by a Maillard reaction depending on the ingredients. O.o