Through the critic's lens

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When you pick up your Indy this upcoming Wednesday, you'll find an image-driven year-in-review feature that in one regard, speaks to the consummate power of photography to wordlessly say so much.

Having just penned the introduction to that feature, I found myself briefly reflecting on some other images I recently shot on a food review for our Dine & Dash column — mainly because someone commented that I'd once again been pretty harsh in my criticism. (It happens.)

The critique in question was at José Muldoon's, and you can check it out here, if you haven't seen it already.

I'm in no way seeking to single Jose's out here for extra criticism, but a little scrutiny of two photos I shot before my meal do serve to illustrate how our food team generally approaches our critical process.

So I'm employing these in more of an FYI-fashion, and I'll say now that Jose's is in no way unique in terms of the minor visual faults I'll point out below. Presentation being a key feature to eating out — you eat with your eyes first, they say — many of our local eateries could use the expeditor's or chef's eyes and wet chef's towel to clean up those plate rims and put the finishing touches on a dish before it hits the table.

Without further ado, click on the following photos for an enlarged view and then some observations:

Jose Muldoons Colorado Springs

This newly added chile lime shrimp salad is beautifully plated overall, but there's one giant eyesore that threatens to undo it all. Did you spot it?

Yes, it's got height and color and places focus on those nicely seasoned prawns. And I like the idea of using round cucumbers and pointy avocado wedges to decorate the rim. But avocado can be spotty to work with, literally, when you consider how they can brown in areas to create an unsightly edge or two.

Here, the pieces are lacking symmetry - a clean cut to make them all roughly the same thickness, to start. The slice nearest the fork also bears a brown spot, but the most egregious element is the triple-thick wedge at the bottom of the photo.

Not only is it so much bigger than the other pieces, but a large hunk of discoloration was obviously removed, leaving it looking mouse-chewed or something. This is a piece I'd suggest tossing in the bowl that's on its way to becoming guacamole. Don't serve this one — cut a new, slender piece to match the others. Simple as that.

Again, presentation is only one component to the meal — taste being much more important in the end — but it is the small details that can lead to perfection instead of just serviceability.

Next up:

Jose Muldoons Colorado Springs
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The new Muldooniac Burrito featuring mean green chile and chile con queso.

Again, I'd say this plate is a step or two away from being quite attractive, with nice color added by the corn relish (in particular, that purple cabbage that pops) and a fun, balanced yin-yang-type feeling accomplished by having the big burrito split the green chile and chile con queso for a light/dark contrast.

But again, do you spot the sore thumb?

Yes, I'm talking about the skin on the cheese which I mentioned in my writeup. The heat-lamp hardening that creates an unsightly wrinkle that betrays a fresh feeling. Also, that lamp's glow looks to have hardened some sauce around the rim, which again could be addressed with a wet towel wipe.

My main request here would just be to have the expo or food runner or whoever give it a wipe and take a small spoon and re-stir that cheese before it leaves the lamplight for the table. It would take a couple seconds, but it would mean a lot to the overall impact.

So: there it is. A little insight into some of what we look for while reviewing in terms of the visuals.

Ultimately, it all needs to be camera-ready.

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