Esquire food critic John Mariani included Triniti and Underbelly on his list of the best new restaurants for 2012. Mariani included chef Chris Shepherd's Underbelly, already on a high after receiving four stars from Chronicle critic Alison Cook and the title of Best Restaurant from the Houston Press, on his list of the 20 best new restaurants in America. Triniti chef Ryan Hildebrand earned the title as one of "Five Chefs to Watch"
Mariani praises Underbelly for telling "'the story of Houston food'. It is not a story about beef barbecue and messy Tex-Mex." Mariani concludes by writing "For his expansive vision and a local pride that shows in every morsel Shepherd sends out, Underbelly is as important as it is delicious."
As for Hildebrand, Mariani states that "He calls his food "third-coast French cuisine" and his foie gras "breakfast" of fried egg, waffles, yogurt gel, and duck liver shows you what he's aiming for."
Mariani visited Houston in June to evaluate the candidates. He told radio host Cleverley Stone that he also vistied Oxheart and Tony's.