Zagat Los Angeles Restaurant Survey: Meal Costs Decline for First Time in Los Angeles

The results of Zagat Survey’s 2011 Los Angeles/ So. California Restaurant Survey were released these days, available in bookstores, on ZAGAT.com and via ZAGAT TO GO for iPhone, iPad and Android. The survey covers 2,016 restaurants within the greater Los Angeles California area as well as Orange County, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. More than 10,800 local diners participated, averaging over two meals a day at the typical restaurant surveyed.

Prime Food : The award for Top Food went to shopping mall phenom Sushi Zo, replacing final year’s winner, Urasawa, which fell to No. 21. The “brilliant” yet “subtle” cuisine of chef-owner Keizo Seki, rated a rare 29 rating out of a maximum feasible 30, despite its “austere” strip-mall setting which scored a 13 out of 30 for decor. Other restaurants whose standings soared are Brandywine, Shiro, Sushi Nozawa and Wa. The award for Top Decor went to Cicada and Edison, who tied. Top Service went to Melisse, also No. 3 for its meals, although Pizzeria Mozza remained L.A.’s Most Well-liked restaurant, followed by its next door sibling Osteria Mozza in 4th location. The five leaders in these main categories are as follows:

Top Food
1) Sushi Zo
2) Matsuhisa
3) Melisse
4) Brandywine
5) Shiro

Top Decor
1) Cicada*
1) Edison*
3) Belvedere
4) Bazaar/Jose Andres
5) Bistro Garden

Top Service
1) Melisse
2) Belvedere
3) Providence
4) Sam’s by the Beach
5) Brandywine

Most Popular
1) Pizzeria Mozza
2) Bazaar/Jose Andres
3) Spago
4) Osteria Mozza
5) Angelini Osteria

Economic Overview : In the Metropolis of Angels, the recession continues to affect diners. Notably, the cost of a meal has gone down for the first time because the survey has launched in LA in 1987, from $34.95 final 12 months to $34.85 this 12 months. This marginal decrease is all the more significant because 40% of surveyors say they are eating out less, 44% report being more attentive to prices and 41% are consuming in less expensive places due to the economy. When they do go out, 23% of diners are skipping appetizers/dessert, and 16% are cutting back on alcohol. Also, a 12% group say that they’re much less likely to try new eating places. Nevertheless, restaurant service seems to have improved because the downturn. This 12 months, 63% of surveyors cited service as their top eating irritant, down from 74% prior to the recession. Also, the 119 newcomers in this year’s survey suggest that restaurateurs are optimistic about the future.

“In a city as dynamic as Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of options for diners, especially when dining out has turn out to be much more inexpensive,” said Tim Zagat, CEO and Co-Founder of Zagat Survey. “Of the 2,000+ eating places in our guide, 1483 boast average meal costs of under $40 for dinner and roughly $30 for lunch – that’s great news to wallet-weary diners and a sign that the LA restaurant scene continues to meet the public’s needs.”

Neighborhood Newcomers : This year’s crop of newcomers is led by Pasadena’s Noir, which features an eclectic roster of small plates. Diners are discovering their neighborhood eateries; in Downtown, a selection of notable newcomers debuted: Initial and Hope (American), Starry Kitchen (Asian) and NYC import, Rosa Mexicana. Culver City is gaining momentum thanks to inexpensive options including, Father’s Office (pub fare) and Libra (Brazilian)! The unveiling of Santa Monica Place, and its notable tenants Xino and La Sandia, has also brought buzz to the beach.

Trucks are Trendy : The food truck trend owes a lot of its success to the rise from the Kogi Korean BBQ truck in 2009, and other mobile eateries with active Twitter and Facebook followings. This 12 months, 28% of diners report frequenting food trucks – a clear signal these trucks have staying power. Some new and notable food vans and pop-ups consist of tasty-taco purveyor Border Grill, flavorful pork belly buns from the Flying Pig truck, Vietnamese choices at Phamish and chef Ludo Lefebvre’s uber-popular LudoBites.

Gadget Gurus : Not surprisingly, 24% of surveyors say they have downloaded a restaurant-related application onto their smartphone. However, users ought to take caution – although 87% of surveyors think it’s acceptable to take pictures of food or companions although eating out, 67% think that it’s inappropriate and rude for diners to talk, tweet, text or email at the table.

Waste Not, Want Not : Nose-to-tail cooking is still the rage with newcomers and standouts Lazy Ox Canteen (Downtown), Waterloo & Metropolis (Culver City) and Bistro LQ (Fairfax) serving everything from sweetbreads and smoked tongue to chicharrons. These newcomers should make locavores happy – 64% of surveyors consider locally-sourced, organic or sustainably raised menu items important. Additionally, 70% want to have low-carb, low-fat, heart healthy items available on the menu, and 57% are willing to pay more for “green” items.

Celebs and Chefs : In Los Angeles, stars of movies and TV can be found in coffee shops, retail stores and cafes, but when it comes to eating places, celebrities aren’t simply at the tables. As chefs have amassed their own level of celebrity, it’s noteworthy that 39% of surveyors say they are much more likely to dine at a restaurant with a celebrity chef. The good news for them is that Los Angeles has some high-profile newcomers including Bouchon and Bar Bouchon (Thomas Keller), Red O (Rick Bayless), the Tar Pit (Campanile’s Mark Peel) and Wolfgang Puck’s WP24. Reality-series ‘Top Chef’ alums added to the mix this 12 months, with Season 5 runner-up Stefan Richter’s Stefan’s at LA Farm and Season 2 winner, Ilan Hall’s The Gorbals.

Winners by Cuisine Type : Here are the winners by cuisine type.

American (New) – Melisse

Indian – Addi’s Tandoor

American (Trad.) – Grill on Alley

Italian – Angelini Osteria

Asian/Asian Fusion – Mako

Japanese – Sushi Zo

Bakeries – Susina

Korean – Park’s BBQ

Barbecue – Phillips BBQ

Mediterranean – Lucques

Burgers – In-N-Out

Mexican – Babita

Californian – Leila’s

Middle Eastern – Carousel

Caribbean/Cuban – Porto’s

Pizza – Pizzeria Mozza

Chinese – Yujean Kang’s

Seafood – Providence

Coffee Shop/Diner – Cora’s Coffee

Small Plates – Orris

Continental – Brandywine

Soul Food/Southern – Les Sisters

Deli – Langer’s Deli

South American – Carlitos Gardel

Dim Sum – Sea Harbour

Steakhouses – CUT

Eclectic – Saam/The Bazaar

Thai – Jitlada

French – Melisse

Vegetarian – Veggie Grill

French (Bistro) – Julienne

Vietnamese – Crustacean

Greek – Papa Cristo’s

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