A Chinese Restaurant with an Addicting Secret Recipe, and a Restaurant Strikes Back at Yelp

Written By Scott Joseph On September 26, 2014

chuan noodlesI suppose this is one way to improve your Yelp scores.

The owner of a noodle shop in China has admitted to lacing his dishes with opium, according to several news reports, including this one from the BBC. The drug was added to noodles in the form of powdered poppy buds.

The secret ingredient was discovered after one of the restaurant’s customers, 26 year old Liu Juyou, was stopped for a traffic violation and tested for drugs. When the results came back positive, Liu, who says he has never used drugs, suspected the restaurant was to blame. Other members of his family ate at the Shaanxi province restaurant and also had drug tests performed. They, too, tested positive for the opiate. When confronted by police, the shop owner, who goes only by the name Zhang, admitted that he had added the poppy powder. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Poppy seeds have been known to show up in drug tests, even in the U.S. Something as simple as a poppy seed bagel can build up in the blood stream over time. But in small amounts the seeds rarely cause hallucinations and are not addictive.

But a really good bowl of noodles…

And speaking of Yelp reviews, Botto Bistro, a pizzeria in Richmond, California, is taking a fresh approach to what many restaurant owners consider a bane: the negative Yelp review. Yelp, of course, is the popular website that allows people to rate businesses and write reviews. Most restaurant owners are cognizant of the reviews they receive, both positive and negative. Some will ignore the negative ones, others will respond with apologies and promises to do better. Some, ill advisedly, lash back at the reviewers.

Botto Bistro’s owners have taken a different tack. They are encouraging all of their customers to write negative, one-star, reviews and are offering guests 25 percent discounts and a chance to win a cooking class for their snarky comments. According to a note on the restaurant’s website, the owners are doing this to prove that a “low score and bad reviews don’t impact us and any other successful restaurant.”

Yelp has a strict policy about paying for reviews, but that policy generally applies to favorable ones. The call for negative reviews has somewhat flummoxed Yelp’s management.

The results are that Botto Bistro is now the lowest rated restaurant on Yelp’s listings near San Francisco, a feat it trumpets on its website. The results are also pretty funny, as many of the participants wrote their reviews with relish. (One of my favorites is below.) You can read some of them at Botto Bistro’s Yelp page.

Yelp review

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