Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.




Happy New Year of Eating

on December 30th, 2011
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  • pinitbutton Happy New Year of Eating
beijing duck soup 300x199 Happy New Year of Eating

Beijing duck soup

by Jeff Hoyt

Still haven’t made New Year’s Eve plans? No sweat. We can help you out with our lists of the Best Places to Dine Out on New Year’s Eve. If you’re entertaining, or being entertained, check out our Champagne and Sparkling Wine lists. We have everything from the Top 10 Champagnes Under $30 for the budget-conscious to the Top 10 Tête de Cuvées for those who simply want the best. If bubbles are not your thing, we also feature the Top 10 Holiday Wines.

Even if you can’t make it to any of the featured destinations, check out our Top 10 Places to Celebrate New Year’s 2012. If you don’t have the time or the funds to travel next year, take your taste buds on a trip instead. We recently enjoyed a holiday feast at the Plum Tree Inn, a signature restaurant in the Chinatown area of downtown Los Angeles. We’ve been fans of Beijing Duck for so long, we remember when it was simply called Peking Duck. But the roast duck recipe dates back so many centuries that it can actually be found in an imperial cookbook written in 1330! At this meal, we ate the duck in soup as well as the traditional method: wrapped in Mandarin pancakes with hoisin sauce and scallions. We were also introduced to Lion’s Head, a dish of oversized meatballs that we never knew existed.

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Set Sail for Hawaii

on December 27th, 2011
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The beach at Lihue, Kauai

by Jeff Hoyt

We think anytime is a great time to visit Hawaii, but we appreciate The Aloha State the most when winter hits the mainland. Fun in the sun is so much more so when you know your neighbors back home are knee deep in snow.

If you want to put sunscreen on your neck instead of a scarf, we recommend a trip to Kauai. As more and more people discover this once-remote island, developers are making over the pristine landscape. Although we’d like to stop this wave of “progress,” one advantage is that there are more top places to stay, and more top toques to satisfy your appetite. Our Kauai travel guide will tell you where to book reservations for hotels and restaurants while you’re in search of volcanoes.

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Bruno Serato, Our Hero

on December 23rd, 2011
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  • pinitbutton Bruno Serato, Our Hero

by Sophie Gayot

Some thirty years ago, chef Bruno Serato arrived from Italy with $200 in his pocket. In 1987, he purchased the 1909 National Historical Landmark building in Orange County, California, that housed the Anaheim White House restaurant since 1981. Thus began the latest chapter in Serato’s success story.

His cuisine, passion and energy have attracted many celebs to the Anaheim restaurant, including Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, athletes David Beckham and Martina Navratilova and actors Sidney Poitier and Danny DeVito to name a few. Singer Gwen Stefani even has a dish dedicated to her: lobster ravioli. has given the landmark numerous accolades, naming it one of the Top 10 Orange County Italian Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Wine List Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Romantic Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Special Occasion Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Business Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Star Spotting Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Thanksgiving Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County New Year’s Eve Restaurants | Top 10 Orange County Food Rating Restaurant.

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  • pinitbutton Not a Bistro but a Restaurant

by Sophie Gayot

UPDATE 5/30/2012: Maison Giraud now offers take-out, for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.


When I walked in to dine at Maison Giraud a few nights ago, I looked at the space and — without yet taking a closer glance at the menu or plates on the tables — told Alain Giraud, “Congratulations on your new bistro!” (Hey, we’ve waited so long to find Giraud’s cuisine somewhere again, I was happy for him.)

He replied, “Sophie, this is not a bistro but a restaurant.”

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  • pinitbutton The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation at Hermès

by Sophie Gayot

Last week, Hermès Beverly Hills stayed open late to welcome guests to support The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. Not only were we plied with Champagne, but Bouchon Beverly Hills executive chef Rory Herrmann satisfied our appetites with delicious canapés, including gruyère cheese gougères with truffle Mornay sauce; fresh & smoked salmon rillettes on toasted crouton; and my favorite, the “BLT” (house cured bacon, arugula purée and black winter truffle on toasted pain de campagne). Herrmann was cooking in the dark, outside in the parking lot behind the store, yet he nevertheless managed to deliver the quality we expected.

Chef Thomas Keller is the president of The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. I think the best way to explain what the organization is all about, is to listen to the speech he gave that evening. Lucky for you that we proudly have the only video copy.

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  • pinitbutton Chanukah Restaurants in New York City
hanukkah Chanukah Restaurants in New York City

Chanukah, Festival of Lights

by Meryl Pearlstein

For those of us who don’t feel like scraping our fingers raw grating potatoes to make latkes, or cooking up a beef brisket as big as a telephone book, there are wonderful restaurants in New York City that take the traditional Chanukah feast and turn it deliciously on its head. Here are some restaurants ideal for family gatherings to celebrate the Festival of Lights, held this year from December 20 through 28.

Why visit the Brooklyn Diner? Two words: Free latkes! At this Manhattan favorite for upscale comfort and diner food, complimentary potato pancakes will be served throughout the eight days of Chanukah, with your choice of sour cream or applesauce, along with many other Jewish-American classic dishes. From the smoked fish platter of Nova Scotia salmon and sturgeon to the hand-carved hot pastrami, you’ll find plenty of choices for a holiday feast. For more information, visit

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Don’t We Like Sharing?

on December 12th, 2011
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  • pinitbutton Don’t We Like Sharing?

by Sophie Gayot

Today, more and more restaurants are adopting a small plates concept. And actually, I like that. First because, you get to try more dishes, so you experience more tastes and flavors. But also, because, most of the time, small plates means sharing with the people around the table. Isn’t that a great way to enjoy an evening out with your dining partners?

MEZZE restaurant
, located in the former space of Sona, is one good example — in case you don’t know, “mezze” means “sharing” in Arabic. Watch my exclusive video interview with chef Micah Wexler, a Los Angeles native who has trained and cooked at Melisse, Patina, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, Craft in Los Angeles, and even in Spain and Italy. And read our review of the restaurant.

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The Global Bistro

on December 09th, 2011
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pravda restaurant wellington new zealand 300x225 The Global Bistro

A bust of Lenin on the bar at Pravda in Wellington, New Zealand

by André Gayot

Installed in a former butcher shop, where not much has changed since the nineteenth century except for a few recently added scars on the wall to render it even more authentic, Bistrot Paul Bert in Paris must be one of the most bistro-ish bistros of the world and possibly one of the most emblematic. The bistrot — with a ’t’ or without — is now a part of our lifestyle and an indispensible component of a gastronomically civilized city. We are well used to its format: the zinc bar, banquettes, white marble top tables, chalkboard menu, waiters clad in black aprons, steak frites and blanquette de veau, and the house red wine.

A similar setting, and may we say philosophy of joie de vivre and conviviality, reigns in New York’s Millesime, Chicago’s Bistrot Zinc, San Francisco’s Chez Papa Bistrot and Los Angeles’ Bouchon. Traveling on the bistro trail around the world is one way to avoid feeling like a stranger far from home.

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A Couple Deep in Chocolate

on December 07th, 2011
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  • pinitbutton A Couple Deep in Chocolate
sophie gayot hasty torres 214x300 A Couple Deep in Chocolate

Hasty Torres in her Beverly Hills store with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot

Some couples are diabolic, but Jacques & Hasty Torres aka Mr. Chocolate and Madame Chocolat, are “chocoholic.” Jacques operates out of Brooklyn, Hasty out of Beverly Hills. If you are in the Los Angeles area and cannot drive to Beverly Hills or cannot fly to New York to indulge in their chocolate creations, you have a chance to get their pieces at two pop-up stores. One is located at The Grove in Los Angeles (near the foot of the Christmas tree across from Crate & Barrel), and the second one in Glendale at Americana at Brand (102 Caruso Ave. across from Trattoria Amici restaurant and Barnes & Noble, formerly Guess Accessory store).

His chocolate products are wrapped in brown and orange, while hers are in brown and beige, so there is no reason to be confused. Since it’s the holiday season, we recommend Jacques’ Christmas tree, snowman, and Santa Claus and Hasty’s nutcrackers, watches or gift baskets. They run from $1 to $200.

You will also find their classics: Hasty’s Eiffel Tower, High Heel Pumps, or truffles; and Jacques’ chocolate caramel corn, espresso beans or chocolate-covered marshmallows (I never had those, so they’re next on my list.)

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Kia Design Experience

on December 05th, 2011
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kia soul 300x237 Kia Design Experience

The Kia Soul in Seoul, South Korea

A Design DNA that Started with a Soul

by Alain Gayot

Kia, the South Korean automobile manufacturer, is on fire, having come a long way from their early days when they simply manufactured bicycles. The name itself means “arise out of Asia,” and that’s exactly what’s happening. Sales of the well-priced cars are up as consumers are taking a liking to the style, performance and value offered by the brand. Not long ago, sophisticated buyers would have frowned at the thought of settling for a Kia automobile. Today, many are proud and consider their purchase a wise investment.

Kia Motors started producing steel tubing and bicycle parts in 1944 and their own bicycles in 1951, then graduated to scooters and motorcycles and manufacturing trucks and automobiles designed elsewhere. Over time, the company gained more expertise in building engines. It was not until 1994 that the Kia Sephia, an entry-level sedan, was offered in the United States, followed a year later by the Sportage, a small SUV with off-road capabilities. From there, things grew exponentially.

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