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Michelin versus New York


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#1 jamiemaw

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 09:48 AM

It was hard to miss the outcry in this forum and elsewhere when Michelin was so parsimonious in its validation of New York dining. In your opinion was it due to a flawed methodology, a different style of dining, ignorance, the fact that New York is a media centre that over-promotes its own, or is Paris – if you’re to believe Michelin’s math – really twice as good?
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#2 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 10:09 AM

It was hard to miss the outcry in this forum and elsewhere when Michelin was so parsimonious in its validation of New York dining. In your opinion was it due to a flawed methodology, a different style of dining, ignorance, the fact that New York is a media centre that over-promotes its own, or is Paris – if you’re to believe Michelin’s math – really twice as good?

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A different style of dining. It was proof - if any was needed - that the French basically like French food. Their judges looked at all our restaurants as if they were French and judged them accordingly. I expect they'd do much the same in Hong Kong or Shanghai. It's a very narrow lens through which to judge restaurants.

#3 oakapple

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 10:19 AM

It's notable that Jamie found Michelin "parsimonious" in its choices. Others argued that Michelin awarded stars to restaurants that never would have received them in Europe. Most of the criticism I read was not that Michelin awarded too few stars, but that it awarded them to the wrong places.

Even on what is supposedly Michelin's 'home turf,' some of the choices were peculiar; for instance, a star for Etats-Unis, but none for Chanterelle, La Grenouille, or Montrachet.

#4 jamiemaw

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 10:31 AM

It's notable that Jamie found Michelin "parsimonious" in its choices. Others argued that Michelin awarded stars to restaurants that never would have received them in Europe. Most of the criticism I read was not that Michelin awarded too few stars, but that it awarded them to the wrong places.

Even on what is supposedly Michelin's 'home turf,' some of the choices were peculiar; for instance, a star for Etats-Unis, but none for Chanterelle, La Grenouille, or Montrachet.

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In totality, weren't New York restaurants awarded approximately half the stars as those of Paris? It sounds as if you come from the 'flawed methodology' school, oakapple.

Edited by jamiemaw, 28 November 2005 - 10:36 AM.

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#5 oakapple

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 11:01 AM

In totality, weren't New York restaurants awarded approximately half the stars as those of Paris? It sounds as if you come from the 'flawed methodology' school, oakapple.

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I don't have handy the overall number of starred restaurants in Paris. I know that there are around ten Michelin 3* restaurants in Paris vs. four in New York. Yet, I haven't encountered anyone who believes there are a half-dozen other serious candidates for 3* that Michelin overlooked. At the moment, just five NY restaurants carry four stars from the NYT, so the Times is comparably stingy with its highest rating. Although one can argue about individual cases, I can't come up with another 5-6 NY restaurants that could be awarded three Michelin stars without drastically de-valuing the meaning of that achievement.

At the one-star level, there is a more serious argument that the methodology is somewhat flawed, particularly the way certain cuisines were either ignored or significantly under-valued. Having said that, quite a few non-French restaurants received stars (including a rare—for Michelin—two-star Japanese restaurant). So it slightly over-simplifies matters to say that they were unable to recognize any cuisine but French.

Edited by oakapple, 28 November 2005 - 12:08 PM.


#6 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:27 PM

In totality, weren't New York restaurants awarded approximately half the stars as those of Paris? It sounds as if you come from the 'flawed methodology' school, oakapple.

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I don't have handy the overall number of starred restaurants in Paris. I know that there are around ten Michelin 3* restaurants in Paris vs. four in New York. Yet, I haven't encountered anyone who believes there are a half-dozen other serious candidates for 3* that Michelin overlooked. At the moment, just five NY restaurants carry four stars from the NYT, so the Times is comparably stingy with its highest rating. Although one can argue about individual cases, I can't come up with another 5-6 NY restaurants that could be awarded three Michelin stars without drastically de-valuing the meaning of that achievement.

At the one-star level, there is a more serious argument that the methodology is somewhat flawed, particularly the way certain cuisines were either ignored or significantly under-valued. Having said that, quite a few non-French restaurants received stars (including a rare—for Michelin—two-star Japanese restaurant). So it slightly over-simplifies matters to say that they were unable to recognize any cuisine but French.

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I'd say that there are a few 3 stars in Paris that don't deserve their stars. (One, in particular, I wouldn't give so much as a single star.) But my argument in NY is not with the three stars, it's with the ones and twos. With the restaurants that are, by American standards, really laudable places. No stars for Union Square Cafe? Come on!

#7 jamiemaw

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:36 PM

Three star dining experiences are also clearly a dying breed, in France and on this continent. And perhaps in North America, where dining out is now much more about a sense of taste than one of occasion, that sea change occured some time ago, while guides deploying vestigial methodologies such as Michelin have merely fiddled: Bill Murray should star in the movie.
from the thinly veneered desk of:
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Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

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#8 Pan

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 01:51 AM

I'd say that there are a few 3 stars in Paris that don't deserve their stars.  (One, in particular, I wouldn't give so much as a single star.) But my argument in NY is not with the three stars, it's with the ones and twos.  With the restaurants that are, by American standards, really laudable places. No stars for Union Square Cafe?  Come on!

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Which Paris 3-star do you think doesn't deserve a star?

Also, what did you think about Luger getting a star while Katz's was not even mentioned in the Michelin Guide for New York? Which of those things surprised you more?

#9 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 05:50 AM

I'd say that there are a few 3 stars in Paris that don't deserve their stars.  (One, in particular, I wouldn't give so much as a single star.) But my argument in NY is not with the three stars, it's with the ones and twos.  With the restaurants that are, by American standards, really laudable places. No stars for Union Square Cafe?  Come on!

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Which Paris 3-star do you think doesn't deserve a star?

Also, what did you think about Luger getting a star while Katz's was not even mentioned in the Michelin Guide for New York? Which of those things surprised you more?

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Grand Vefour. Beautiful and stupid.
I was not surprised that they didn't mention Katz's, although I think it's a sign of how out of touch with American tastes they are. If only for history it should have been included (although I'll admit that I'm a big fan of their pastrami and the knoblewurst). And I'm on record as being a big Peter Luger fan - and I'm surprised that they recognized the quality of the meat there in spite of the atmosphere. ON the other hand, that kind of gorgeously aged American beef is exactly what you can't find in France, and exactly the sort of thing that the French crave when they come to visit.

#10 Nathan

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 12:17 PM

Hmmm....one thought-question on this topic:

I've noted elsewhere that the primary defense of the Michelin Guide that I can see is that it's more accurate than any other single-source published ranking that I've seen -- i.e. Zagat or the Times stars taken together.

although a couple of their inclusions and omissions are quite outlandish (did anyone expect that there wouldn't be a few?)...I doubt that if egullet posters put together a list of 29 restaurants that it wouldn't have at least 70% commonality with the Michelin list of starred restaurants.
If you had your own list of 29 would you find that level of commonality?

Edited by Nathan, 29 November 2005 - 12:29 PM.


#11 Eatmywords

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 01:08 PM

Hmmm....one thought-question on this topic:

I've noted elsewhere that the primary defense of the Michelin Guide that I can see is that it's more accurate than any other single-source published ranking that I've seen -- i.e. Zagat or the Times stars taken together.

although a couple of their inclusions and omissions are quite outlandish (did anyone expect that there wouldn't be a few?)...I doubt that if egullet posters put together a list of 29 restaurants that it wouldn't have at least 70% commonality with the Michelin list of starred restaurants.
If you had your own list of 29 would you find that level of commonality?

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Nathan, we're NYK'rs! 70% isn't good enough. We want balance, accuracy, near perfection! These guys are (supposed to be) the pros as their tenured reputation dictates. One little Spotted Pig and Etats Unis inclusion in small list of greats (for NY) makes people think......hey, why didn't the Montrachet's, Sushi Yasudas, Aquavits and Escas make it in? I can tell you I've eaten at Spotted Pig. It's awesome for eclectic gastro-pub fare. But I've eaten at Montrachet and it's another language......one that the Pig don't speak. -Can you say the best sweet breads in an aged balsamic reduction topped w/foie gras Mr. Pig? Oink?

And if all we have to compare is anyone-can-write-in-Zagats and a newspaper that posts 50-100 reviews a year we're in trouble. We look at Michelin to affirm what NY gourmets have a good handle on and expound. Ofcourse it won't be 100% on but it's off and not having worhty opponents does not justify.

Btw, Pan, I don't get the Luger/Katz comparison. Good pastrami/cornbeef is no easy task but can you really compare it to a category like best steak in NY because the meat's been lean for a hundred years?
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#12 oakapple

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 02:47 PM

The interesting thing about Montrachet is that it's the cuisine the Michelin inspectors purportedly know the most about: French. I'm personally in the camp that Montrachet's non-starred status was defensible—not provably correct, but defensible. If you think they didn't even get the French restaurants right, then we're talking a whole other ball game.

#13 robyn

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 04:57 PM

Grand Vefour.  Beautiful and stupid.

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You mean now - or always? I dined there way back when it had 3 stars (before it lost stars and got them back). It was certainly a 3 star place way back then (can't vouch for it now). Robyn

#14 Pan

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 05:13 PM

[...]Can you say the best sweet breads in an aged balsamic reduction topped w/foie gras Mr. Pig?  Oink?

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:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

[...]Btw, Pan, I don't get the Luger/Katz comparison.  Good pastrami/cornbeef is no easy task but can you really compare it to a category like best steak in NY because the meat's been lean for a hundred years?

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The comparison is that both are places that are widely considered to be the best at what they do and real New York institutions, and neither place is known for its fancy decor or choreographed service.

#15 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 01:52 PM

Oh, I think the service at Katz's is quite choreographed -- a bit less Martha Graham and a bit more Buster Keaton, though! :biggrin:
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#16 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 03:34 PM

Oh, I think the service at Katz's is quite choreographed -- a bit less Martha Graham and a bit more Buster Keaton, though! :biggrin:

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For Robyn - Grand Vefour was once wonderful, and it's certainly gorgeous, but when we went there hoping to use it as a centerpiece for the Paris issue a few years ago the food was barely edible. The service was appalling and there were table tents on the table, advertising something or other. Really disappointing.

#17 robyn

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 05:27 PM

For Robyn - Grand Vefour was once wonderful, and it's certainly gorgeous, but when we went there hoping to use it as a centerpiece for the Paris issue a few years ago the food was barely edible.  The service was appalling and there were table tents on the table, advertising something or other.  Really disappointing.

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They say you can't go home again - and what you said - in addition to other things I've read - convinces me not to try. In the last decade - I've become very fond of food to the west - like the west coast of the US and Canada - and Hawaii. So rather than thinking "east" these days - I am thinking "west". Although if you go far enough west - you wind up in the east - like Asia :smile: . We're taking our first trip there in the spring - about 2 weeks in Japan. Have you been there? Did you like it? Only problem with the far east is the jet lag. I'm terrible when it comes to jet lag. Luckily - Tokyo seems to be a 24/7 city.

It's been a pleasure having you here this week. Keep up the good work with Gourmet Magazine. I've read some criticism - like you seem to be trying somewhat to attract older affluent people who like to travel a lot - and who are interested in the political aspects of food - etc. - in addition to people who are interested in cooking. I don't see that as a valid criticism - and if that is your goal - then you are succeeding with people like me :smile:. Robyn