Another birthday lunch in the office and the birthday girl picked Orupa. The six of us showed up at 12:30 and they were able to seat us immediately. Our server was very attentive, quick to fill our water glasses and share the specials. He was patient when we asked him to repeat all of the specials and the entire dessert menu twice.

It didn't take long for our food to start coming out and the presentation was beautiful. Sadly though, as bites were taken, opinions around the table greatly differed.

The birthday girl ordered one of the specials, pulled pork and artichoke hearts over risotto and loved it. The unexpected combination was a big hit and she was delighted by the entire dish.

Another big hit was the Chicken Spinich Salad was fresh, which had a great combination of flavors with craisins, walnuts and feta.

The other special, beef kabobs served over basmati rice, swimming in a beef broth/gravy, tasted fine, was uniteresting and uninspiring. The Margherita Pizza was decent, but again, nothing to write home about.

The burger was terribly overcooked. It was requested medium rare to medium and was definitely well done. Beyond this, it was way too salty. The fries were served in a cast iron pan (same as the dessert in the picture). While it added to the presentation, the server did not mention it was scalding hot (later, when the dessert came out, he did mention it was hot) and reaching across the plate to pick up the burger resulted in a burn on the arm. Sadly, the fries tasted like they had been fried in oil that had been used far too many times and had a fishy taste to them.

The baked apple dessert was gorgeous, but had a similar problem as the fries. Whether it was from the cast iron pan being used for both desserts and main dishes or something used to make the dessert, it tasted fishy. When we asked the server if part of it had maybe been deep fried like the fries, we were told it hadn't been. Thankfully, the server did offer to take the dessert off of the tab.

Overall, the meal was very inconsistent, which is the general response I have heard from fellow Orupa diners. While the restaurant is beautiful and the servers were attentive, the food was definitely hit or miss. I need more consistency to make Orupa a place that I'll frequent.

500 Liberty St SE
Salem, OR 97301


Dennis said...

Prompted by the local brouhaha in the Statesman-Journal regarding the recent review of Orupa, I'd be interested in a discussion about the role a restaurant reviewer's opinion plays for prospective patrons.

The letter to the editor criticized the reviewer for expressing her opinion that the restaurant needed to address some significant issues. The letter-writer also implied (my interpretation) that the reviewer essentially had a responsibility to support local establishments regardless of their shortcomings.

Reactions and/or thoughts?

Chuck Bradley said...

@ Dennis, Good thought provocative post!

I read Ms. Reynolds review as well as the letter to the editor.

I think a restaurant reviewer’s primary task is to tell the truth. While a bad review can damage a restaurants business and should not be undertaken lightly, prospective patrons should be able to get from it some kind of an idea what to expect.

Ms. Reynolds usually visits an eatery multiple times before she crafts her opinion. (I believe she said 6 times, in the case of Orupa.)

My experiences (4 to date) have all been very positive at Orupa.

The comments have been very mixed and inconsistent on this and several other sites. However, some of the negatives have been from those who expected Orupa to be Old Europe Inn II, which the owner announced to the world, up-front, that it was not going to be. Ms. Reynolds also addressed this issue in her review.

For the most part, I have found Ms. Reynolds to be a responsible and unbiased reviewer, if somewhat behind the curve on what’s new in Salem/Keizer.

Anonymous said...

I read Diane Reynolds review and thought it was poorly written and a tad bit irresponsible. There are contradictions and she is not clear nor concise.

Personally, she doesn't seem like a very good judge of restaurants, based on the reviews I have seen in the past. This seems very unfair to restaurants, to have a huge write up that everyone will see written by someone with questionable taste. If I owned a restaurant I would write her a letter to ask her to never dine at my establishment, due to the risk she will write a bad review (and I don't trust her judgement).

I like forums like this because a review is quickly tempered or reinforced by a chorus of other opinions, so it acts as a natural balance. You see the occasional disgruntled former employee write a bad review here and there but it get balanced by the group opinion.

Personally, I don't see the point of newspaper based restaurant reviews anymore. They are just one person's opinion and that is dangerous.

I know a lot of people who put their lives into their restaurants and a review like that is like a kick in the stomach. It costs them a LOT of business and is not constructive in any way.

I think a format like newspaper should only print good reviews and leave the bad ones to more balanced venues like this chat room and yelp.

Oregon Maiden said...

I, too, love these kinds of thought-provoking discussions---here's my take:

Once I feel I can trust a particular reviewer, I strongly prefer to read about a personal assessment regarding his/her own experience as well as the situation future guests might encounter. Of course, the more reviews I have read from a particular reviewer, the more comfortable I am with "translating" the information for my own use.

The thing that I do NOT wish a reviewer to do is massage the message simply to protect a local business.

For what its worth, my own experience with Orupa has been extremely uneven regarding both food and service over multiple visits.

In response to Chuck's statement about S-J reviews being "behind the curve" for new places, it is my understanding that the Statesman waits 6 months to a year for a new restaurant to settle in before scheduling a review.(Chuck of course is unrivaled in sniffing out and reporting on the new places :-)

Can hardly wait for others to chime in!

Carole D. said...

Just a quick weigh-in to say that a restaurant critic should be looking out for the CUSTOMER's best interest and not be beholden to that of the owner.

Paul said...

I hadn't read the S-J review until I saw the comments about it here. After reading it, my thought was that while I have no particular opinion about the reviewer, based on my own experience with this restaurant, I have to agree with her. I've been there twice and "uneven" is the exact word to use. I doubt that I will go back. I usually try new restaurants a couple of times...I'm reluctant to go a third time to this one. I just tried Broken Bread last month and had a good experience - will likely go back there.

Agreed, the reviewer should look out for the readers/customers. I don't think the messenger should get shot for the message here...my experience was the same as hers only she went there six times.

Anonymous said...

To play the devil's advocate here, what if the reviewer has really bad taste or even weird taste? A negative review broadcast in a widely read publication is really damaging. What good is the paper serving by publishing these? Once it splatters against the wall, thousands of people's opinion will be tainted. It is just one person's opinion. However, a negative or positive review on this blog has checks and balances because you quickly get others opinions. I personally think this is much much more valuable than one person's opinion that has no checks and balances.

The SJ reviewer seems quirky, which isn't a bad things, but I sure as heck wouldn't want her reviewing my small business.

(full disclosure: I didn't care for the food on my visit to Orupa. The restaurant is cozy and well decorated though.)

Anonymous said...

One would assume that the reviewer would soon be out of a job if s/he continually did a bad job.

Not sure what all the fuss is about since newspaper reviewers have been around for eons as have reviews that elicit complaints.

Personally, I think yelp reviewers take things way too personally, are for the most part unprofessional and a whole lot less objective so I tend to view them with a grain of fleur de sel.

Anonymous said...

I agree; a "review" from a Yelper or on Urbanspoon is taken by me with a grain of salt. These are written by every-day people with all kinds of views and ideas of normalcy. (Take, for example, the recent written review here of Andaluz: the writer felt the food was off, when in fact it was made very authentically.)

To me it's an issue of credibility. Someone who is paid to write regular, published reviews is held to a certain standard (we hope) and is (hopefully) some authority on that which they speak about. They should also be well-educated on their subject. We assume Diane Reynolds is such a writer, and with that, are still allowed to disagree with her. However, I have not found my own opinion to be very different from hers most of the time, including her thoughts on Orupa.

I disagree with Anonymous ("I sure as heck wouldn't want her reviewing my small business")... in any restaurant where she has spoken highly of an establishment, you can be sure to find a framed clip of that day's newspaper on the wall. It works both ways.


Anonymous said...

In this day and age the restaurant review for a newspaper is completely obsolete. I agree with the anon above that there are no checks and balances. I know a lot of people that complain heartily about a couple of my favorite restaurants (one of them is my dad), so clearly a number of opinions is important.

I sort of agree about yelp and urban spoon, but if you have large enough number of reviews you start to get a more balanced perspective.

"One would assume that the reviewer would soon be out of a job if s/he
continually did a bad job."

I am chuckling at this statement (no offense). If you understood how the paper works, you would know that this is not how it works, unfortunately.

I've never even been to Orupa, so I won't comment on it. I know in the past I thought Diane's reviews were a little on the strange side so I wouldn't put much weight on her opinions.

Dennis said...

Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts. I do wish to emphasize however that I did not intend my query to be a referendum on Diane Reynolds but more on restaurant reviews as a category.

(Regarding guitar4me's comment about posted reviews---I well remember that when Old Europe Inn received a four-fork rating from Ms. Reynolds, they had the article laminated and posted prominently so that it faced guests as they entered the door.)

Chuck Bradley said...

@ Anon 3/13 11:27 PM. I sure wish we had a way to PM each other here. It sounds like you may have some insight into Gannett Newspapers in general and/or the Statesman Journal in particular. I have a question which responsibility prohibits my posting publicly. I can be found on facebook.