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




  • pinitbutton General Motors Buys Stake in Peugeot
cadillac deville1 300x204 General Motors Buys Stake in Peugeot

Cadillac, the iconic car of GM

When GM means Grand Marriage

by André Gayot

I love reunions, reconciliations, rapprochements, consolidations, alliances, coalitions, engagements and weddings. They all contain a sign of peace and while they are not always evidence of love, in many cases they demonstrate the power of reason. That’s why I find myself rejoicing at the announcement that American General Motors plans to acquire 7% of French Peugeot. It’s the nicer side of globalization: a marriage of convenience and — even better — perhaps also a marriage of love.

GM (which in this instance could stand for Grand Marriage) has always loved things French. Perhaps this is because it was co-founded by William C. Durant who also co-founded Chevrolet with Louis Chevrolet of French –Swiss descent. Chevrolet later merged with GM, which baptized its prestigious machines with French names like DeVille, Biarritz, Orléans, LaSalle, Pontiac and Corvette. The name of its iconic brand Cadillac, synonymous the world over with luxury, elegance and quality, is borrowed from the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac who founded the city of Detroit — another French name.

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  • pinitbutton Jaguar Suite at 51 Buckingham Gate
jaguar suite living room2 300x207 Jaguar Suite at 51 Buckingham Gate

Jaguar Suite living room at 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences in London

The Night of the Jaguar

by André Gayot

Undoubtedly, we are a car civilization. The automobile is an ordinary object in our spoiled world, a dream in the barren parts of the planet and a nightmare at a quarter to nine a.m. on the 101 freeway in downtown Los Angeles. We find cars a convenient instrument to go to the stores and take back home the stuff of which probably we bought too large a quantity at our local Costco. A car is more practical than a backpack and a bicycle, but more polluting — as we are told by ecology — and more expensive, as we can see by the price soaring at the pump.

OK, it’s our way of life. But some of us are in love with automobiles. They admire the beautiful machines, their engineering, their design and their power, regardless of the speeding tickets and hefty insurance premiums they may have to face.

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The Global Bistro

on December 09th, 2011
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  • pinitbutton The Global Bistro
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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  • pinitbutton The Cook, the Demons, the Angels & the Bankers
mario batali2 237x300 The Cook, the Demons, the Angels & the Bankers

Mario Batali had to eat his words - good thing he has plenty of recipes.

by André Gayot

“The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys,” star restaurateur Mario Batali declared at a recent panel sponsored by Time Magazine. No surprise Mr. Batali got a lot of flak, especially, of course, from bankers and the like. The restaurateur realized belatedly that quite a number of his clients in his twenty fancy establishments might very well belong to or be associated with the banking industry because, according to his own terms, bankers “… have taken most of the money into their hands,” and thus can easily afford the hefty bills. Some talked vigorously of boycotting Batali’s restaurants. Deterring such a well-heeled clientele is not good business practice in these uncertain times.

Sorry, oops, my mistake, went Mario, who said through a spokesperson, “It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history.” So we get the message: these two guys are really bad, but bankers are OK. OK, but not angels?

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  • pinitbutton The Epstein Theory: RICH IS GOOD, RICHER IS BETTER
money 300x200 The Epstein Theory: RICH IS GOOD, RICHER IS BETTER

Professor Richard Epstein believes that more money for the wealthy eventually translates into more money for us all

by André Gayot

After hearing President Obama‘s recent speech advocating raising taxes on the wealthy, law professor Richard Epstein of New York University disagreed, claiming that society would be better off if we “let the rich get richer.” I am always ready to help academic luminaries, but sadly, there’s not much I can do for the professor. I have indeed come to know some beautiful people here and there, but they never asked for my permission or my help in accumulating another layer over their thick bank accounts. They managed to do it, anyway.

Seriously, how would the recommendation work in the world of restaurateurs and food? Would we get a better restaurant because the restaurateur is richer? What would happen if the restaurateur is “only” if one can say, rich and not really richer? Would he still do the job to our satisfaction? Would we miss something?

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  • pinitbutton What Made Michelin Red?
michelin stars japan 300x202 What Made Michelin Red?

Michelin spreading its stars over Japan (drawing by Jean-Pierre Desclozeaux, as published in the book "Rouge de Honte")

by André Gayot

The book started as a gift, both to the audacious people who dared purchase an automobile in the early twentieth century, and to their indispensable companions, garage mechanics. Its purpose was to help those brave drivers find a tasty destination for lunch as well as a garage that could repair their new machines, and perhaps change the tires, since selling tires was and still is the main goal of the Michelin Company, and a lucrative one at that.

The brothers Michelin got mad and decided to end the free distribution of the guide when they discovered how one mechanic employed it: instead of using a jack, he had propped up a car in his garage with a pile of their books. The guide Michelin became a business; although not profitable in itself, it generated huge publicity value.


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  • pinitbutton When Democracy Rises from the Kitchen
beet comte cheese carpaccio 300x193 When Democracy Rises from the Kitchen

Beet Comte cheese carpaccio by chef Christophe Bellanca of Aureole NY

by André Gayot

Traveling in Germany recently, I was impressed when at the Porsche plant in Leipzig, along with 600 American guests, I was served a high quality dinner. The duck was cooked just right, the plates were warm, the service was precise to the millimeter and the meal unwound in no time. The only lengthy part was due to the speeches of my fellow diners. For this gastronomical tour de force I credit the much heralded German engineering that also produces those sturdy vacuum cleaners and dishwashers, as well as prestigious limousines and coupés. Expensive, but they last a lifetime. The hip-hop generation may not be sensitive to hardware longevity, considering that progress moves faster than life.

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  • pinitbutton Of Cars and Pans: Culture Shock at the Assembly Line
porsche leipzig 300x178 Of Cars and Pans: Culture Shock at the Assembly Line

The striking Customer Center at Porsche Leipzig

by André Gayot

Remember the riddle about the ideal world in which the Italians would be in charge of singing opera, the British would prepare the tea, the Chinese would fry the rice, the French would do the cooking and serve the wine, the Germans would build sturdy cars and be police, etc. That’s the image of the world that we were so comfortable with thanks to the well-worn clichés. Something must have gone wrong: it’s hard today to recognize these established values in the same spots.

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  • pinitbutton A Korean Weapon of Mass Nutrition
kimchi A Korean Weapon of Mass Nutrition

Kimchi, a brined cabbage and turnip dish, is an ubiquitous part of Korean cuisine

by André Gayot


While the leaders of the twenty richest nations — the G 20 — gathered in Seoul, South Korea, to discipline the ministers of finances, bankers and traders of the world, the Koreans had their own, more direct, worries.


Because of bad weather, there was a dearth of cabbage on the markets. “A national tragedy,” proclaimed the press, supporting angry citizens. Cabbages and their derivatives being an essential part of the Korean diet, President Lee Myung-Bak decided that cabbages would be imported from China. Mais voilà, Koreans don’t like Chinese cabbage. What made the shortage even worse was the timing. This is the season when all Korean families practice a ritual: the preparation of Kimchi.

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Democracy and the Kid

on November 11th, 2010
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  • pinitbutton Democracy and the Kid

voting booth Democracy and the Kid

Last week, many Americans took part in democracy by voting

by André Gayot


Tim is the smart, nine-year-old son of my young friend and colleague Mac Bramble. I like it when he calls me “Uncle” because it makes me feel younger, as Grandpa would be more appropriate. He enjoys asking questions, as well as teasing me a little bit. He listens to the news, and — what’s extraordinary for this generation — reads the newspapers (or at least their first page) left by his dad on the couch, but he does not understand everything. So, he often demands clarifications:


Tim: Uncle André, what are the elections about?


AG: They are an exercise in democracy. People elect people to represent them.


Tim:  Represent them for what?


AG:  To tell them what they have to do. We call that the law. It tells you what’s right and what is not. In brief, this is what they call democracy. The majority determines for you and me the good and the evil.


Tim:  But if I don’t like what I am told to do, am I against democracy?


AG: Not necessarily, but you are the minority.


Tim: And then, what are my rights?

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