I know I’m not the only one who does this.
It’s almost second nature for me to search for Google reviews or food blogs before deciding whether to try a new restaurant or cafe.
The odds of going to a poorly-reviewed eatery are low because, well, why should I when so many people left comments like “standard dropped” or “worst plate of [insert food] ever”?
Take, for example, an article titled “We tried Singapore’s worst-rated Lor Mee stall” by Singaporean lifestyle site Sethlui.com.
The article features Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee and highlights that it has a 1.8-star rating on Google Reviews despite being listed in the Michelin Guide — a food guide that typically features the crème de la crème of delicacies.
It has also been visited by popular Masterchef Australian contestant Marion Grasby.
You can read the review here, but the writer concluded that they’d only patronise the stall only if they were in a rush and there was no queue, or if everything else was closed for the day. Ouch.
After the story was published, Facebook comments sharing similar sentiments poured in, with some mentioning that food was no longer the same, especially after a change of hands.
However, others took issue with the article, claiming that it was a sensational review meant to put the stall down.
Worst-rated, says who?
Among the people who think that way is an Instagram user who wishes to remain anonymous.
In fact, the food enthusiast, as he wanted to be known, took it upon himself to defend the hawker in a series of Instagram Stories.
Speaking to Babelfish, the user said that he works around the area and is a regular of the hawker stalls at Amoy Street Food Centre, including Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee.
He ordered a S$7 portion of lor mee, which he describes as a “huge bowl” that he struggled to finish.
He also sang praises about the ingredients, saying that the homemade ngoh hiang ( five-spice pork rolls) is “super tasty” and the fried pork balls are “chunky and juicy”.
He also talked to the hawker and mentioned that the latter was “very affected” by the article, and that his income was also “directly affected”.
“Cyberbullying” affecting his livelihood
When asked if he could elaborate on what the uncle said, the Instagram user said: “All I can say is that he is only human and will of course be affected by it, but he believes a clear conscience is more important than anything else.”
“More than what uncle said, I think it is more important to get to the heart of the topic, which is cyberbullying, and how to prevent it. Uncle cooks to support and sustain himself, this is his livelihood. Cyberbullying is threatening his ability to do so.”
While he agrees that people can have different likes and dislikes, the food enthusiast also opined:
“We don’t need to thrash something that we don’t like just to justify our own preferences. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. We have to show respect for one another.”
The Instagram user tagged both the writer and Sethlui.com in his Instagram Story but apparently did not receive a response.
Seth Lui on editorial processes
Sethlui.com’s founder, Seth Lui, told Babelfish that the “worst-rated” series is based on existing online Google reviews that have garnered a sizeable rating from the general public.
He said that most stalls that they have featured were already experiencing low business volume due to the public Google ratings.
“We’ve had outcomes where we concur, and also situations we disagree with poor ratings and defend the stall with the intention to improve their online presence.”
Explaining their editorial process, he said that they aim to highlight the positives and give constructive feedback on any negative aspects.
Not “putting down” any business
“In no way do we ‘put down’ any business other than respectfully recommend what can be improved,” Lui continued.
While it is part of their process to give their feedback to the chef and “hope that they use it to improve their craft”, the writer didn’t manage to give her feedback that day due to a “swarm of white-collar workers during peak lunch hour”.
Seth also took the chance to address the Instagram user:
“I find it ironic that the Instagram user is calling our publication a ‘cyberbully’, while simultaneously using an anonymous nickname with no clear identity to call out our writer by tagging her personal Instagram account publicly. What does that make him then?”
Ultimately, Seth encouraged his readers to try the lor mee for themselves and be their own judges: “If Michelin and chef Marion like it, perhaps you will too. It’s just not for us.”
“The public may or may not agree with us, and that is perfectly fine since everyone has their own opinion/taste and are free to express it, as are our writers. Writers at Sethlui.com are encouraged to give honest opinions rather than sugarcoating things.”
If anything, this whole hullabaloo has made us hungry for lor mee. With extra vinegar, please.
Top image from Sethlui.com and Instagram.
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