(Note: This post has been split from: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8119... -- The Chowhound Team)
Please read how the San Pellegrino list is compiled. They publish EXACTLY how it is done and each reviewer is limited to 3 restaurants in the entire world outside their home region (I've oversimplified - actually they could vote for 7 if they ignore their local places). All panellists are chosen/recommended by chairpeople in the various regions and are rotated in and out. Thus they tend to be professionals or talented amateurs. It's NOT a mail-in vote system. The top places NEVER have to do PR - they don't need any more publicity to hire extra people to say 'Sorry we're full'.
And while no proof of attendance is required - these are 'professionals' and are expected to abide by the rules.
However, it's still a small group's opinion, and indeed a 'fashionable' place can still get a high rating in a single year before dropping out just as fast when the other judges make a visit.
But I do generally agree with your opinions (It's the facts that are wrong!!).
Akelare is the place I'd go for 'everything'.
Mugaritz is more cerebral - that's where I'd take a 'foodie'.
And for simple tastes, Etxeberri can't be beat.
I wouldn't go back to Berasategui - a really bad experience.
Arzak was good - but lacked excitement for me.