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Zagat '09 Released: Melisse, Spago Still Top List

Well it is indeed that time of year again: The Zagat 2009 Restaurants for Los Angeles and Southern California hits the shelves today. Zagat hasn't adapted to the changing media world so well (paid subscriptions?), but it's still relevant if only for those tourists who lug it around like a burgundy bible to the food world. Everyone has at least one copy stashed away somewhere. There's still the muddled scoring system and silly quotes for copy, so what's new this year?

We don't have a book in our hands yet, so the press release and scanning the website will have to do for now: Melisse takes the number one spot for food for the second year in a row, and came in number two for popularity and service. Spago is ranked number one for popularity, the restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air comes in number one for decor (must be why Zagat always has its launch luncheons there), and Bastide gets top honors for service. Italian food is still the most popular cuisine followed by Japanese and "American." In general, we're dining out more, complaining about service the most, and tipping less. The price of a meal rose 3.3%, on par with the national average, but the average cost of a meal at the city's 20 most expensive restaurants is still about $60 less than in New York.

1) Top Food: Again, Melisse is number one (second year), but the big story is Lucques shooting up from 23rd place to the number four spot. It's sandwiched between Asanebo and Nobu Malibu, with South Pasadena's Shiro in fifth palce. Not surprising, the list is very similar to last year. Inexplicably missing: Urasawa. Doesn't even make the top 25.

2) Most Popular Spago takes the number-one spot for the second year in a row, followed by Melisse, both Cafe Bizou's, and then Pizzeria Mozza. By our calculations only one of these restaurants has a consistently full dining room from open to close, so that's interesting. Lucques, A.O.C, Fraiche and Osteria Mozza fit between various ranked Ruth's Chris and many Cheesecake Factories in the top 25.

3) Service: Bastide is first, followed by Melisse, the Hotel Bel-Air restaurant, and Brandywine in Woodland Hills next in line. Sona, Providence, Cut all fall in the top 25.

4) Eco-conscious: 65% of those polled believe in the trans fat ban, 71% think eating locally sourced food is important, and 57% are willing to pay more for organic food. Zagat claims more than 100 restaurants in the guide will make these people happy.

5) When it comes to reserving a table, 68% still prefer to call the restaurant, but 22% now use an online source, and then Zagat happily promotes their partnership with OpenTable.

6) Randoms: We don't have the full list but Nobu LA is the "top newcomer" followed by Bashan. For "best buys" Brent's Deli and Jitlada top the list, which also oddly includes BLT Steak. Angelini Osteria, Piccolo and Pizzeria Mozza are top three Italians; the latter tops the pizza list, too. Both Mozzas make the "top trendy" list, and Sona tops it.
· Winners in Zagat's 2009 Los Angeles/So. Cal Restaurants Survey [MarketWatch]
· Zagat Los Angeles [Zagat]