New on OpenTable Mobile: Review Restaurants on Your iPhone for the First Time

If you’re an OpenTable diner with an iPhone and the latest version of the OpenTable mobile app, you can now review restaurants in real time right from your phone. The days of trying to remember whether you ordered a flat iron or flank steak the night or the week before are over. You no longer have to wait until you get back in front of a computer to share your experiences; now you can start writing your review as soon as you’re done dining.

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To begin crafting reviews on your iPhone, be sure you’re running version 8.3.0 of OpenTable on your iPhone. Launch the app, and then select ‘Profile’ in the upper left corner of the screen. Scroll down to view ‘Past Reservations’ and click on ‘Write A Review’ – and start sharing your thoughts with the restaurant and your fellow diners.

Download the free iPhone app today. And stay tuned for this exciting new feature on Android.

SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar’s Ken Norcutt Talks #DinersChoice Win, Rave Reviews + Pappy Van Winkle

Ken NorcuttThis week, OpenTable announced the 2014 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Restaurants in America. Perched atop the list is SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar, a revelation that surprised Ken Norcutt, chef-owner of the restaurant, but one which he chalks up to consistency in service, creativity of cuisine – and experience. Located in the tiny-yet-tony resort town of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, SeaBlue has been open for a decade. Norcutt is a lifelong restaurant professional. He says, “I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 14 years old, doing one aspect or another, from busboy to server to bartender to working back of the house to doing banquets. I’ve always had two jobs, and a restaurant was always my second job.”

He began working behind the bar at SeaBlue in 2007, and by the next year, he had purchased the restaurant, revamping its concept and energizing its wine and cocktail programs; the wine list recently earned a 2014 Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence. Initially, SeaBlue served tapas-style cuisine, with a shallow menu of just 10 items or so. Norcutt wanted to up SeaBlue’s game, and so he upped the menu, greatly expanding it with an array of USDA prime steaks and wagyu cuts. He also serves seafood, with a strong emphasis on local product. New in the past year are oysters. Norcutt estimates he shucked almost 20,000 this season. They are sourced from Virginia – pungoteagues and olde salts – and North Carolina and are complemented with seasonal mignonettes and savory sorbets. “I also do an oysters Rockefeller with applewood smoked bacon, braised spinach, a little panko, and a béarnaise aioli on top, and they’ve been very popular. I think most of my regulars say it’s the best oysters Rockefeller they’ve ever had,” says Norcutt.

SeaBlue Cheese copyLike most of this year’s other Diners Choice Award-winning restaurants, SeaBlue has embraced the artisanal cheese boom, serving a cheese course selected from a rotating inventory of 20 wheels of carefully curated cheeses from around the world that are aged in house. The artful plates, which are accompanied by jams, jellies, nuts, local honeys, and aged vinegar gastriques, have drawn recent attention from Cheese Connoisseur magazine. Norcutt’s latest cheese crush is Shropshire. Made from cow’s milk, Shropshire is semi-soft and similar to Stilton despite its orange-y hue. “It really stands out on the plate – and it’s the perfect blend of the saltiness of a blue cheese and the sharpness of a cheddar. And, we balance that all out by serving it with fig vincotto,” he notes.

North Myrtle Beach has, according to Norcutt, just 15,000 or so permanent residents, but in tourist season, that number swells considerably as 15 million visitors swarm the small beach town. He observes, “Historically, the emphasis in Myrtle Beach dining has been about buffets and chains, and that’s what has allowed SeaBlue to stand out. It is one of only about four or five restaurants that are really trying to change the scene and source from local farms as much as possible.” As the area grows in popularity as a vacation destination, its food culture is growing, too. “There’s a climate change here when it comes to the culinary scene. You’re seeing the buffets and the feeding troughs closing and these new places, like Fire & Smoke gastropub, opening.”

In a field of more than 20,000 restaurants, Norcutt was shocked and elated to find his establishment in the top spot. “When [OpenTable account manager] Page Stokes emailed me last Friday, I think I cried a little bit,” he admits. “We were just hoping to get into the top 100 again this year. And when she said we were the number one restaurant, I was speechless. I’m so glad people reviewed us and said how much they enjoy it here. We’re just a small little restaurant in a small little town; we do what we do and hope everything falls into place. It’s such an honor to be in the company on that list.”

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Christmas Eve Dining: 15 Rave Reviews for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

bouill blogSure, we’re just now able to button our pants after last week’s indulgent Thanksgiving dinner and, yet, we’re already dreaming of more holiday dining. If you’re of Italian descent, or if you just LOVE Italian cuisine (which we know you do), you’re probably familiar with the Christmas Eve culinary tradition of the feast of the seven fishes. A delicious ritual that began in southern Italy, the feast of the seven fishes has ties to Catholicism and the practice of eschewing meat on Christmas Eve. Restaurants have embraced the custom, offering up gourmet spins on different fish dishes to diners on December 24. My family and I indulged at Oceana last year, and every bite was pious perfection. Find out what other diners had to say about their experiences with this fabulous holiday treat — and book your feast of the seven fishes reservations for Christmas Eve. More than just being delicious and festive, the meal is said to bring luck in the new year. 

Bar Eolo: Sicilian Kitchen & Wines, New York, New York: “Our family came here for the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve and had a delightful dinner. The seafood lovers in the family enjoyed it the most, of course, but everyone managed to find something to their taste. The recommended wine was delicious and reasonably priced and the restaurant was very festive with friendly service — a great evening!”

Bella Tuscany, Windermere, Florida: “Bella Tuscany has had consistently good reviews and they lived up to their reputation on Christmas Eve with both their full menu and the fixed price (or a la carte) feast of the seven fishes. The five-course menu included generous servings of lobster bisque, scallops, a seafood linguini course with mussels, clams, and calamari, and a main course of mahi mahi and super-sweet lobster tail. Bella finished the evening with tiramisu and the creativity, presentation, and preparation were all right on.”

Bimini Twist, West Palm Beach, Florida: “The family went to Bimini Twist to celebrate the feast of the seven fishes. The restaurant had a great selection of fish dishes. The service was unreal…perfect. We had a GREAT waitress, bolstered by other wait staff. This restaurant is a definite stop again when in the area.”

* Blue Water Grill, New York, New York: “Blue Water Grill was open on Christmas Eve, which was a godsend as I was hosting my family for the holiday. I reserved the table a couple days in advance, ensuring a spot. We ate in the main dining room, and it was great. Surrounded by other families celebrating the holidays, the overall ambiance was warm. The food was great and diverse. With traditional Christmas fare, oysters, sushi and even a feast of the seven fishes special, everyone in my family was happy.”

Cinghiale Osteria, Baltimore, Maryland: “With my mother-in-law in town, my wife and I booked for the Christmas Eve feast at Cinghiale, which was the executive chef’s interpretation of a Christmas Eve fish feast. The feast was seven courses of absolute perfection. It is rare to encounter seafood prepared to perfection with consistency; usually it is overcooked and rubbery, but every dish was absolutely perfect, from the oyster starter to the fish filet (with perfectly prepared melt-in-your-mouth calimari). We loved every second of it.”

Fiola, Washington, D.C.: “My husband and I celebrated his birthday (Christmas Eve) at Fiola for the second time. Their feast of seven fishes is MAGNIFICENT! We splurged and got the wine pairing. Our server (who we knew from Fiola and Poste) was amazingly knowledgeable of both the food (preparation, what made each dish unique) and the wine. She was always present when each course was served, to give an overview of the dish and why the pairing was perfect. We had a wonderful experience, and would highly recommend the feast and pairing for future Christmas Eves!”

Imperial, Portland, Oregon: “Christmas Eve dinner with good friends and a meal fit for the three kings. The traditional feast of seven fishes” needs to make it to the main menu, this was one of the best executed Cioppinos I’ve ever had with a sauce that begged for the house bread to soak it up. Few establishments truly enjoy being open on a holiday night, but the staff of the Imperial expressed only joy. This has become a new tradition with many more visits in-between. Well done, Imperial!”

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15 Rave Reviews for Thanksgiving Dining

Tday reviewsWhen you’re talking about food, the best predictor of the future just might be the past. Find out what awaits you on November 27th with this look at what last year’s Thanksgiving Day diners had to say about celebrating the holiday at restaurants around the nation. From the fabulous cuisine, hospitality, and leftovers (Yes, leftovers!) to the fact that none of these savvy celebrants had to cook or clean up, their experiences were amazing across the board. 

Briarhurst Manor, Manitou Springs, Colorado: “Best Thanksgiving buffet!!!! We not only had turkey, but also duck, pheasant, lamb, oysters, and the most delicious sides and desserts. The food was plentiful and felt more like a large party than a typical buffet! I would recommend this 100%.”

Brick & Bottle, Corte Madera, California: “My husband and I could not have asked for more at this year’s Thanksgiving feast. The buffet tables were never crowded and always full of fresh, delectable dishes. All of the staff members were exceptionally friendly and festive, and every course was a delight. Thank you, Brick & Bottle, for making our Thanksgiving wishes come true; we’ll be back!”

Chez Moi, Chicago, Illinois: “We ordered from the prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu, and our food was so good that we shall definitely return to try dishes from the regular menu. Our waiter was wonderful: friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. Even though we had many options for the holiday, we chose Chez Moi because of the chef, whose cooking we regularly sampled when he had been at the former Bistro 110. His pumpkin soup is the best I have ever enjoyed. Everything about this restaurant makes me want to return as soon as possible!”

Columbia Restaurant, Celebration, Florida: “My son, two grandchildre,n and I loved our Thanksgiving experience at Columbia Restaurant. The waiter was absolutely perfect, from his manner with the children to his impeccable service. The meal more than met our expectations, and there was no stress over the kids not wanting traditional Thanksgiving fare. An absolute winner to us, and we will return. We made the best choice for a family Thanksgiving on vacation!”

Driskill Grill, Austin, Texas: “Old west luxury enveloped us as we moved from the bar to the dinning room. The gracious staff helped us feel comfortable throughout the two-and-a-half hour dinner. The five-course Thanksgiving meal was filling and replete with the right holiday flavors. The kale salad started us off crisply and paved the way to the beet and goat cheese terrine. The rich pork belly, perfectly prepared, came next. I opted for the turkey roulade while my daughter had the black-rimmed, red interior beef tenderloin. Finally the Driskill version of a pumpkin pie escorted us to the end of our dinner. Can’t wait to get back to try their regular menu.”

Founding Farmers, Potomac, Maryland: “We went for the prix-fixe Thanksgiving dinner, and we were blown away. The food was delicious and so plentiful that we both brought home doggie bags. Our waitress was THE BEST!!!!!!!! She was super friendly and warm, very helpful, and yet never hovered too much. She made it such a festive, fun experience!”

Mihoko’s 21 Grams, New York, New York: “We came to 21 Grams for Thanksgiving dinner and we shall return for other celebration dinners in the future. The menu is so creative, and the fusion is perfection. The flavor balance is delicate and precise. Don’t miss a pre-dinner cocktail, we shared a “Vogue” which was smoky and delicious and since the staff knew we planned to share the drink it was served in two glasses. Such a lovely touch of class. The staff is very friendly and knowledgable. We had a really good time, and never felt rushed.”

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