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




Radio Host Joel Riddell at the Spring Mountain Vineyard with Sophie Gayot

Radio Host Joel Riddell at the Spring Mountain Vineyard with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot

After discussing the Southern California Winners of GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue with chef Jamie Gwen on her radio show, I got to do the same with Joel Riddell for the northern part of the Golden State.

I was lucky to meet the energetic Riddell during the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition in Napa Valley where I was a judge. Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Riddell, who is based in San Francisco, discusses his culinary, wine and travel findings on Talk 910 AM KKSF during his show Dining Around.

After we spoke about and what I like to eat, Riddell got our insights on the Northern California restaurants that won a place in the GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue. They include restaurants from chef Thomas Keller, the recipient of the title “Best Restaurateur in the U.S.

Continue reading “The Northern California Winners of GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue” »

Black pepper and caramel-braised pork belly

Black pepper and caramel-braised pork belly

by Anneli Rufus

San Francisco’s newly remodeled E&O Asian Kitchen recently offered a preview of its new Spice Route program — in which, every month until September, the high-ceilinged Union Square restaurant will add to its regular pan-Asian menu one savory dish, one sweet dish and one handcrafted cocktail based on a particular spice traditionally associated with the ancient Asian Spice Route. The special dish and drink will be available only during its designated month.

March’s spice was cinnamon; April’s is black pepper; May’s is turmeric; June’s is cardamom; July’s is ginger; August’s is star anise.

Continue reading “E&O Asian Kitchen Travels the “Spice Route”” »



Chef Dustin Valette of Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in St. Helena will be serving a special three-course Easter brunch focusing on locally sourced Sonoma County ingredients

Chef Dustin Valette of Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in St. Helena will be serving a special three-course Easter brunch focusing on locally sourced Sonoma County ingredients

by Anneli Rufus

Lots of San Francisco-area restaurants are thinking outside the ham-shaped box this Easter, offering inspired original creations and ethnic specialties instead of the standard fare.

At Foreign Cinema in San Francisco, chef-owners Gayle Pirie and John Clark will offer a three-course prix-fixe Easter menu that includes warm brandade with Thai green chilies, pickled onions and organic sunflower bread; baguette French toast with cardamom-blood orange butter, bananas, poached golden fruit and brown sugar bacon; croque madame with French ham and gruyere, béchamel, egg crown and harissa potato chips; and poached eggs with duck breast.

Bocanova in Oakland will serve fanesca, an Ecuadorian soup that is traditionally eaten only during the week leading up to Easter. Made with twelve different beans and grains and milk-cooked salt cod, the richly elaborate soup will be served — as is also traditional — with fried plantains, hard-boiled eggs, onion salsa and empanadas. On Easter Sunday, Bocanova will also feature pounded mustard-marinated lamb-leg steaks a la plancha.

Continue reading “Easter Brunch in San Francisco” »

Tea Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

Tea Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

by Meryl Pearlstein

With Valentine’s Day approaching, there are lots of interesting dining and travel-related experiences that make wonderful gifts for your sweetie. Here’s a round-up from Washington, D.C. to Honolulu.

Las Vegas

How about a twist on the usual Afternoon Tea found at many upscale hotels? The Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge in Las Vegas adds a romantic touch with their Valentine Afternoon Tea. Heart-shaped, house-made gourmet chocolates finish off the sweets selection. $45 per person.


Sit at the bar at the St. Regis for a special Valentine’s Day “Pink of Perfection” cocktail that is available all month. It’s made with one part tequila, ½ part simple syrup, 3 dashes orange blossom water, with fresh lime juice and soda. What gives it its name? The pink rose petals that sit on top. You can increase the aphrodisiac quotient with the Oysters and Caviar Pearls special, a sensual combination of tempura oyster frites and osetra caviar sabayon created by executive chef Joseph Trevino, paired with Heidsieck Champagne.

Continue reading “Celebrating Valentine’s Day From Coast to Coast” »

Newly renovated guest room at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

Newly renovated guest room at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco Debuts Fresh Look and Special Reopening Offer

Following an extensive refurbishment, including a new brasserie, the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco is celebrating its silver anniversary with a sumptuous “Fresh Look” package.

As part of the Mandarin Oriental’s fresh new look, each of the 158 guest rooms and suites has been completely redesigned by local interior designer Michael Booth of BAMO. The new custom-designed furnishings with hints of French Deco style help to create a memorable setting for the hotel’s special reopening offer Continue reading “Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco Reopening – Travel Special” »



Place de la Concorde, Bastille Day

Place de la Concorde, in Paris, getting ready for Bastille Day

by Sophie Gayot

You have just realized that today, July 14th, is Bastille Day, and want to celebrate the French national holiday? We have put together for you a list of restaurants, in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, that are commemorating what the French call “La Fête Nationale.”

A quick history: July 14, 1789 was the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison which led to La Révolution Française. Now, on the morning of the 14th, the Champs-Élysées is taken over by the French army for the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe. (Ironic as in 1789, the day was a pure demonstration against power.)



by Sophie Gayot

Throughout 2012, restaurateur Piero Selvaggio will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Valentino, one of Los Angeles’ first fine dining restaurants, featuring Italian cuisine. Watch my exclusive video interview above with Selvaggio to learn some culinary history. You can also watch another video with Valentino chef Nico Chessa
. Valentino will celebrate Father’s Day by offering three “No Corkage Nights” on Thursday, June 14, Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16, so diners can bring in their own wine for no additional charge. (Valentino is closed on Sundays.)

Continue reading “Celebrate Father’s Day” »



Grilled rainbow trout

Grilled rainbow trout

by Tiffany Maleshefski

Though Grand Café continues to be a stalwart French restaurant that’s been around since 1995, consistency hasn’t really been one of its strong points. Located inside the Hotel Monaco San Francisco, the eatery has seen an impressive roster of venerable chefs lead its kitchen, including Victor Scargle, Mauro Pando, Denis Soriano and Paul Arenstam. Despite their efforts, the restaurant has experienced a steady pattern of highs and lows.

Its newest chef, Alicia Jenish, who worked under Loretta Keller at Bizou and opened LarkCreekSteak, is the latest to throw her toque into the ring, with the stated goal of taking the Grand Café’s menu and “transforming it into something [that] is lighter, healthier, and distinctly San Franciscan.”

Now before anyone gets excited that the Grand Café can be a dieting girl’s best friend, what Jenish means is that she’s using sauces that are less rich and rustic and, therefore, lighter in texture and color.

Continue reading “San Francisco’s Grand Cafe” »

Lunch at Michael Mina’s

on January 16th, 2012
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Arctic char

Arctic char

by Tiffany Maleshefski

Michael Mina moved his eponymous restaurant out of the Westin St. Francis more than a year ago and into the building that formerly housed Aqua, the very restaurant where the chef started to develop his culinary cred. The move “home” had a lot of benefits, the biggest one probably being that it gave Mina a chance to tinker with the restaurant’s formerly stuffy atmosphere. Because while the space at the St. Francis was indeed stunning, there was no getting around the fact that one felt like they needed white gloves and tails to set foot in it. No matter how hard the restaurant tried to create a less opulent environment, with fun happy hour specials and a short-lived bar menu, diners weren’t buying it.

But now Mina is deeper into the Financial District, with a hipper, more vibrant and funky space that’s meant to make the restaurant feel less “special occasion” and more “this won’t completely deplete our bank account by eating here.” The introduction of a a prix-fixe lunch menu is one more step to making the restaurant more accessible. At $49 for three courses and $59 for four, the lunch menu is a great way to try out one of the Bay Area’s most decorated restaurants for half the price — but not at half the experience.

Continue reading “Lunch at Michael Mina’s” »

Don’t We Like Sharing?

on December 12th, 2011
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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.

Continue reading “Don’t We Like Sharing?” »

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