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Le Bernardin Is New York’s Best Restaurant, Zagat Declares Again

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Eric Ripert’s seafood temple won best food, top service, and most popular restaurant for a second straight year.

[The bar at Le Bernardin]
[Daniel Krieger]

Zagat, the OG ratings guide that dropped its crazy 30 point scale this year, has released the results of its 2017 New York survey, and much to the surprise of no one, Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert’s French temple to seafood, has been named the city’s most popular restaurant, as well as the best establishment for food and service, for the second straight year.

Le Bernardin has been rated best food by Zagat for 10 of the past 12 years.

The survey’s best new restaurant honors went to Kingsley, Roxanne Spurance’s French-y Alphabet City restaurant that’s been largely overlooked by the city’s major critics (myself included). The runner up for best new restaurant was Indian Accent, the expense account-inclined South Asian spot in Midtown’s Parker Meridien Hotel.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of this year’s results, it’s worth meditating up the differences between Zagat and Michelin, the city’s other famed red guide. Michelin, founded over a century ago by the famous European tire maker, employs professional inspectors to rate restaurants across the globe on a scale of one to three stars. Zagat, owned by Google, is a survey that asks everyday folks about their dining habits, spending patterns, and favorite restaurants.

For its 2017 New York edition, Zagat collected the votes of 30,961 respondents, a hefty 9 percent drop from last year’s group of 34,178 respondents.

Here are some of the highlights from this year's Zagat guide:

  • Are Fewer Restaurants Opening? Zagat noted 102 openings this year, down from the previous guide’s 119, and down from 160 the year before. Is the restaurant opening boom starting to cool? Perhaps, but closings clocked in at just 52, down from 82 two years ago nearly half of the 90 closings in 2010 (the NPD group noted a 3 percent year-over-year decline in independent New York-area restaurants in February.)
  • This Was a Actually Survey Question: "Hot new place you would choose if the president owed you a big favor in the form of a prized NYC dinner reso." The top answer was Momofuku Nishi, one of the worst reviewed restaurants of the year. The second choice was Le Coucou (BUY), while the third choice was La Sirena (SELL).
  • Best New Restaurants: After Kingsley, the top new restaurants of the year were Indian Accent, Lilia by Missy Robbins, budget steakhouse Quality Eats, the Peruvian-themed Llama Inn, bread-centric High Street on Hudson, chicken-focused Le Coq Rico, and finally Cafe Altro Paradiso, an Italian spot by the Estela boys.
  • Best Asian? The top "Asian" spot went to Asiate, an expensive restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel that no one talks about except for its views of Central Park. Coming in second was Buddakan, a Stephen Starr restaurant that’s perhaps most famous for a cameo during a Sex & The City movie (I awarded zero stars last year). Placing third was Talde in Park Slope. Fourth place went to Asia de Cuba, Jeffrey Chodorow’s theme restaurant with locations in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. The fifth best Asian restaurant was Momofuku Nishi. So, there’s that.
  • Hometown Barbecue was correctly voted the city’s best barbecue restaurant.
  • Juliana’s: Patsy Grimaldi’s DUMBO restaurant was incorrectly voted the city’s best pizzeria.
  • Played Out: The top dishes that respondents were tired of seeing were kale salad (58 percent), pricey roast chicken (55 percent), lobster mac & cheese (52%), shishito peppers (28 percent), tartare (27 percent), and hummus (23 percent).
  • No Tipping: How do respondents feel about the growing trending of nixing tipping in favor of higher menu prices? 41 percent of respondents "support it, hope it catches on," while 36 percent apparently "hate" the effort to ensure more stable and fair wages for the hospitality industry.
  • The Importance of Food Photos: Even though 58 percent of respondents say they don’t take food photos to share on social media, 59 percent admit to browsing those pics on social media, while a hefty 70 percent have picked a place to eat based on food photos seen on social media.
  • The Best of List: Zagat unveiled a list of New York’s best foods this year, which included bagels (Absolute Bagels), coffee (La Colombe), dim sum (Pacificana), doughnuts (Peter Pan), dumplings (Kung Fu), ice cream (Ample Hills), lobster rolls (Pearl Oyster Bar), Ramen (Mu), sandwiches (Alidoro), and tacos (Los Tacos).
  • The Crazy Ratings System: Zagat replaced its confusing 0-30 scorecard with an even more confusing ratings system. Spokespeople for Zagat, who underestimate the ability of diners and food writers to perform basic math, describe the new 1.0-5.0 scale as simpler, which is pretty incredible since the addition of decimal points mean that what was once a 30 point system is now a 40 point system. SMDH.

All Coverage of Zagat [ENY]

Le Bernardin

155 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019

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