Food & Drink

Chew on this!

Have you checked out the N&O's new restaurants Web site? You'll find it at Take your time, feel free to browse around. I'll wait ...

OK, back now? Pretty cool, huh? All the links to my recent restaurant reviews, Epicurean news columns and blog are easy to find, too. But by far the biggest improvement over the old site, from a practical standpoint, is the new database of restaurant listings. The number of restaurants included has been greatly expanded, and geographic coverage extends from Burlington to Fayetteville. There are lots more ways to refine your search, too. Now you can search specifically for a Cuban restaurant in Cary, for instance, rather than having to search under the broad Latin American category and hoping you can winnow out the results yourself.

If the restaurant in question is one I've reviewed, you'll find a capsule of my review as well as a link to the full review. And if I haven't reviewed the restaurant, chances are the listing includes at least a brief, helpful description. You can even add your own review.

This brings me to another change, one that will have a significant impact on my future reviews. The new rating system is based on five stars, not four. In order to maintain consistency between the Web site and my print reviews, I'll begin rating restaurants on the new five-star system, effective with today's review. In the new system, five stars will signify an "exceptional" rating; four stars will represent "excellent;" three stars, "above average;" two stars, "average;" and one star, "fair."

We've adjusted the old four-star ratings on the Web site listings to correspond to this new system. I've come across a few cases in which the adjustment didn't "take," with the result that the star rating didn't correspond to the rating in my review. I'm correcting those as I find them, and I'd like to enlist your help. If you come across any star rating that seems out of line with my description of the restaurant in my review, please forward the name of the restaurant to me. I'll check it out and, if necessary, fix it.

After 12 years of using four stars to designate the crème de la crème of Triangle area restaurants, the new system may take a little getting used to. On the other hand, I'm already wondering which restaurant will be the first to be awarded the supreme five-star rating under the new system.