Today, nearly a month after Michelin excluded Sushi Nakazawa, New York's best-reviewed new sushi spot, from its yearly list of "starred" culinary establishments, Zagat has named that white hot raw fish bar New York's best new restaurant in its 2015 guide.
During a phone interview, Tim Zagat, co-founder of the guide, wouldn't elaborate too much on the opposing conclusions reached by the famously anonymous Michelin inspectors and Zagat's survey respondents, though he says that "there are a lot of us, and very few of them." And he is correct.
The Michelin inspectors are a tightly knit group of professional reviewers who dole out one, two, or three stars, while Zagat's New York numbers are compiled from nearly 30,600 survey respondents who rate restaurants on scale of 0-30 for food, decor and service.
The Zagat ranks, however, are 36 percent smaller than last year, when 48,114 participated in the New York survey (that number was 44,306 in 2012 and 41,604 in 2011). Zagat, which is owned by Google, is not the powerhouse guide it once was in the 1980s, as it faces competition not just from Michelin but also from user-generated review sites like Yelp, listicle sites like The World's 50 Best Restaurants, as well as online publications like Eater, Grub Street, and First We Feast.
Here are some other facts from this year's Zagat Survey:
- Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Coze's seafood temple, won the "best food" category, a position it has occupied for ten of the last twelve years. Danny Meyer's Gramercy Tavern was rated "most popular," an accolade it has enjoyed for six of the past twelve years; the other years either Le Bernardin or Union Square Cafe won. Daniel won for best decor.
- Chuko, a Prospect Heights ramen spot, was ranked best restaurant under $40, with a score of 27.
- Ivan Ramen, one of New York's best reviewed noodle shops, was among the most poorly rated new venues on Zagat, with a food score of 19 (the same as Lavo), and a decor rating of 13.
- Zagat conducted its first ever "burger survey". Here are the top ten: 1) Peter Luger 2) Burger Joint 3) Minetta Tavern (Black Label) 4) B&B (Bash Style) 5) Spotted Pig 6) Umami Burger 7) DuMont Burger 8) Shake Shack 9) Keens 10) J.G. Mellon.
- Paulie Gee's was voted best pizza; Il Bambino won "best sandwich;" and top barbecue went to Mighty Quinn's.
- Le Bernardin also won for best service. Per Se, which won this category last year, slipped to seventh place, which means the entire service staff at Per Se will be executed before their remains are composted to produce soil for bespoke radishes on the $310 tasting menu. Brutal, but delicious.
- Here's the entire top ten list of Zagat restaurants for best food: 1) Le Bernardin, 2) Bouley, 3) Jean-Georges 4) Gotham Bar & Grill 5) Eleven Madison Park 6) Daniel 7) Sushi Yasuda 8) Gramercy Tavern 9) Peter Luger 10) La Grenouille.
- Zagat reports 160 restaurant openings in 2014, up from 111 in 2013. But there were 82 closings, the highest number since 2010 guide when 90 restaurants closed. Tim Zagat, during a phone interview, partly attributed the high number of closing to rising rents throughout the city.
- Comparing guides: Only four out of ten restaurants on the Zagat top ten list for food are recipients of two-or-three Michelin stars. Two of those restaurants, La Grenouille and Sushi Yasuda, have no Michelin stars.
- Regarding cell phone usage: 67 percent of diners said they rarely or never take photos in restaurants, 61 percent said they rarely or never email in restaurants, while 78 percent said they rarely or never use social media in restaurants. Related: Who wants to bet some of these survey takers are lying?
- Survey respondents reporting spending $48.15 per person on average for dinner, compared with the national average of $39.40.
- New Yorkers said they ate dinner 2.6 nights a week in restaurants, and lunch 2.1 nights per week. Combined with takeout, New Yorkers said they consumed 56 percent of their weekly meals at (or from) restaurants.
- Service tied with noise as among the biggest irritants for dining out, followed by "prices." (I'll assume they mean high prices.)
- Only 6% of respondents admitted to not making reservations at restaurants. Related: I make reservations for about 0.1% of the venues I dine at.
- Thirty-one percent of diners said they were "over" kale and 33 percent were over "bacon anything." By comparison 20 percent reported being over beets, while 15 percent were over brussels sprouts, which are often served with bacon.
- Other not-so-great performers in the food category were Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken (score: 18), Edi & he Wolf (19), The Butterfly (19), and Ninja (13). Keep in mind that The Butterfly and Edi both have "upside down triangles" next to their scores, which means those venues received a lower-number of responses, an indication that the score could be less reliable.