A side effect of habitual contact with food and wine criticism - as a writer or as a reader - is susceptibility to the delusional belief that for a meal or bottle to be great, it must represent some sort of innovation or superlative quality.
I'd argue that such a conception of greatness runs counter to the spirit of eating and drinking in general. After all, these are ageless routines, cyclical and process-oriented. I suspect that overt innovation or score-seeking can no more increase the pleasures of the table than it can those of, say, the bedroom, site of another ageless routine. The net enjoyment stays around the same no matter what tools you bring, as long as the conventional maneuvers are performed with some degree of panache.
It's why well-executed neighborhood restaurants are so irresistible. Modest and unfussy, they're somehow humanly restorative in how little they seek to impress you, and how simply they succeed. I have to thank my friend G for tipping me off to Les Quilles, a perfect example of the genre that opened last July near Ménilmontant. I can't imagine crossing Paris to experience the bistro comfort food, suberb natural wines, and smart service the bistro-à-vin offers. But, as my friends and I agreed the other night, it's a fine stroke of luck to live nearby.