3 Reasons I Don't Read Indonesian Food Blogs

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
Before criticizing Indonesian food blogs, I will criticize myself first. Hopefully it will spare me the whataboutery comments:
- My blog is visually not appealing.
- I make grammar and spelling mistakes.
- I don't always take pictures from the places I visit. 
- There are some types of food I don't have much knowledge about (Korean, Japanese food). 
- I make review of restaurants I have tried only once.
- I don't update as often as I should my older reviews
- Etc.

That being said, I will allow myself to look at the work other bloggers are doing in Indonesia. I am impressed by the number of food and restaurant review blogs existing in the country, particularly in Jakarta. Many of the people behind them are really dedicated and I am sure they spend hours preparing their articles every week. I also find that in terms of design, some blogs are absolutely stunning. 

In spite of that, I don't really follow them for the 3 reasons listed below:

1) Increasing number of sponsored reviews
As I was doing some research about Publik Markette, I noticed that 80% of all the food blogs I visited based their reviews on a food tasting event they had been invited to. Even though the bloggers were honest enough to mention they did not pay for their food, it raises suspicions on the sincerity of the reviews they will write. Another issue is that they all experienced the restaurant on the same day, with the same dishes, in an event that cannot be compared to the experience of a regular customer. For this reason, I would consider that all these reviews are irrelevant because they do not describe a genuine dining experience. The only way to make it interesting would be to review the event and then to write about the restaurant separately. Unfortunately this never happens.

2) Focus on the form rather than substance
Indonesian food blogs tend to have a very nice design and excellent photos. They usually use a creative template and each has a unique style. However, when you start reading the content, it is quite basic with very little criticism.  I often feel I am reading an advertorial instead of an actual review.

The truth is that most restaurants in Jakarta are average and a few only are actually good. Yet, reading Indonesian food blogs, it seems that Jakarta is the culinary capital of the World blessed with only wonderful eateries serving amazing food. 

In my opinion, pictures in a food blog should reflect the reality of the experience of the diners. I used to review restaurants using a Canon 5D which was transforming any food into something spectacular. While it was making my blog look nice, I switched to a more simple camera a few years ago because I felt the result was more honest. There is nothing wrong in posting incredible pictures of a restaurant, but again as a reader it tends to mislead people into thinking a restaurant is better than it is.
Quite a gap sometimes between the picture and the reality
I have also noticed that many will use verbiage and exaggeration when describing a dish they have sampled. I read a 200-word paragraph praising a beef cordon blue as if God himself had cooked it. This is even more useless because in Indonesia, there is no such thing as dish consistency. It is almost impossible to get the same dish cooked and prepared the same way twice. Personally I prefer when the reviewer go straight to the point but it might only be me.

3) Limited knowledge of Western food & Wines
I read Indonesian blogs each time I need information about a Chinese or Indonesian restaurant. When it comes to Western food though, I will not use them as a reference. If we look at their background, most of the English-speaking bloggers form an homogeneous group of middle to high class Indonesians, mostly from Chinese origin, who studied abroad. While this does not affect the quality of one reviewer, it means that in terms of diversity, they will tend to have similar opinion and similar taste. Considering Western food, they tend to favor dishes that are more fat or more sweet than the authentic ones for instance. If I wrote about Indonesian food, I would probably not be the most pertinent judge as well.
The Typical Indonesian Food Blogger would say that this is a perfectly cooked hot dog with just the right amount of cheese
The idea behind this article is not to bully or to mock Indonesian Food bloggers. As I said, I really think their work is great and in many aspects, better than my own. I am just listing a few reasons why I don't read them.

If you have a blog and you do not read me, I would be grateful myself to know what I could improve and how.

11 comments to '' 3 Reasons I Don't Read Indonesian Food Blogs "

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  1. "just the right amount of cheese" that is a great picture illustrating your comment !

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  2. First time I read your blog, it actually went out from a Google Now suggestion (you famous!).
    It’s actually quite strange for a blogger to tell readers not to read blogs  So you got me started here.
    I kinda agree with a lot of details you mentioned in your article. But you do mention that there are a lot of food blogs, but don’t write your references – I would have love to see if they are as bad as you describe them.
    Now the point is: what solution do you propose to make it better?
    PS: You need to check your ad provider.. I usually click on random ad to support the author.. In this case it was trying to send a paid service formatted SMS. Not cool.
    PPS: sympa, les surgeles Picard!

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  3. Hi Titoo,

    Thanks a lot for your comment!

    I chose not to link to any particular blogs because I didn't feel comfortable naming names. I prefer to stay vague as I assume that people familiar with Indonesian food blogs will relate to my story.

    My main concern is to find out how a food blog can give the best information possible to its readers. I am a strong believer of editorial content vs user generated content. I always find it more interesting to read 1 restaurant review from a known specialist rather than a 1000 reviews from anonymous people.

    Currently, I think that to improve the quality of food blogs, particularly in Indonesia, writers including myself should follow a few guidelines.

    We should:

    - Avoid accepting invitations from restaurants.
    - Never review a restaurant based on a free food tasting.
    - Visit restaurants anonymously.
    - Never rush to visit a restaurant within the first week of its opening just to be ranked higher on Google.
    - Visit a restaurant multiple times and sample as many dishes as we can.
    - Use pictures as a tool to support our story: If a dish does not look nice, we should not try to make it look better than it is.
    - Be concise, descriptive and straight to the point. We should not bore our reader with useless details.
    - Review in priority restaurants which serve a type of cuisine we are familiar with.
    - Not review new restaurants only but also the ones where we have been a patrons for several years.
    - Be fair and not overly enthusiastic. We should tell our readers if your experience has been disappointing with a clear explanations why.

    That's for my review of the reviewers!

    By the way, on which ad did you click exactly? I was not aware of this issue and I want to fix it as soon as possible.

    Thanks again,

    Thibaud

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  4. Thibaud, you are spot on. These guys are way over their heads - plenty now think they are superstars. It's bad enough to deal with average food, but to have these dishes and restaurants proclaimed as Gordon Ramsay's next creation is just wrong.

    Plenty get paid though for writing reviews and posting photos on their Instagram, and they are pretty blatant about it.

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  5. Your points above sums up not just the food blogging scene in Indo, but pretty much most other aspects of Jakarta life. Being here for quite a while, I safely presume that anything written in English by an Indonesian from their perspective is aimed at their own peers to impress, thus can hardly be taken seriously by those looking in from outside. It is no secret either that almost anything resembling some sort of modernity in this country is actually (more often tahn not) being run by the local Chinese community. Though not perfect, I can't blame them for trying. When one understand the indigenous mindset a bit deeper, one starts to wonder how this country might look like without the Chinese... Just saying...

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  6. I sometimes come here to catch up with the times, though have never commented, that I recall. But your observation about the blogs is spot on, Thibaud. I roll my eyes whenever someone wax poetic about the latest .... bagel shop.

    Anyway, I am Indonesian and have a list of my favorite Indonesian restaurants in Jakarta.
    http://travelingblush.com/2013/08/17/jakarta-best-restaurants-my-version/
    These are my tried and tested places, venues I've many, many years. I'd be interested to hear what a long-time Jakarta expat thinks about these places.

    Sorry, I really am not trying to blatantly promote a blog, and perhaps I should just email you privately about this? I don't really understand the etiquette of blogging (I'm just in it for the writing fun).

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  7. And I just realize that most of the author of blogs, that I subscribe to, come from middle to high class Indonesians, mostly from Chinese origin.
    Moreover, yeah, they will review it if they are given free sample or discount. Have just realize it by now.
    Thanks.

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  8. Yeah I also noticed that the bloggers from Indonesia mostlly review the restaurants than sharing their recipes

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  9. Totally agree with all your points here, which is why my partner and I started our own Jakarta food blog a little while back. Would love to hear what you think (genuine request, not just promo!) - http://eatdrinkmacet.tumblr.com

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    Replies
    1. I like that you are reviewing so many local places, not just the trendy ones and that you keep your review short, straight to the point, with normal photos of what the food actually looks like...

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  10. Most Indonesian bloggers are paid by restaurants to advertise them, you have to realize that. But for me at least I can get a sneak peek about the restaurant before i decided to visit. Currently, Indonesian don't like to share recipe, because other will just copy the recipe and post on other site. It will took some time for Indonesian people to mature up and respect property rights.

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