Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shockers in the new Zagat Survey

Four restaurants score a coveted 29-out-of-30 for food.

Shockers in the new Zagat Survey


Perfection is such an elusive thing.

Consider the Zagat Survey, the burgundy-jacketed restaurant guides whose comments and scores are based on a public vote.

A "30" is the top score on the Zagat scale for food, decor, and service. But because of the wonders of math and sampling size, no restaurant ever nails a 30.

Every so often, a Philly restaurant has scored a 29 for food. In the 20 years that I have been editing the Philadelphia Survey - since 1993, when it was a slim volume of about 500 restaurants - I can recall 29s scored only by the Fountain at the Four Seasons and the old Le Bec-Fin (when it had a hyphen and now-owner Nicolas Fanucci was general manager).

With the 2013 edition out this week, know that four Philly restaurants scored a 29 for food: Fountain, Vetri, Birchrunville Store, and Bibou.

The 2013 book - which food writer Drew Lazor and I compiled in a manic frenzy over the last several months - includes 1,441 restaurants in the region and is based on the votes of 13,179 diners, a Philly record. Our job was simply to write reviews based on the reviewers' comments. We don't influence or affect the scores in any way. (See this 2006 article on the process.)

The new scores have been dribbling out over the last month, since Google - which purchased Zagat last year - has been offering the data on its platforms, including Google Maps, Search, Google+ and mobile.

The top-10 food list has four newcomers, including Sycamore in Lansdowne (No. 5), Paloma in Bella Vista (No. 7), and Sketch, the humble burger specialist in Fishtown (No. 10). 

Vedge not only premiered at No. 9 for food, but also No. 3 for decor, No. 5 for service and was this survey’s Top Newcomer, landing a 28 for food. 

As usual, the big winner is the Fountain, which led all categories. Most Popular was Stephen Starr’s Buddakan, which ousted Jose Garces’ Amada (No. 2) this year.
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About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here.

Michael Klein
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