District, Epic, Harwood Arms, Square 1682, and Others Earn Rave Reviews

Argentinian Skirt Steak District, Epic, Harwood Arms, Square 1682, and Others Earn Rave ReviewsRecently reviewed restaurants on the OpenTable network…

* Chef Bruno Loubet is back in a big way in the UK with his Bistrot Bruno Loubet. [Financial Times]

* Authentic Argentinian cuisine is alive and well at Carlitos Gardel in Los Angeles. [Los Angeles Times]

* Newly opened in the City of Angels, S. Irene Virbila says don’t miss District. [Los Angeles Times]

* Chicago’s Epic lives up to its name, according to Phil Vettel. [Chicago Tribune]

* Bare Magazine recommends you gather up some friends and head over to Gather in Berkeley. [Bare Magazine]

* Giles Coren pays a satisfying visit to London’s first Michelin-starred gastropub Harwood Arms in London. [Times Online]

* Kith and Kin is  a win. [Chicago Tribune]

* The Mark by Jean-Georges hits it, according to Gael Greene. [Insatiable Critic]

* You’ll find big flavor in the small plates at Piccolo in Minneapolis, according to critic Rick Nelson. [Star-Tribune]

* Prasino gets praise for its potential from Phil Vettel. [Chicago Tribune]

* Baltimore’s Prime Steakhouse is just about perfect. [Baltimore Sun]

* There’s nothing square about the stylish Square 1682 in Philadelphia. [Philly.com]

Mother’s Day Reservations: Book an ‘OpenTable’ for Mom Today

Mothers Day 2010 preview Mothers Day Reservations: Book an OpenTable for Mom TodayIt’s still a bit more than a month away, but it’s never too soon to make a Mother’s Day reservation. OpenTable has launched our national page for Mother’s Day specials across the U.S. and in Canada and Mexico. There are tons of terrific prix-fixe offerings and special perks, such as the $10 bottomless glass of Champagne at Crab Landing in San Francisco (remember to take a taxi or enlist a designated driver!).

Beyond dining deals and discounts, you’ll also find an array of delicious dishes being prepared exclusively for deserving moms. The Harrison in Manhattan suggests their sublime Sunday sauce (just like Carmela Soprano would make — only better), while The Oak Room at The Plaza is making a decadent lobster eggs benedict. In D.C., Central Michel Richard recommends their take on a lobster burger, and neighboring Cure Bar & Bistro is baking up a special Maryland Blue Crab Pie. Chicago’s Park Grill has created a lemon verbena cheesecake (Before the perfume department at Bloomingdale’s was born, all moms smelled like lemon verbena.). At Salpicón, also in the Windy City, they’ve crafted a dish of prawns in tomatillo sauce, to appeal to mom’s spicier side. Spruce in the Bay Area is offering a super-seasonal, savory-crusted spring lamb. Bistro St. Tropez in Philadelphia is serving banana pan perdu — sure to satisfy mothers who have a sweet tooth. Speaking of sweet, LA’s Citizen Smith is offering a raspberry Pacific swordfish (I love savory dishes with a bit of sweet, don’t you?).

Hungry yet? I know I am, and the dishes listed here are just a smattering of the great meals that await you and your family on Mother’s Day.  What is her favorite food to eat on her special day? Let us know what your mom has an appetite for and where you’re planning on taking her, here or over on Facebook.

Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants: Michael Bauer’s 2010 Picks Are In!

Bay Area foodies — and fortunate restaurateurs and chefs — rejoice! San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer has released his carefully curated annual list of the “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants.”

Cuisine types reveal the melting pot that the Bay Area restaurant scene is, with Asian, barbecue, California-Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Peruvian, and Vietnamese populating the list alongside California, Contemporary American, and Italian, among others. A very helpful feature of Bauer’s culinary guide to one of the world’s top cities for food is its noise ratings, a factor that can help diners in search of a lively experience or a peaceful meal. Bauer also points out house specialties to help novices order well. Insider insights regarding parking make arriving in time for your reservation even easier.

While we all may gaze at critics with envy, Bauer has revealed, in his blog and in the accompanying San Francisco Chronicle Magazine article, that putting together this exhaustive, impressive, and informative round-up is anything but easy. Call it a labor of love, but it remains a labor, with hard choices and harsh cuts right up until press time. He writes in the Magazine of the process, ” Maybe next year I should offer the Top 150.” Sounds good to us!

Honorees include: A16, Acquerello, Ad Hoc, Amber India, Ame, Aziza, Baker and Banker, Bar Bambino, BayWolf, Betelnut, BIX, Bottega, Bouchon, Boulevard, Cafe La Haye, Camino, Chapeau, Chez Panisse, Chez Papa Resto, COCO500, Coi, Cyrus, The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Dosa, Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Flora, Flour+Water, Foreign Cinema, Frances, Frascati, The French Laundry, Greens, House of Prime Rib, Jardiniere, Kaygetsu, La Folie, Madrona Manor, Manresa, Masa’s, Michael Mina, Murray Circle at Cavallo Point, Neela’s, Nombe, One Market, Perbacco/Barbacco, Pesce, Picco/Pizzeria Picco, Piperade, Poggio, Press, Quince, Range, Redd, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Rivoli, RN74, Sante, Slanted Door, Solbar, SPQR, Spruce, Sushi Ran, Terra, The Tipsy Pig, Town Hall, Va De Vi, Wexler’s, Willi’s Wine Bar, Wood Tavern, Yoshi’s Jazz Club and Restaurant, and Zuni Cafe.

How many of Bauer’s best of the Bay Area restaurants list have you eaten at? What restaurants didn’t make the cut but should have? Let us know here or join the conversation over on Facebook.

Best Restaurants for Brunch: Announcing the 2010 Diners’ Choice Winners

Best Brunch Diners Choice 2010 Best Restaurants for Brunch: Announcing the 2010 Diners Choice Winners Everybody loves brunch! And now finding the best places to eat the Sunday meal with something for everyone is easier than ever, thanks to the release of the 50 restaurant winners of OpenTable’s 2010 Diners’ Choice Awards for Best Brunch. Derived from nearly four million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners of nearly 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list celebrates the restaurants that make Sunday one of the best dining days of the week.

Winners include restaurants that serve over-the-top brunch fare, such as Norma’s in Manhattan (If you haven’t had the Foie Gras Brioche French Toast or the Hudson Valley Duck Confit Hash, you haven’t lived) and Atlanta’s Relish (Krispy Kreme ® Bread Pudding) and those that turn out sumptuous favorites with local flair every weekend, such as Charlotte’s Pewter Rose (Fried Green Tomato Benedict) and Gertrude’s (Tilghman Island Eggs, i.e. fried oysters and poached eggs) in Baltimore.

Congratulations to all the restaurants recognized in the Best Brunch category. Find out if your favorite made our list, and reserve a table for this weekend, Easter, Mother’s Day — or any given Sunday — today.

James Beard Foundation Awards Nominees 2010: Congratulations!

The list of James Beard Foundation Awards nominees for 2010 has been released. Congratulations to everyone whose hard work and great talents have been recognized by the industry’s most prestigious organization. The winners will be announced on May 3, 2010, but there aren’t any losers in this round-up. Nominees include:

James Beard Awards 2010 nominees1 James Beard Foundation Awards Nominees 2010: Congratulations!BEST NEW RESTAURANT
* Bibou, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chefs/Owners: Pierre and Charlotte Calmels

* Flour + Water, San Francisco, California
Chef/Partner: Thomas McNaughton
Partners: David White and David Steele

* Frances, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Melissa Perello

* Marea, New York, New York
Chef/Partner: Michael White
Partner: Chris Cannon

* RN74, San Francisco, California
Chef: Jason Berthold
Owners: Michael Mina and Rajat Parr

OUTSTANDING CHEF AWARD
* José Andrés, The Bazaar by José Andrés and Zaytinya
* Tom Colicchio, Craft and Colicchio & Sons
* Charles Phan, The Slanted Door

OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF AWARD
* Amanda Cook, CityZen at Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C.
* Nicole Plue, Redd, Yountville, California

OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT AWARD
* Boulevard, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Nancy Oakes
Owner: Pat Kuleto

* Daniel, New York, New York
Chef/Owner: Daniel Boulud
Owner: Joel Smilow

* Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Chef/Owner: Frank Stitt
Owner: Pardis Stitt

* Spiaggia, Chicago, Illinois
Chef/Partner: Tony Mantuano

OUTSTANDING RESTAURATEUR AWARD
* Tom Douglas. Restaurants include Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, and Lola.

* Pat Kuleto, Pat Kuleto Restaurant Development & Management Co., San Francisco, California. Restaurants include Boulevard, Epic, Martini House, Waterbar.

* Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago, Illinois. Restaurants include Big Bowl, Hub 51, Osteria Via Stato, Tru, and Wildfire.

* Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurant Organization, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Restaurants include Alma De Cuba, Buddakan, Morimoto, and Parc.

OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD
* La Grenouille, New York, New York
Owners: Charles Masson and Gisèle Masson

* Michael Mina, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Michael Mina

* Vetri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chefs/Owners: Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin

OUTSTANDING WINE AND SPIRITS PROFESSIONAL AWARD
* Paul Grieco, Hearth, New York, New York

OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE AWARD
* A16, San Francisco, California
Wine Director: Shelley Lindgren

* Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Wine Director: Bobby Stuckey

* Jean Georges, New York, New York
Wine Director: Bernard Sun

RISING STAR CHEF OF THE YEAR AWARD
* Timothy Hollingsworth, The French Laundry, Yountville, California
* Grégory Pugin, Veritas, New York, New York

BEST CHEFS IN AMERICA
Best Chef: Great Lakes
*Bruce Sherman, North Pond, Chicago, Illinois
* Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
* Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
* Jeff Michaud, Osteria, Philadelphia, Pennsyvlania
* Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
* Bryan Voltaggio, VOLT, Frederick, Maryland

Best Chef: Midwest
* Colby Garrelts, Bluestem, Kansas City, Missouri
* Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis, Minnesota
* Lenny Russo, Heartland, St. Paul, Minnesota

Best Chef: New York City
* Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern
* Wylie Dufresne, wd-50
* Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park
* Michael White, Marea

Best Chef: Northeast
* Michael Leviton, Lumière, West Newton, Massachusetts
* Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, Massachusetts
* Marc Orfaly, Pigalle, Boston, Massachusetts

Best Chef: Northwest
* Ethan Stowell, Union, Seattle, Washington
* Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle, Washington

Best Chef: Pacific
* Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles, California
* Jeremy Fox, Ubuntu, Napa, California
* David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, California
* Matt Molina, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California
* Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco, California

Best Chef: South
* Zach Bell, Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court, Palm Beach, Florida
* Scott Boswell, Stella!, New Orleans, Louisiana
* John Harris, Lilette, New Orleans, Louisiana
* Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, Florida

Best Chef: Southeast
* Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina
* Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, Georgia

Best Chef: Southwest
* Bryan Caswell, Reef, Houston, Texas
* Ryan Hardy, Montagna at The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
* Rick Moonen, RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Read more about the James Beard Foundation and the 2010 Awards, click here. Purchase tickets here. And, reserve your seat at the next James Beard House dinner in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village for a unique dining experience in the birthplace of modern American gastronomy.

Easter Is Almost Here: Hop to It!

Easter Hop to It Easter Is Almost Here: Hop to It!Easter is less than two weeks away. Have you made your reservations for the day? No matter where you live, OpenTable can help you find the right food and a restaurant with the right mood for celebrants. Visit our international Easter reservations page to search for tables where you are — or where you’ll be, if you’re traveling for the holiday. From locations across the U.S. to Canada and the U.K., let us help you plan a special day.

View special offers and dining discounts, and book your Easter reservations today!

Chef Watch: Scott Conant Heads North; Joey Campanaro Heads West; Charlie Palmer Refuses to Head to San Francisco, and More

* The Boston Herald spotlights local chefs Oscar Alvarez of Via Matta and Guillermo Machado of Lala Rokh along with Shelley Som, general manager of Beacon Hill Bistro, who have worked their way to the top at some of Boston’s top restaurants. [Boston Herald]

* José Andrés (The Bazaar by José Andrés, Zaytinya) talks about his diligent path to success. [Washington Post]

* Joey Campanaro, who has wowed downtown Manhattan diners at The Little Owl and Market Table as well as opening-any-minute and much-buzzed-about Kenmare, may be setting his sights westward. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Scott Conant (Faustina, Scarpetta) may bring his Miami and Meatpacking district masterpieces north to Toronto. [Eater]

* Executive Chef Joel Dennis has moved on from Adour Alain Ducasse. [Eater NY]

* It’s “Cribs: The Chefs Edition” as Florian Hugo, executive chef at Manhattan’s Brasserie Cognac (and great-great-great grandson of author Victor Hugo), shows off his family’s stylish Upper East Side digs. [New York Post]

* Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood) isn’t resting on his laurels, including the four stars from Michael Bauer or the two from the Michelin Guide. [Grub Street San Francisco]

* New York’s fabled Plaza Hotel is getting a new chef in the way of Willis Loughhead (formerly of Country) to oversee its soon-to-reopen restaurant Palm Court. [Eater NY]

* Charlie Palmer (Charlie Palmer at The Joule) enjoys San Francisco entirely too much to open a restaurant there. [Grub Street San Francisco]

* Like the kitchens featured on “Kitchen Nightmares,” Gordon Ramsay (Gordon Ramsay) has gotten a bit of a nip/tuck. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Buddakan NY executive chef Lon Symensma is leaving his post to do hands-on culinary research in Southeast Asia. Nice work if you can get it! [Eater NY]

Restaurant News Roundup: Rules for the Perfect Restaurant; Morton’s Draws in Diners; Barbara Lynch’s Menton Nears Opening, and More

What people are talking about when they talk about restaurants this week…

* Critic AA Gill reveals his version of the golden rules for a perfect restaurant — sort of. [London Times]

* Morton’s thrives, proving that people are still eating plenty of red meat. [Wall Street Journal]

* Having a power lunch in London? Find out where you should dine. [Business Insider]

* Maggiano’s has great discounts on dinner for two. [Nation's Restaurant News]

* Wimbledon is getting an ace of a chef for this year’s The Gatsby Club, who promises to be worthy of Roger Federer. [Event]

* One-time Rat Pack hangout Da Vinci in Los Angeles is back in business, with a facelift and a new face in the kitchen. [Eater LA]

* Everything old is new again at AltaMare in Miami. [Eater Miami]

* Check out Marcony in Manhattan’s Murray Hill. [Grub Street New York]

* Rialto in Boston adds a patio and a new sous chef, Brian Rae. [Grub Street Boston]

* La Grenouille‘s Charles Masson speaks about his restaurant’s famous floral arrangements, his favorite kind of diners, and more. [WWD]

* Congratulations to Tom Colicchio and the staff at Colicchio & Sons for their three-starred review from Sam Sifton. [The New York Times]

* Find out the secret ingredient in Blue Hill‘s fried chicken. [Saveur]

* Turner Fisheries in Boston is adding lunch. [Grub Street Boston]

* Eagerly anticipated and soon-to-open Menton, the latest in Barbara Lynch’s Boston restaurant empire, is accepting reservations. [Grub Street Boston]

* New York restaurants must display their cleanliness grades, and not everyone is happy about it. [The New York Times]

Trendspotting: Awful Offal; Fish Goes Green; Forkage Fees Make Author See Red; Restaurant Diners to See Fewer Tomatoes, and More

* It’s the awful side of offal as Rocky Mountain oysters show up on more menus. Blech. [The Atlantic]

* Move over green eggs and ham: Fish is getting in on the action as well. [Chicago Tribune]

* A restaurant asked Cake Bible author Rose Levy Beranbaum to fork over cash for a “forkage” fee for a — you guessed it — cake. [Chowhound]

* Some restaurants have secret menus that anyone can order so long as you know the secret names. Trust me when I say you’ll probably be better off if you don’t indulge in any of these things. [Coupon Spy]

* Cold weather has killed a lot of tomatoes and they’re in short supply at restaurants. [CNM]

* Restaurants in Dallas are going green. [Dallas Morning News]

* Restaurants in Chicago are serving pretzel bread. [FortWayne.com]

* It’s patio season in Beantown. [Grub Street Boston]

* Garlic goes green — literally. It’s already a vegetable, so it’s not like it’s not “green,” but some varieties are also actually green. [Los Angeles Times]

* Want to find sustainable fish? There’s an app for that. [Miller-McCune]

* More restaurants in New York are going green with rooftop gardens. [New York Magazine]

* It’s tough to keep kosher in Connecticut. [The New York Times]

* Restaurants have better house wines. [The Reporter-Vacaville]

* You can take a nap in Napa after you dine on first-rate cuisine, thanks to top-notch inns with equally impressive restaurants. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Bars and booze are bringing more business in to restaurants. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

* The Star Tribune has had a food section for four decades and in that time, they’ve, admittedly, endorsed some pretty silly trends. [Star Tribune]

* Taiwan restaurants take sustainability a step further. [Trendspotter]

* Our diners up north have the skinny on what’s going to be trendy in food in the future, which has already arrived, apparently. [Vancouver Sun]

* A DC restaurant goes dark but not in the bad way. [Washington Post]

Critical Question: Do You Rely on Professional Restaurant Reviews?

Do You Rely on Professional Restaurant Reviews Critical Question: Do You Rely on Professional Restaurant Reviews?There’s been a lot of talk lately about the relevance of restaurant critics. The Wall Street Journal recently eliminated their restaurant reviews, putting Raymond Sokolov out of a job. TIME and Josh Ozersky have come to his defense and that of his fading profession, opining that even though the critics of reviewing’s heyday lacked influence, they had perspective — something today’s bloated corps of food writers and bloggers do not possess.

Personally, I enjoy and trust professional restaurant critics (who seem to constantly have to defend not just their jobs but also their opinions). I believe they write more holistically and less fetish-y about restaurants and the dining experience than your average food blogger. Also, most professional critics must visit restaurants more than once, with a rotating cast of dining companions, so their assessments of a restaurant are not based on what might be the odd off night at a normally wonderful restaurant. Rather, they have dined multiple times, come into contact with many staffers, sampled several specials and numerous regular menu items, and seen how the restaurant operates on different days of the week. If so great a number of amateur reviewers or bloggers will condemn a restaurant based on a single unsatisfactory experience, can you really trust these negative reviews? Sure, OpenTable offers up ratings and reviews, but they can only be submitted by diners who have been confirmed to have dined at a restaurant. The vast majority of review sites will let anyone post a review — even a scathing one — without knowing whether that individual ever even walked through the establishment’s door.

We reached out to OpenTable diners on Facebook and Twitter, and a lot of people trusted their fellow diners’ opinions far more than that of professional critics. Michele Stanley says, “Actually I tend to take amateur reviews more to heart.” Mike Fahrenkrog concurs, stating, “For me nothing beats word of mouth, i.e. amateur reviewers in my social network.” Some folks do depend on the pros, though. Cheryl Davis Holman says, “My husband and I read the professional reviews all the time and we have found some diamonds in the rough just by reading them. Places you never would have thought you would like or prices that were too off the charts. They do a service for a lot of people and find places you never thought you would want or could go to. Yeah for the pros!!” George Anthony Harvey, also a fan of professional critics, points out, “There’s no accounting for public tastes. I give much more weight to a TRUSTED pro’s opinion.” Felicia Berke commented on a previous post on this topic, writing, “I question whether first-person reviews are written by the owners of the restaurant or a marketing agent instead of by actual customers. So, yes, restaurant critics (professional ones) are still important. Presumably they have qualifications as well. For all I know, ‘taysTmama’ has never ventured beyond the drive-thru for cuisine.”

Are you sad when newspapers shed their restaurant criticism? Do you rely on professional reviews or are amateur opinions what influence your dining decisions? Join the conversation here or on Facebook.