If you hadn't heard, the LA Times, which recently hired Jonathan Gold away from our sister paper the LA Weekly, made the decision last week to drop assigning stars to restaurant reviews. "Star ratings are increasingly difficult to align with the reality of dining in Southern California," food editor Russ Parsons wrote in the paper's announcement, "where your dinner choices might include a food truck, a neighborhood ethnic restaurant, a one-time-only pop-up run by a famous chef, and a palace of fine dining."
This news has every newspaper in the country defending its position to keep or don't keep assigning stars to its restaurant reviews. So far, most of them have decided to keep the stars. As Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema told Post reporter Tim Carman, "I ... think stars make a critic more honest. There's less wiggle room, less hedging, when a reviewer employs stars."
Clearly, stars matter -- to some restaurants and to some readers. If I ruled the world, which I often do from my couch, I might take the same approach as the Michelin guides: Reserve a few stars to hand out only to restaurants that belong to a cadre shooting for formal perfection, both in their food and the service -- a kind of dining, incidentally, that is becoming increasingly rare.