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2012 NYC Zagat Survey: Ripert reigns

Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin

Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin Photo Credit: Handout

Photogenic food superstar Eric Ripert has more than one reason to smile. Le Bernardin in Manhattan, his high-end French seafood restaurant, has been named No. 1 in food ratings in the 2012 Zagat NYC Restaurant Survey, released today, for the second year in a row.

And if the co-owner and chef needs more to toast, Ripert’s restaurant also has taken top spot in the survey’s popularity list, wresting the crown from Union Square Cafe and Grammercy Tavern, owned by  Danny Meyer. These two spots have ruled the category for the past 15 years. 

“I was really surprised,” said survey co-chair Tim Zagat. Le Bernardin, he said, is a decidedly more costly place to dine than either of Meyer’s restaurants. “For a restaurant like that to get the number of votes necessary was really impressive.” (To vote in the survey, anyone with an appetite and an opinion can register at zagat .com.) Which means a lot of New Yorkers were shelling out at least  $146 apiece (the average per-person check, according to Zagat) to eat at Le Bernardin.

The restaurants with the most impressive food ratings this year remain pretty much the same as last year — with a slight reshuffling here and there. Here are the top five:

1. Le Bernardin
2. Daniel (French cuisine from chef Daniel Boulud, last year No. 3)
3. Per Se (French-American cuisine by chef Thomas Keller, last year No. 2)
4. Bouley, (Chef David Bouley’s French cuisine, last year No. 9)
5. Jean Georges (French cuisine from chef Jean Georges Vongerichten), last year No. 4

So what keeps the same places on top year after year? “They are all run beautifully and have really never failed,” said Zagat. “These are the guaranteed restaurants; if the chef leaves, you may suddenly see a change, but as long as the same team is together, you will usually see the same ratings.”

Zagat also said the restaurant scene has become much more stable: “With 135 openings versus 68 closings, it’s the highest differential since 2007.” And while the cost of a meal has gone up 4.1 percent (the largest increase in about six years), there’s been no change in the number of meals people eat out a week, he said.

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