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Top Chef NOLA: Which Restaurants Live Up to the Hype?

By Kelly Dobkin
October 3, 2013
Photo by: Bravo

Top Chef New Orleans premiered last night with 19 brand spankin' new competitors from all over the U.S. While we got a taste of their culinary chops on last night's Elimination Challenge, do the restaurants they rep live up to the hype? We took all the Zagat-rated restaurants associated with the chefs on the show (note: not all the chefs currently work in a Zagat-rated restaurant) and took a look at how they fare with our surveyors. Check out the results below. Who's your favorite to win? Also check out our video with last year's winner Kristen Kish right here.

  • Stephanie Cmar: No. 9 Park, Boston

    Food: 28
    Decor: 26
    Service: 27
    Cost: $79

    "Genius" chef Barbara Lynch "sets a high bar" at her "chic," "polished" Beacon Hill flagship, where "innovative" twists and "subtle" "depth of flavor" distinguish "impeccably prepared" French-Italian fare that's paired with "fantastic" wines and cocktails by "sublime" servers who "really know their stuff"; no, "it ain't cheap," but "smitten" foodies don't mind "breaking the bank" for such a "spectacular" experience.

    9 Park St., Boston; 617-742-9991

  • Jason Cichonski: Ela, Philadelphia

    Food: 28
    Decor: 24
    Service: 25
    Cost: $50

    Jason Cichonski (ex Lacroix) is "wowing everyone" at his upscale-casual Queen Village New American with "inventive," "molecular cuisine" featuring "interesting pairings of textures and flavors" (the "liquid cookie dough dessert is to die for"); while some caution that "small plates lead to expensive dinners," it's nonetheless a "great neighborhood spot" that impresses "without trying to be too cool for school."

    627 S. Third St., Philadelphia; 267-687-8512

  • Michael Sichel: Galatoire's, New Orleans

    Food: 26
    Decor: 26
    Service: 27
    Cost: $64

    "New Orleans wouldn't be New Orleans without" this century-old French Quarter "institution" (now expanding into an adjacent building) where "Southern hospitality" reigns supreme as tux-wearing servers "guide you" to "stellar" seafood and other "pricey" French-Creole "warhorses done with aplomb"; fueled by "copious" drinks, "locals and dignitaries" in "seersucker suits" gather in the "elegantly tiled" main dining room for lunch that's "always a party" - arguably "the most fun you can have over a white tablecloth"; P.S. jackets required after 5 PM and all day Sunday; reservations only accepted upstairs.

    209 Bourbon St., New Orleans; 504-525-2021

  • Justin Devillier: La Petite Grocery, New Orleans

    Food: 26
    Decor: 24
    Service: 25
    Cost: $47

    At this "quaint"-looking Uptown bistro, "rock-star" chef/co-owner Justin Devillier combines "clean flavors" into "gustatory pleasures" that "lean to French" with a Contemporary Louisiana bent; "congenial" staffers help make it a "serene" "respite from the busy Magazine Street scene," so even if tabs get "slightly steep" for some, most simply revel in this little "sliver of utopia."

    4238 Magazine St., New Orleans; 504-891-3377

  • Ramon Bojorquez: Nine-Ten, La Jolla, CA

    Food: 26
    Decor: 22
    Service: 24
    Cost: $61

    "Talented young chef" Jason Knibb crafts "edgy," "inspiring" Cal-Eclectic dishes at this "delightful surprise" in La Jolla's Grande Colonial Hotel offering "splurge"-worthy à la carte and tasting menu dinners, as well as "bargain" bites at happy hour; "expert" wine service and "appropriately attentive" treatment from the staff, plus a "contemporary" dining space with a "superb" terrace complete the offerings.

    910 Prospect St., San Diego; 858-964-5400

  • Nina Compton: Scarpetta, Miami

    Food: 25
    Decor: 26
    Service: 23
    Cost: $79

    "Spaghetti with oomph," the "best polenta this side of heaven" and other "outstanding" Italian fare make diners "happy to have Scott Conant's talents in Miami" at this Fontainebleau spin-off of the NYC original; yes, it's "pricey," but "you get what you pay for," including "thoughtful, efficient" service and a "captivating" setting complete with "fantastic" water views and "Top Model"-like patrons.

    4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4660

  • Brian Huskey: Picca, Los Angeles

    Food: 25
    Decor: 21
    Service: 21
    Cost: $54

    "See and be seen" while sampling "delightful," "adventuresome" Japanese-Peruvian small plates and "awesome" "pisco-based cocktails" via an "attentive" staff at this "energetic" Century City "foodie heaven" from Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica); predictably, the "ambitious menu" comes "at a price" and the space gets "super-noisy," though "quieter evenings" can be had upstairs.

    9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-277-0133

  • Patricia Vega: Fishtail by David Burke, NYC

    Food: 24
    Decor: 23
    Service: 23
    Cost: $68

    “Fabulous” seafood dished up in “lovely townhouse” digs by a “chipper” crew is the lure at David Burke’s UES piscatorium, where “cheerful,” “modern” decor distinguishes the downstairs bar (“hopping” at happy hour), upstairs dining room and terrace; it’s “pricey” - even factoring in the “complimentary peanut brittle” - but the $24 lunch prix fixe is a “bargain.”

    135 E. 62nd St., New York; 212-754-1300

  • Carlos Gaytan: Mexique, Chicago

    Food: 24
    Decor: 19
    Service: 22
    Cost: $44

    For "inventive," "unexpected" fare boasting "flavors you won't taste anywhere else" fans swear by "personable" chef-owner Carlos Gaytan's "delicious" French-influenced Mexican cooking at this "lively," somewhat "out-of-the-way" Noble Square stop; "accommodating service" and a "clean, modern" setting also work in its favor, so bean-counters complaining of "high prices" are drowned out by fans insisting "you won't be disappointed."

    1529 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago; 312-850-0288

  • Aaron Cuschieri, Slurping Turtle, Chicago

    Food: 22
    Decor: 21
    Service: $19
    Cost: $27

    Diners can "slurp down" a "comforting bowl of steaming ramen" or "dive into" more adventurous "noshes" at chef Takashi Yagihashi's "hip" River North izakaya starring "casual Japanese food with modern flair"; if the service can seem a touch "iffy," fans instead focus on the "funky" ultramod decor, advising wafflers to just "do it" and go.

    116 W. Hubbard St., Chicago; 312-464-0466

  • Louis Maldonado: Spoonbar, Healdburg, CA

    Food: 20
    Decor: 23
    Service: 20
    Cost: $45

    Injecting a little "urban hip" into "Sonoma wine country," this "ultramodern" Californian in Downtown Healdsburg offers "imaginative," "locally sourced" cuisine, "wonderful cocktails," "friendly service" and a "super-fun atmosphere"; it's a great place to meet up "with friends," especially "in the summer when the windows/doors are open" giving the place "an alfresco feel no matter where you sit."

    219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-7222

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