Small Plates, Monday, 11/27
This guy knows how to eat.

In my mailbox last weekend was the 2007 Zagat Survey. Twenty St. Louis-area restaurants made the new edition of the popular restaurant guide, which is based on an unscientific sample of public opinion. According to the survey, the top five St. Louis-area restaurants are, in order, Sidney Street Cafe, Paul Manno's, Tony's, Trattoria Marcella and Niche. Just remember -- like democracy, if you don't vote, you can't complain. Unlike democracy, if you do vote, you get a copy of the survey.

(Full disclosure: I didn't vote -- my fiancee did -- so I'm not complaining.)

Fair warning: the Zagat Survey is the most tedious bathroom reading in the history of the world. The blurb following each restaurant listing is basically one long sentence built out of comments by survey respondents. Niche, for example, is a "'welcome newcomer' in Benton Park offer[ing] a 'short' 'but top-notch' menu of 'flawless', 'cutting-edge' New American cuisine..." and so on.

Meanwhile, the Mobil Travel Guide recently announced its four- and five-star restaurants for 2007. No area restaurant received five stars, and Tony's was the only to receive four stars, an honor it shares with such renowned restaurants as New York City's Daniel and Le Bernardin. According to the Mobil Travel Guide Web site, a four-restaurant offers " that's creative and complex, and emphasizes seasonality and culinary technique. A highly-trained dining room staff provides refined personal service and attention."

Mobil stars are just like Michelin or New York Times stars: Even one star sets you apart from the madding crowd of mediocrity. The Mobil Travel Guide site lets you search the listings of one-, two- and three-star restaurants, but I haven't yet learned whether these are the 2007 listings or an older set. For example, Clayton's Cafe de France, which closed earlier this year, is still listed as a three-star restaurant.

-Ian Froeb

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