I have managed to isolate that there can only be three criteria for evaluating a restaurant as best-in-class.
For identifying acceptable restaurants, there are innumerable. In fact, usually one overwhelming factor manages to decide which is the place we go most often to eat. Music played, parking space available, one brilliant dish on the menu, distance from residence, damage caused to wallet, blood relation to the staff - each one of the above (or other) factors could determine whether Jashn Restaurant is the place where you would spend more time than at the office.
But as I said, for those restaurants which qualify as the Holy Grails of gastronomy, there has to be a three-pronged selection criteria.
1. Randomness of Excellence
Every restaurant has a signature dish that ensures their bottomline remains black. Even if they are not as lofty as to be called 'signature', at least a couple of dishes on every menu are always fantastic, even great. But at the truly great restaurants, you can just point at a dish blindfolded and it is guaranteed to be super.
2. Ideal Comfort Zone
This is what the HT City Eating Out Guide clubs under Ambience / Service / Buzz Factor etc. For a restaurant to reach dizzying heights, it has to give you a kick and make you feel like a king - all at the same time. It has to make you feel so comfortable that you would want to go back again and again.
3. Value For Money
This is not to say that it has to be like the shack outside Statesman House in Calcutta, which served 6 pieces of Beef Kabab for Rs 10. But irrespective of whatever it charges, the food and the experience should not make you feel bad about adding a 10% tip. From Zeeshan Roll Centre to Zodiac Grill, its customers should consider the amount well spent!
A very long time back (about four and half years), I collaborated with another expert to do a listing of the Ten Best Restaurants in India. I think it is time to revise that list. Spanning Delhi, Bombay, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Calcutta - this revision is going to be very authoritative, opinionated and partisan.
Watch this space!