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Mar 5, 2013 10:47 AM

Forbes Travel Guide four and five star restaurants for 2013

The list came out recently. Forbes (which took this over from Mobil a few years back) rates spas, hotels and restaurants on a scale up to five stars - similar to AAA Diamond rankings but a bit more exclusive (about half as many 5* restaurants, for example - just 28 this year).

The restaurant list seems heavily weighted to resort restaurants to me, compared to similar rankings from other sources. It generally tracks well with Michelin rankings in the three cities that Michelin still issues guides for, i.e., two of the three Michelin 3* and 2* restaurants in Chicago are ranked 5* by Forbes and the other is ranked 4*.

Arizona has one five star restaurant, Kai. This has been the case for the past several years.

Arizona has three four star restaurants this year - Talavera (Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale), CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar (Ritz-Carlton @ Dove Mountain) and PY Steakhouse (Casino del Sol resort). See what I mean about favoring resorts :)

Out of curiosity I checked to see the scores reviewers from Open Table gave these four, plus Shin Bay and Binkley's (Kai, Shin Bay and Binkley's are often considered the best the Phoenix area has to offer).

Here were the results for "Overall Satisfaction" on Open Table based on diner reviews the past six months, with 5.0 being tops:

Kai 4.9/5.0 121 reviews
Binkley's 4.8/5.0 153 reviews
Shin Bay 4.8/5.0 62

CORE Kitchen 4.7 for 50
Talavera 4.6 for 92
PY steak 4.5 for 57 reviews

So the Forbes 4* places all got lower diner ratings from OpenTable customers than did the Big Three in the Phoenix area, though 4.5 - 4.7 are still pretty good ratings.

Here's the link to the Forbes list of all the 4 and 5* winners in the US:

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  1. We have done CORE, and it IS quite good. Missed it on our last trip down, but that was due to the event.

    Have done Kai, but with the previous chef, and previous menu, so cannot comment.

    We seldom do "steakhouses," unless we are "trapped" at a particular resort, and cannot dine elsewhere.

    While I have decried the expansion of "expense account steakhouses," others have claimed that I am am lying, and that there are not any new steakhouses, replacing chef-driven restaurants, over the last five years. Guess that I am just wrong?


    7 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      The Forbes/Mobil type lists have been overwhelmingly skewed towards resorts, it is not a new phenomenon this year unfortunately.

      Shinbay and Binkleys are two of the best restaurants in Phoenix and although OT reviews are not always accurate they are in this case.

      Bill - I know what you are referring to and I believe the point was although steakhouses have taken over resorts there are many small, independently owned, chef driven restaurants popping up in the Phoenix area. They're just not PR machines like the resort restaurants.

      1. re: PHXeater

        Historically, restaurants at "resorts" in Arizona, have been the locations of some great dining. Once, only the resorts could really afford a top-chef, and those folk delivered.

        Arizona's cities, Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff grew up, and some things changed a bit. Some of the chefs, who came to AZ for a resort position, stayed, but opened their own restaurants.

        Others, who were traveling from NYC to San Francisco, or vice-versa, stopped to do time at a resort. Some of those stayed too, going on their own.

        Before we moved to AZ, we were most often loathe to dine at a resort, with but a few exceptions. However, we changed our minds, after the move.

        As we now probably spend much more time dining out in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, New Orleans and Honolulu, than we do in Phoenix, though our home is here, there have obviously been some changes. Others have pointed out that I have missed some great chefs, who have come and gone, and were never (or not recently) associated with "resorts." That is likely, since we flew over 200,000 miles in 2012.

        Still, resorts do have a draw, whether it's Kai, or Dove Mountain Ritz-Carlton, or La Paloma in Tucson. Many from outside of AZ see those most often. Since we host many retreats, in AZ, we get to see some, as well, and maybe even more often, than neighborhood restaurants. That is just the way that it is.

        Any survey is going to have a skewed result, unless the greatly limit the sample. Most do not. Maybe each should limit "votes" to just those, who lived in that immediate area?

        Fairly recently, I responded to a post on the SF Board. The OP was from UK/Europe, IIRC, and wanted some good restaurant recommendations. I provided maybe six recs., based on recent meals. Now, I do not live in SF, but am there 2-4 nights, on 18-24 trips per year. Many dining experiences, and spread a bit, around the city. I was lambasted by several, as they felt that all of my recs. were "tourist" restaurants, which they were - I was a tourist, and so would the OP be. The "locals" came up with several food trucks, that might be somewhere in the city, plus some, probably great, holes-in-the-wall, scattered over the Peninsula. I would never refute how wonderful those recs. might be, if the OP could find them, but stuck with my recs., as they were all around the OP's hotel, and I had just dined at all of them, receiving great food, service, wine and wine service. While I did omit all the food trucks, the pop-ups, and many of the tiny neighborhood ethnic restaurants, I still stood by my recs. They were what I knew, and had done very well. Was that fair to the food trucks, and the rest? Possibly not, but they were sound. Sort of like the Forbe's rating.

        That Binkley's was not at the top is a surprise, but then unless one lives in The Valley, or stays at The Boulders, they are not that likely to drive up. For us, Binkley's (and Kai), is worth bidding on a limo night, at a silent auction, just to dine there. When we host an event at The Boulders, then Binkley's is always part of the event.

        Also, fault is often found with recs. for "fine-dining." I plead guilty to that, but it's because we do not dine out in the Phoenix Metro Area, for that many mom-n-pops. Same for dozens of other cities. That, in no way, indicates that there are not many great, smaller restaurants, but just that we seldom have the time to try them. I get the comment that I only talk about upper-end restaurants in New Orleans, and that is correct. As I point out, I have not lived in NOLA in over 35 years, and though we're back 2-3x per year, we only have time for fine-dining, though might try to fit something downscale (like Parkway Bakery & Tavern), in for lunch.

        Forbes, Zagat, Travel + Leisure, etc., will likely be drawing from around the globe, or at least around the US. Surveys WILL be biased to places where people travel to, and dine, if they are not locals.


      2. re: Bill Hunt

        "...others have claimed that I am am lying, and that there are not any new steakhouses, replacing chef-driven restaurants, over the last five years."

        It's okay, Bil, you can just say my name (it's Dominic, by the way). And though I never said you were lying before, I'm saying it now, because that statement quoted above is a lie. I said nothing of the kind. Here's the thread:

        In any case, is this not a perfect example of the fallacy of star/diamond/fork/whatever ratings? As though all restaurants exist on a one-dimensional continuum and the whole thing is some kind of cage match to determine which restaurant is "best"? As though one set of criteria can meaningfully apply to all restaurants so we can say X is better than Y and Y is better than Z, and Q is better than Z but not as good as Y, and then there's A which is maybe a little better than Q... meanwhile we learn nothing substantive about the restaurants, what makes them unique and delicious, or why we should care beyond the fact that they got a 4.7 rather than a 4.6. I'd get huffy about it (too late... oh well), but frankly the more irrelevant these "rankings" make themselves, the better.

        As for the resort focus, it's not hard to see why. There are too many diners for whom resorts *are* the center of the dining universe. Thankfully, it's a dying attitude. There's a big, beautiful world of restaurants past the resort gates. More notable than ticky tack scoring discrepancies, I think, is the fact that those four restaurants are the only ones Mobil/Forbes deems worthy of mentioning. When an organization touts its system as the "travel industry's most comprehensive" and that's all they have to say about Arizona, I think they've done plenty to discredit themselves as even remotely relevant right there.

        1. re: Dmnkly

          OK, let's just put an end to this.

          You are correct, and I am wrong. There are no absentee, celebrity chef-driven steakhouses in Phoenix, that replaced local chef-driven restaurants. That was all in my imagination, and BLT, Bourbon Steak, J&G, et al, just do not exist. Phoenix is a haven for local chef-driven restaurants, and the resort's corporate direction is just not there.

          Does that satisfy you?



          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Well, hey, if that position works for you, go for it, but that's not what I think, nor is it what I said.

            Bill, I know you really enjoy writing here, but if you don't take the time to actually read and comprehend what *others* are writing as well, it's pointless to have any kind of a discussion. I suggest you reread that thread, and reread what you wrote above. I'm happy to discuss what I've said. What I'm not going to discuss are imaginary positions that you've made up for me.

            If you misrepresent what somebody has said, you don't get to act surprised when that somebody responds.

            1. re: Dmnkly

              Let's not muck up this thread, and leave it alone, OK?