Tim Zagat, co-founder of Zagat Survey said, "It's hard to fathom how the dining scene in New York gets bigger and better every year, but it does -- and this year that's thanks in part to the strong crop of newcomers led by Telepan. This is not a short term trend, rather it's part of a 25 year plus culinary revolution."
Top Newcomers: With a whopping 222 newcomers (yielding over 20,000 new seats) in the past 12 months (versus 102 closings), there's a plethora of new options. Among the top rated are the "innovative but unfussy" Telepan, the "delectable" Orchard, and "adventuresome" Urena. Here are the ten top rated newcomers:
Paying More and More and More: At $39.43, the average bill for dining out in New York is up 5% over last year -- nearly double the inflation rate over the last decade. Not surprisingly, New York is the most costly U.S. dining city with a typical meal tab 20% above the national average. And among the 20 most expensive spots, the average tab rose 14.5% to $128.79 a meal. The comparable figure in San Francisco is $98.30 and in Los Angeles it's $71.48. Still, New Yorkers say they're eating out more and tipping more generously, i.e. moving up from 18.6% to 18.9% over the past two years.
The Best Of: When it comes to "bests" in various categories, there are many choices depending upon your immediate cravings: For example, for Pizza that's "epiphany" producing, there's Di Fara; if it's BBQ you seek, Daisy May's now has seats; for "killer" Soul Food head to Harlem's Amy Ruth's, and for a good nosh, it's the tried and true, 1908 vintage Barney Greengrass. Other bests include:
Caribbean/West Indies - Cafe Habana
NYC Overall: When surveyors were asked to rate the city's dining scene as a whole, diversity received a "28" rating on Zagat's 0-30 scale (not surprising since the guide includes 98 different cuisines). Culinary creativity was rated "25." On the downside, and a matter of serious concern, NYC restaurants got only a "15" for their hospitality (see Service - The Weak Link). And, in a good news/bad news scenario diners gave the city only "13" for table availability, which means the restaurant business is booming, but diners don't get reservations as easily as they would like.
Hot Neighborhoods: Restaurants are sprouting up citywide, but the hottest area is West Chelsea with seven major newcomers: Anzu, Buddakan, Cookshop, Craftsteak, Del Posto, Morimoto and Trestle on Tenth joining La Bottega, Matsuri, and 202. Together they represent nearly 2,500 seats. Meanwhile TriBeCa's Greenwich Street is humming with openings, e.g., the "upscale yet casual" Devin Tavern, the "modern" Industria Argentina, the Turkish Turks & Frogs and for steak Wolfgang's. And over by Madison Square Park, it's the "deceptively rustic" A Voce, the "sophisticated" Cafe at Country and Country and "nouvelle" Spaniard Urena.
Top Food: Holding on to the #1 spot for Food is Maguy LaCoze and Eric Ripert's "temple to seafood" Le Bernardin, which also ranks #2 for Service and #3 in the Most Popular category. Second for Food is the "tour de force" Daniel, which also takes #1 for Decor and #3 for Service. And cracking the top three for the first time is the "sublime" Sushi Yasuda where surveyors report being "wowed" by ethereal sushi.
Most Popular: Despite all the exciting newcomers, old favorites continue to lead the way when it comes to Popularity. At the top of the chart is the "standard bearer" that "seems to get better every year" Gramercy Tavern. In second place is Gramercy Tavern's sibling, the "classic" Union Square Cafe. (These sister restaurants have shared the top two spots since the 2000 survey. Should one wonder why, the answer is that owner Danny Meyer has inculcated an extraordinary sense of hospitality in his staffs.) And rounding out the top three, as mentioned earlier, is the incomparable Le Bernardin.
Service and Decor: Taking the grand prize in the business' most difficult area -- Service -- is the "incomparable" "finesse" offered by per se. #2 and #3 respectively are Le Bernardin and Daniel. Meanwhile, when it comes to Decor, Daniel is #1 followed by the "gorgeous" "serene" Asiate located on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center, and then the "old-NY classic" 65th floor Rockefeller Center Rainbow Room.
Service - The Weak Link: As with all cities Zagat surveys, service is the principal dining irritant. That said, at 48%, complaints about service here are well below the national average of 72%. That's due to the fact that in New York, 38% of all complaints are about noise and crowding -- well above all other cities for these two gripes.
Steakhouses on the Stampede: Continuing a long-term trend, major league steakhouses keep opening up around the city, including AJ Maxwell's, Alonso's, Blair Perrone, Craftsteak, Devin Tavern, Harry's Steak, Porter House NY, Quality Meats, Staghorn, and Wolfgang TriBeCa among others. In the past decade, the number of New York City steakhouses has soared from 28 to 93.
Decor Theatrics: In the ever more theatrical world of restaurant design, 'mega' was the word in 2006 with the arrival of Buddakan, Buddha Bar, Chinatown Brasserie, Craftsteak, Del Posto, Japonais, Le Cirque, Megu Midtown, Morimoto, and Porter House NY, each having upwards of 150 seats and no expense-spared decor. These spectacular newcomers were designed by the best of the best, including Adam Tihany, Jacques Garcia, and Jeffery Beers. Proving that to be a contender, a big time restaurant needs a big name designer.
Hotels Humming: Accelerating a recent trend, more hotels are importing top talent, to wit, Gordon Ramsay (at The London NYC, ex Rihga Royal), Joel Robuchon (Four Seasons), Laurent Tourondel (Ritz-Carlton), Alan Yau (Gramercy Park) and Geoffrey Zakarian (Carlton and Chambers). And Alain Ducasse is moving from one hotel, The Essex House, to another, The St. Regis. There's also The Mandarin Oriental's Asiate (Nori Sugie), The New York Palace's Gilt (Christopher Lee), W Union Square's Olives (Todd English), and the list goes on. Great restaurants not only give the hotel a boost in terms of attracting patrons, but they also increase room rates. Ergo, hoteliers are willing to support such restaurants very generously.
Celebrity Chefs: Surprisingly, in a town chock full of celebrity chefs (including Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller, Masaharu Morimoto, Francois Payard, Eric Ripert, Joel Robuchon, Bill Telepan, Laurent Tourondel and many more) it appears that a famous chef in the kitchen doesn't mean too much to NYC diners. By a vote of 79%, Zagat respondents say they don't care if there's a star chef in the kitchen.
Random Notes: "Restaurateur of the Year" is Stephen Starr who imported both Buddakan and Morimoto from Philadelphia ... Union Square Hospitality Group is the city's "Most Popular Restaurant Group," with five eateries in the Top 20 ... 58% of New Yorkers say they value sustainably raised food enough to pay more for it ... When it comes to wine, New Yorkers like to paint the town red, 21% of surveyors report Cabernet Sauvignon is their favorite wine, while 15% say Pinot Noir, and 12% choose Shiraz ... As for New Yorkers favorite cuisines, the breakout is as follows: Italian (28%), Japanese (14%), French (13%), American (13%), Thai (7%), Chinese (6%), Mexican (6%), and Indian (5%). In the past two years, French and Italian food each dropped ... Reflecting modern lifestyle, 59% of surveyors' meals came from outside the home.
Like all Zagat Survey guidebooks: The 2007 edition is made by consumers for consumers. But this year there are three new elements -- a foldout color map of 50 favorites, a map of key newcomers and a page of stick-on tabs so users can track personal likes and dislikes. Besides the usual lists of Top Places, the guide includes such useful categories as Breakfast/Brunch, Buffets, Celebrations, Cheese Trays, Chef's Tables, Hotel Dining, Late Dining, and even Winning Wine Lists. Restaurants are also broken out by cuisine, location, and dozens of other groupings. All of this information is on http://www.zagat.com which now has free content including over 1,000 NYC restaurant menus, photos and user reviews.
The New York City Restaurants guide ($14.95) was edited by Curt Gathje and Carol Diuguid, and coordinated by Larry Cohn. It is available at bookstores and other retail outlets, through http://www.zagat.com or by calling 888/371-5440.
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|Also See:||Zagat's 2006 America's Top Restaurants Guide Points Out a Variety of National Dining Trends and Issues / October 2005|
|Zagat Survey 2005 NYC Restaurants; Average Check Now at $37.45, Only Four Restaurants Left Requiring Jackets and Ties; Gramercy Tavern Rated Most Popular Restaurant in NYC / October 2004|