Victoria & Albert's Wins Foodster Award for Best Fine Dining

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Hunnel and crew

Victoria & Albert's has been voted Best Fine Dining in Scott Joseph's Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants. Bull & Bear at the Waldorf Astoria was your second favorite and Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton was third.

Good choices, all. Each could be considered the epitome of fine dining, with luxurious tablecloths, a relaxed atmosphere, slow pace, impeccable service and, of course, exquisite food.

You're not the only ones that think V&A is tops. Tripadvisor included it on its Top 10 Fine Dining list last year, second only to Alinea in Chicago, and ahead of such iconic fine diners as Per Se, Bouley, Daniel and the French Laundry (as, in my opinion from having dined at those, it should be). Under the direction of executive chef Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert's has earned enough AAA Five Diamond awards to open a jewelry store and enough stars from Forbes and Mobil for its own galaxy. Israel Perez is the gracious general manager and sommelier who leads the well-trained staff. (Hunnel is shown in center above with cooking staff in a photo from Walt Disney World.)

The Bull & Bear at Orlando's Waldorf Astoria is an offshoot of the original in New York. They are the only two B&B's, so it qualified as an independent restaurant for our purposes. (Foodster Awards are open to restaurants with three or fewer locations.) Chef de cuisine Richard Brown takes the Orlando menu beyond the steakhouse mien of the Manhattan original. General manager Rafael Frederick leads the dining room staff.

Norman's is well suited to occupy a room at the Ritz-Carlton. Executive chef Andres Mendoza heads up the kitchen, turning out Norman Van Aken's iconic and trailblazing cuisine. Yusuf Yildiz has been the congenial manager and sommelier for much of the restaurant's 14 years. (And congratulations to Van Aken and team on the recent anniversary.)

There are fewer fine dining restaurants these days, not only here but also in places like New York and Chicago. Like so many other things in culture, the definition of fine dining and special occasion restaurants is being rewritten by a younger crowd.

But one hopes there will always be restaurants like these for the times when we feel like being extravagant.