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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Many Restaurants in Area Get Solid Reviews in Zagat Survey

The just-released Zagat Survey for 2007, the gilt-edged bible for fine dining, which rates the country’s top restaurants according to their quality of food, d & #233;cor and service, offers interesting insight into how local establishments fit into the big gastronomical picture.

While none of the county’s eateries scored above 27 in the food ranking , 30 points are possible , not one in the entire country was rated 30. Apparently, these surveying gourmands are hard to please. But as they say, nobody’s perfect, and Zagat apparently keeps to that theory.

The WineSellar & Brasserie on Waples Street, off Mira Mesa Boulevard and Sushi Ota on Mission Bay Drive each received a score of 27 for the quality of food, as did Pamplemousse Grille on Via de la Valle in Solana Beach; Arterra, in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar; and A.R. Valentien in the Lodge at Torrey Pines.

Tapenade in La Jolla; The Oceanaire Seafood Room in the Gaslamp Quarter; El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in Rancho Bernardo; Donovan’s on La Jolla Village Drive; and Rama, also in the Gaslamp Quarter, each received a food rating of 26.

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A list of other noteworthy places included Azzura Point at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Georges at the Cove in La Jolla, Laurel on Bankers Hill near downtown, the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe, Modus Supper Club downtown, Ortega’s Mexican Bistro in Hillcrest, Roppongi Restaurant & Sushi Bar in La Jolla, the local Ruth’s Chris Steak House outlet downtown, Vivace at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad.

If you’re hankering to dine at a 29-rated restaurant you’ll have to go to the San Francisco Bay Area to either Gary Danko or the French Laundry. Those are your only two options in the entire state, in fact.

To my amazement, there were no 29s in New York City, nor were there any in New Orleans and there was only one in that toddlin’ town of Chicago , the three other cities, aside from San Francisco, that are distinguished as true U.S. dining destinations. All four can boast a lot of spots ranked 28, 27 and 26. For instance, Chicago has 19 restaurants in the range of 26 to 28 points , nearly twice as many as San Diego.

Either people here, including tourists, are less inclined to pay the price for an evening of gourmet dining, or San Diego lacks the income demographic that can afford to indulge as in the financial capitals of San Francisco, Chicago and New York.

Actually, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that gourmet dining, along with going to museums, occupies more of people’s time in those cities, whereas in San Diego it’s all about surfing, sailing, whale watching, fishing, diving, snorkeling, riding Jet Skis, collecting shells and sifting sand through one’s toes while sunbathing and contemplating where to get a good fish taco.

Nonetheless, local fine-dining emporiums apparently know how to offer more for less when it comes to quality. Consider: Arterra’s average cost of a dinner with one drink and tip, as estimated by the surveyors, was $53.

Stepping out at A.R. Valentien would set one back $61 on average, same as the Pamplemousse Grille. At the WineSellar & Brasserie the average per-person tab is $59, while Sushi Ota is a deal at $40.

Comparing apples to apples, the average among San Francisco’s 14 restaurants that received a rating of 27 was $77 and the range was from $47 to $105.

According to Zagat, restaurant openings are outpacing closings and the average cost of a meal has gone up only 2.8 percent nationally since last year. Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index rose more than 4 percent, so inflation is taking a bigger bite out of our wallets than dining out.

A downside to the restaurant industry, editors Nina and Tim Zagat of New York City pointed out, is service. While the biggest complaint from 123,000 surveyors all across the country was poor service , 78 percent , all other complaints collectively accounted for 28 percent of gripes.

“To be blunt about it, service is the restaurant industry’s weak link and it’s time something was done to improve it,” the authors said.

I was a little puzzled, though, about Zagat’s commentary on Arterra.

“Though gourmets need look no further than the ‘sublime’ New American dishes, most also consider the ‘excellent’ service by ‘waiters, not surfers ‘ ”

I guess the implication is that surfers don’t make good waiters. Or maybe they were all out waiting for high tide. It’s all a matter of priorities around here.

Pray for surf.

Send tourism and hospitality news to Connie Lewis via e-mail:


. She may also be reached by phone at (858) 277-6359.


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