In today's Wall Street Journal Raymond Sokolov gives his take on the Top Ten Restaurants that fail to live up to their hype:Norman's, Coral Gables, Fla.The Rep: American and Caribbean traditions, creatively interpretedOur Take: A hodgepodge of ideas and ingredientsChez Panisse, Berkeley, Calif.The Rep: The Vatican of New American cuisineOur Take: A dinner party thrown by aging hippies with a really great vegetable garden"The first thing that struck us as we revisited Chez Panisse is how dated it seems now."Emeril's, New OrleansThe Rep: TV star takes Cajun/Creole cuisine nationalOur Take: Better versions a short paddle away"Is Emeril's a great Cajun/Creole restaurant? Not if you compare its gentrified no-okra gumbo to the real thing in the rest of the Big Muddy. By the same token, his French-Creole inventions don't stack up to real French food -- available in fine fettle at nearby Peristyle."Restaurant 66, New YorkThe Rep: Chinese cuisine rethought by a French geniusOur Take: Pale classics presented chicly by overextended cook-entrepreneur "Much about this new Tribeca dim sum palace seems calculated to mislead." Peter Luger Steak House, New YorkThe Rep: America's best steakOur Take: Brooklyn's best steak"Why do reasonable people go through this exercise in masochism?"Bastide, Los AngelesThe Rep: Best high-end food in L.A.Our Take: Best high-end food in L.A. -- but sadly, it can't match other cities' top spots"There are plenty of great restaurants in West Hollywood, but few require that you cleave to them heart and wallet before eating even a morsel of amuse-bouche." The Ivy, Los AngelesThe Rep: Hollywood's foremost place to do lunch and see starsOur Take: A self-consciously unglittery place with decent but unremarkable foodLe Cirque, Las VegasThe Rep: Fancy dining comes to VegasOur Take: An overpriced road show"Zagat, of course, says its ratings are entirely the opinion of diners who participate in its public survey. So when these gamblers and their dining companions duly report that Le Cirque is "as good as the NYC original," I have to wonder."The Mansion on Turtle Creek, DallasThe Rep: Grand dining in a great houseOur Take: Painful and pricey attempt to make a dowager hip again"The Mansion is as grand as it gets in Dallas -- a cotton tycoon's neo-Renaissance home turned posh hostelry. The dining room couldn't be cushier, and its chefs have clearly whipped themselves into an Emerilistic frenzy dressing up down-home Texas foods. Call it grandson of Alice Waters gone hog wild:" Joe's Stone Crab, MiamiThe Rep: An endless wait for the best stone crab in creationOur Take: A stone crab is a stone crab is a stone crab"So you don't have to eat at Joe's to eat at Joe's. But you will want to anyway: The stone crabs at the Miami Airport hotel may be indistinguishable from the ones at Joe's... but where would you rather be?"SB (never ate at any of them)
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