The simple act of deciding where to go for dinner has become anything but simple. There are more choices than ever before, and sifting through all of them has become a full-time job. That's why, when we conduct our comprehensive North American restaurant poll, we go to people who think about restaurants for a living. With the help of the crack polling firm Yankelovich Partners, we interview hundreds of food and wine insiders--including critics, reporters, chefs and restaurateurs--in 16 major cities. (Needless to say, the last two groups aren't allowed to nominate their own places.) Each expert answers two dozen questions aimed at determining which restaurants really stand out--for good behavior and for bad. If the insiders notice a dramatic improvement somewhere, they tell us. If they turn against last year's Best New Restaurant and decide it's this year's Most Overrated, we find out about that, too. It's like taking a snapshot of the food scene--and, at the same time, getting some great advice on where to eat.
Boulevard 1 Mission St.; 415-543-6084.
Designer Pat Kuleto's Art Nouveau fantasy provides a suitably theatrical backdrop for the cooking of Nancy Oakes (1993 F&W Best New Chef), which stars a varied group of ingredients, each of them perfectly cast.
Fifth Floor 12 Fourth St.; 415-348-1555.
Nobody comes for the view--the restaurant is in the center of the fifth floor of a hotel, and there are no windows facing the street. Instead they come for the sexy supper-club interior and George Morrone's virtuoso variations on themes, like the suckling pig that's presented in six forms: sausages, rack, loin, bacon, leg and a terrine of trotters and ears.