We asked each of The Magnificent Seven:
What’s the biggest change you’ve made since your four-star review?
X20 Xaviars on the Hudson
Biggest change: Added the Dylan Lounge as a casual-dining option
Biggest change: More focus on vegetables (e.g., a chicory salad with pistachio honey crunch; raw, shaved cauliflower; and Cricket Creek cow feta)
Biggest change: Jumped on the brunch trend, including selections such as Man-Mosas, Nutella toast, and quinoa bowls
Biggest change: More lax dress code: no tie required but jacket suggested
Biggest change: The restaurant underwent renovations back in 2012 following Hurricane Sandy. However, be prepared to see some refreshed ambience in the near future. New chairs, tables, new paintings, and curtains, plus a private party room, are on the horizon.
Biggest change: Expanding the collection of serving pieces
Crabtree’s Kittle House
Biggest change: The new composting program with some of our farm partners, so that the waste produced is returned to the farm as fertilizer and feed, then converted back to useful product that Crabtree’s purchases from the farm. It’s the full cycle of farm-to-kitchen-to-table-to-farm.
Reviewers and dining editors reflect on what it takes to assign four stars.
“It’s rare that a restaurant will shine across the board: in food, service, and atmosphere. For a four-star review, I expect virtual perfection in all three categories, with no flaws worth mentioning. Food — the most important aspect, in my opinion — should be executed perfectly, ideally with some touches of whimsy or creativity. When guests walk in, they should be greeted warmly immediately. At the table, the waiter should be knowledgeable; water glasses should never be empty; and the lags between courses should be the right length. The space should be comfortable (the right temperature, without blaring music), attractive, and with a positive vibe, whether its one of sumptuous elegance in a higher-end spot or upbeat conviviality in a casual eatery.” —Dina Cheney
“A four-star restaurant not only has great food, service, and ambience, it has that magical something extra — restaurant fairy dust — that makes the dining experience extraordinary.” —Marge Perry
“Food is the single-most-important element in a four-star rating. I’ve had superb food in a seaside hut and mediocre dishes in opulent places helmed by well-known chefs. Good service is important, while lovely ambience is nice but not critical.” —Rosemarie Anner
“Four stars is a combination of extraordinary food, flawless service, impeccable atmosphere, and what I like to call perceived value. No matter what the bottom of the bill says, did the restaurant supersede your expectations?” —P.J. Correale
“I don’t think four-star experiences should be restricted to fine dining. For me, a place deserves four stars if it does its own concept — whether it’s farm-to-table cuisine in a white-tablecloth atmosphere or ramen at a casual counter — as well as it can be done. If I leave a restaurant and immediately start thinking about when I can come back, I know it’s a contender for four stars.” —Samantha Garbarini
“Like a great film, the experience lingers afterward, to the point where you’re spontaneously telling others about it.” —John Bruno Turiano
Five additional restaurants garnered four-star reviews in our publication over the years; however, each has closed since.
Auberge Maxime in North Salem (now Vox Bar & Restaurant)
Buffet de la Gare, in Hastings-on-Hudson (now Saint George Bistro)
Le Château, in South Salem (now under new ownership as an events venue)
Restaurant Jean Louis, in Greenwich (now Le Penguin)
Palomino, in Larchmont (Pascal’s, then David King Pan Asian; now vacant)