So how does a restaurant get a gold star? And what's this x-factor, anyway?
First, a bit about our food philosophy in general. Food is a very subjective thing, and we all have our own opinions. And Miko and I luckily have pretty similar tastes. We're fairly adventurous eaters -- we'll try most things, although Miko has a higher tolerance for things like fish guts or gray curly snails, and I have more of an ability (i.e. ANY AT ALL) to handle spicy or bitter foods.
But we don't consider ourselves hard-core foodies -- for example, we are nowhere near as picky as mmm-yoso (Hi Kirk!), and for us, the experience of dining is almost as important as the food itself. We tend to shy away from fancy/fine restaurants; we prefer a cozy hole-in-the-wall.
The gold star is the Convoy Conquest's highest honor! These are the restaurants that we truly feel love for.* Usually, this requires a combination of great food AND x-factor.
We first realized the importance of the x-factor when we found Big Joy Family Bakery -- when you walk inside, you just have this feeling of being loved and taken care of. Or Chilies Thai Gourmet, where we originally wanted to give it a gold star because the adorable cook made us so happy, even though the food was maybe not that amazing.
Our gold stars so far, with approximate percentages of deliciousness vs. x-factor (I think if it's less than 50% deliciousness, it can't really qualify as a gold star):
Sage French Cake: 70/30
Wa Dining Okan: 80/20
Yokohama Yakitori Koubou: 50/50
Parsian International Market and Grill: 60/40
Izakaya Sakura 80/20
Phuong Trang 70/30
Big Joy Family Bakery 50/50
Crab Hut 70/30
Tapioca Express 80/20
Jeong Won Korean Buffet 60/40
Yakitori Yakyudori 90/10
This is not to say that, e.g., Big Joy is necessarily less delicious than Sage, but that its x-factor is a larger part of its appeal. We are measuring the RATIO of deliciousness here, not the AMOUNT of deliciousness. (Because that would be a giiiiant can of worms to open.)
This is, of course, extremely unscientific, and the numbers are not really quantifying anything specific -- this was the best we could do to explain a concept that is terribly nebulous and subjective.
*We decided that we have to go to a restaurant at least twice to give it a gold star, to make sure we aren't being overly influenced by unfair factors like being grouchy or STARVING.