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Michelin NYC 2009 Rankings


Adrian3891
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With respect to sushi, there are really only betwen 4 and 6 top level places in the city, and there would be a HUGE amount of overlap on a list of those places.  (For the record, Jewel Bako would not be on it...although that specific choice isn't the point.)

If your argument were, “Michelin doesn’t get Japanese cuisine,” I might be in your corner. Frankly, if I were looking for Japanese cuisine anywhere, a guide published by Frenchmen isn’t the first place I would look.

But you are making a much broader-based argument—suggesting, in effect, that their whole operation is a fraud, and that they really do not make the visits they claim they are making. That is where I disagree with you. I agree with the specific complaint that the inclusion of JB over Sushi Yasuda is incomprehensible.

Actually, I think the way Jewel Bako made it onto their star list is not a factor of Michelin's knowing or not knowing Japanese cuisine...although clearly they seem not to be very well versed in that area. The relative paucity of representation for high level Japanese cooking in the survey is a separate (and surely very worthy) topic, but not what I was getting at here. Nor do I think it's some kind of major secret conspiracy or fraud, although I do believe rules may have been bent slightly in a few cases. My personal guess/belief is that Jewel Bako's inclusion was the result of their tendency to go out of their way to pick a few places they think are unexpected/undiscovered, and to include those on the one-star list as a way of upping their "street cred" or hipness factor. This is the same factor that I think led to the inclusion of Spotted Pig, Etats Unis, Dressler and Public, none of which are of the style typical of Michelin's selections in Europe. Certainly none of them are bad...but at the same time, it would be very tough for anyone to argue that they really stand above (on any grounds) dozens of other places that weren't starred. If you were to be put in a room with the Michelin inspectors involved, I suspect they'd have a pretty tough time defending these specific choices themselves in any objective terms.

I think a little thought to the backstory is needed. Naret is obviously a smart guy, and he and his employees obviously have their ears to the ground. When they were planning the guide, they were well aware that there was a strong opinion among New Yorker eaters that Michelin's usual style of selection might not be as relevant in the U.S. due to its focus on formal dining, and that their traditional methods might not appropriately note of some of the less formal venues that NYers considered very highly. This was a major marketing challenge for them, and it was discussed at length in MANY interviews with Naret prior to the release of the first NY survey (and probably also discussed at length in every Michelin marketing department meeting). It was clear in the first NY survey that Naret & Co. wanted everyone to know that they had made concessions to these factors and that they therefore should be taken seriously as an authority on NY dining. The problem with this was that it introduced a certain degree of arbitrariness to the proceedings, as almost every restaurant in town was a potential inclusion in the survey. If they'd come to town doing their usual thing, the one star category would have looked very different, and would probably have caused much less controversy in its individual picks. But at the same time, it would have validated the advance criticism that Michelin wasn't relevant to NY diners.

Back to the case of Jewel Bako. Prior to the first survey, when the Michelin folks were doing their research on the NY market, Jewel Bako was a hidden gem in the sushi world, and a fairly hip place as well. I feel they were included on this basis, not on the basis of Michelin thinking of it as the best Japanese retaurant in NY besides Masa. Still, this strikes me as unfair because of its randomness. It becomes further unfair when the original reasons for its selection no longer apply. Same goes for Public, which I feel had more consistent food when it first opened, but the case of Public is harder to prove, because (as previously stated) its category is harder to analyze objectively. (Also, as Nathan noted, The Monday Room, if it was considered in the ratings, would certainly help their cause.) It's also worth noting that none of their "hip picks" have been demoted.

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If your argument were, “Michelin doesn’t get Japanese cuisine,” I might be in your corner. Frankly, if I were looking for Japanese cuisine anywhere, a guide published by Frenchmen isn’t the first place I would look.

You're more correct than you know. They put out a Tokyo guide. :shock: There was an initial rush to buy it, but this was mostly out of Japanese pride, as the fine European guide had shocked the culinary community and declared Tokyo the culinary capitol of the world. There are deeper national pysche-wide reasons for this; there are very few outlets for Japanese pride and nationalism. So the initial sale of 125,000 of the Michelin guides was akin to all the Ichiro jerseys sold even though, in the long run, the Mariners have been sucking wind.

In fact, the Michelin ratings sucked so hard that many restaurateurs declined listing because it was a LIABILITY. I know this because I know a lot of restaurateurs in Tokyo. And now I get asked questions about this restaurant or that in Tokyo, just because they were listed in Michelin? Screw that. The best restaurants in Tokyo will never be listed in Michelin.

There are some real choice quotes from the Times article:

“Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?"
“Anybody who knows restaurants in Tokyo knows that these stars are ridiculous,” said Toru Kenjo, president of Gentosha publishing house, whose men’s fashion magazine, Goethe, published a lengthy critique of the Tokyo guide last month. “Michelin has debased its brand. It won’t sell as well here in the future.”
For their part, consumers here offer mixed reviews of Michelin. Yukihiro Nagatomi, a banker in his late 30s, said he recently spent about $200 to try a Japanese-style restaurant called Kanda because of its three-star rating in Michelin.

He said he was dismayed to find what he called egregious violations of Japanese cuisine’s minimalist tenets, like an overly large slice of eel sushi that disrupted the dish’s balance

I don't think anyone is going to defend Michelin's coverage Japanese cuisine in NY, because it's indefensible. So the real question is, does Michelin missing the mark on Japanese and perhaps, Asian food as a whole, in New York, mean that they don't get NY as a whole, because Japanese and Asian dining is such a large part of what NY has to offer.

I have always felt that Michelin released a Euro-centric guide to NY and the only thing it added to the conversation was their definition of service, of which I don't really care about. I think the only time in it's existence where the thought crossed my mind to refer to it's NY guide was when I met a beautiful girl in Montreal and thought how to entertain her in NYC.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't know why they bother to print the guide in English.

Edited by raji (log)
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This is such a silly and xenophobic remark: “Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?"

Or else no American or Brazilian can review a French restaurant in Paris anymore.

Just trying to eat some good food and learn in the process with all the well versed foodies here. Please don't hold me too accountable for my so personal opinions! :)

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Sure it's xenophobic. That issue of GOETHE also featured a column by the governor of Tokyo who condemned the guide. Ishihara is a xenophobic right-wing asshole who devotes himself to giving foreigners in Japan a hard time.

At the same time, I think the type of people who read this board would rather heard the Brazilian's review of the Brazilian restaurant, and the Japanese review of the Japanese restaurant.

That quote about "only Japanese", well, I'm not ethnically Japanese, but I've certainly been accepted in Japanese culinary circles because I am well familiar with their palate and some of their more exotic ingredients

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This is such a silly and xenophobic remark: “Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?"

Just to be clear why I'm not offended by that remark, nothing is more bastardized worldwide than Japanese food, and so the general conception is that most non-Japanese, unless they have LIVED in Japan, or another Japanese community like NYC or Sao Paolo, do not "know" Japanese food. And they are right, which is why one of my favorite things to do is to take friends out to REAL Japanese food which exists in NYC.

Anyway, clearly if Michelin wanted to solve these problems, they should put me on their payroll. :raz:

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At the same time, I think the type of people who read this board would rather heard the Brazilian's review of the Brazilian restaurant, and the Japanese review of the Japanese restaurant.

I believe this is only partially true. I believe local opinions have to be balanced with opinions from others that you regard as having similar taste to yours. For instance, in this very forum Docsconz, who I am most certain is American, gave me an invaluable appreciation of two Spanish restaurants that I was considering going to, and I could pick the one that really made me happy. An American giving advice to a Brazilian on a Spanish restaurant.

I understand your point about the specificity of Japanese food, but in the end it is our own palate that matters, is it not? So we have to find whichever reference will better please our mouth, right?

And I'm rooting for you concerning the Michelin job :smile: . This surely will dispel lots of polemics about this guide. Cheers.

Just trying to eat some good food and learn in the process with all the well versed foodies here. Please don't hold me too accountable for my so personal opinions! :)

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This is such a silly and xenophobic remark: “Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?"

Or else no American or Brazilian can review a French restaurant in Paris anymore.

Exactly, mbernestein, xenophobic indeed. I, like you, am Brazilian, and I like to think that despite being Brazilian many people trust my opinion of French restaurants, American restaurants and hell, even New York Japanese restaurants!

When choosing where to eat, I'd rather hear the opinion of someone who knows food and goes to lots of great restaurants - REGARDLESS of where they're from - than, say, trust the sushi restaurant recommendations of any Japanese person just because they're Japanese and therefore must "get it" better than any foreigner.

That explains why I tend to trust the Michelin. The inspectors are professional eaters and know a thing or too about restaurants. I may disagree with them here or there, but still, I do believe that a team of professional inspectors, because they dine at the restaurants more often than regular folk, and with a specific task in mind at all times, will probably have a more solid grasp of, say, NY Japanese restaurants, than most people. Like I said before, I am tired of hearing that only the Japanese "get" Japanese food.

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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Re: 'Stars' ----One of the oft debated restaurants is EMP. I had dined there several times prior to last year's Michelin Guide's release and strongly felt that

EMP deserved a star.

However, I returned there last week and my opinion has changed. The flowers remain beautiful. The reception was gracious and the service was very good. We had the Autumn Tasting Menu. It was a series of decently prepared but rather uninteresting dishes. There was no zip...nothing exciting or enthralling. I do not have an enormous appetite but I found the portions rather tiny for $125. I don't have the menu but the dinner began with the same bites offered last year. Then a mini parsnip quenelle...lightly smoked salmon with various tiny potatoes.... foie gras terrine w. brioche [the best course] ...one scallop...two finger sized slices of lamb and two desserts. It didn't rise to star level...just my opinion, of course.

Edited by PaulaJK (log)
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... decently prepared but rather uninteresting dishes. There was no zip...nothing exciting or enthralling.

Actually, from your description, it sounds like they're aiming straight for the two-star category. :wink:

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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This is such a silly and xenophobic remark: “Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?"

Or else no American or Brazilian can review a French restaurant in Paris anymore.

I'm not going to outright agree or disagree with the remark here, but want to throw a couple of thoughts out there. First of all, if we were reading a review of a serious "Carolina-style" barbecue place that was written by a Japanese (or Russian, or Australian) guy whose experience with the form had been primarily whatever imitation renditions he'd had in Tokyo, chances are that we'd be skeptical about his ability to really provide an insightful review, when compared with someone who grew up eating the stuff. That's not necessarily xenophobic. And it doesn't mean that every local is an expert, nor that every foreigner is clueless. But I think it's fair for them to be skeptical, considering non-Japanese palates, especially if the results are questionable. And the serious barbecue folks even feel that way about people who aren't from their particular region of the country! Much as the barbecue aficionados of each region have definite opinions about what's "right" in terms of barbecue, I think it's well within the rights of Japanese (or any other country with a distinctive cuisine) to voice that same stance on their food. And this doesn't even take into account cultural factors. After all, there are plenty of places in various categories that would lose their "cred" if they were embraced by the mainstream media...so renouncing one's Michelin stars in Japan may not be such a crazy move, if authenticity is a concern.

Secondly, although versions of Japanese food are available now throughout the world, its incorporation into other world cuisines has come at a much later time in history than, say, French or Italian, and there's much less worldwide expertise in the form. More than almost any other cuisine, foreigners have interpreted and bastardized Japanese food (think mall sushi, e.g.). Finally, I've personally found most Japanese happy to recognize it when specific non-Japanese individuals DO get it, even if they're not Japanese...as Raji alluded to upthread.

Before we accuse the Japanese of food xenophobia, let's first think about how we would swallow the barbecue example above, a Latvian critique of southern fried chicken joints, or even a Belgian analysis of our burgers.

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That explains why I tend to trust the Michelin. The inspectors are professional eaters and know a thing or too about restaurants. I may disagree with them here or there, but still, I do believe that a team of professional inspectors, because they dine at the restaurants more often than regular folk, and with a specific task in mind at all times,  will probably have a more solid grasp of, say, NY Japanese restaurants, than most people.

But that's the exact contention that we are holding in doubt. The proof is in the pudding and while they might have more of a solid grasp on NY Japanese restaurants than most people, they certain don't have a more solid grasp than most people on here, and we're not (all) publishing books...

Like I said before, I am tired of hearing that only the Japanese "get" Japanese food.

I'm not going to defend the more xenophobic of the Japanese natives and diaspora, but, you have to realize, the vast majority of Japanese food outside of Japan is found as -

- Sushi bars featuring California and NY rolls and spicy tuna temaki, which are not only not Japanese, but they're not even remotely popular IN Japan

- Teppanyaki which was for the most part post-war theater for the cownivorous occupation forces and later an invention of Rocky Aoki

- Teriyaki, sukiyaki and the like which are cane sugar and corn syrupped-up distant cousins of real japanese dishes

and the list goes on and on. Even in major cities all over the world I see this. It's very rare for a non-Japanese to have sought out and found authentic Japanese food consistently outside of Japan; I have to deal with this sort of skepticism all the time. Japanese language ability is the ultimate filter, as usually only the Japanese-run places advertise in the local jp-language papers, so weeding out the fakes is a good start, then you have to ask around and try out to find out the actual good places. Anyway, it's much harder if you don't personally speak/read Japanese or have a friend who does.

But I don't feel like the michelin reviewers did any such work and seem to be far more impressionable. And a lot of japanese food is not instantly accessibly and I feel like only those that ARE are getting coverage. That goes back to that "getting it" quotient, but think about it, didn't sushi make a lot more sense after eating it a few times?

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  • 1 month later...
Baffled that Eleven Madison Park misses the cut again.

And yet Jewel Bako retains its star.

I'm not surprised the devi lost its star, though Babbo's loss does surprise me.

Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Baffled that Eleven Madison Park misses the cut again.

And yet Jewel Bako retains its star.

I'm not surprised the devi lost its star, though Babbo's loss does surprise me.

Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Well, the last time I checked, Colicchio still owns the now starless Craft. And Batali still owns Babbo.

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But isn't it ultimately a problem for the stature of the Guide when the locals don't use the Michelin Guide but the tourists do?[...]

No, I don't think so. Michelin is a foreign tire brand, and their New York Guide is pretty new. It would be unrealistic for them to expect to become the go-to restaurant guide for New Yorkers.

Edit: Like oakapple said. :smile:

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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But isn't it ultimately a problem for the stature of the Guide when the locals don't use the Michelin Guide but the tourists do?[...]

No, I don't think so. Michelin is a foreign tire brand, and their New York Guide is pretty new. It would be unrealistic for them to expect to become the go-to restaurant guide for New Yorkers.

...however much they might hope...

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

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If you have a bad experience at EMP, it's your fault.

IMO!

raji, that's not even a funny joke. It wasn't our fault that our service was incredibly slow and the food was mostly merely good, at the prices they were charging.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Here's another way of looking at it. On any list of 42 restaurants, I would expect about 20% disagreement simply because restaurant ratings aren't an exact science. That means there'd need to be more than about 8 clear errors before I would begin to suspect something afoot more than just normal difference of opinion between competent specialists.

Well: on the current star list, there are only two places that lots of people say don't belong: Jewel Bako and Public. And I can only think of two places that lots of people feel are wrongly excluded: Eleven Madison Park and Sushi Yasuda. So the error rate (if we call those errors) is only about 25% of what it would need to be, before I would begin to worry about serious incompetence.

There are tons more that are arguable, but that's just horse racing. For every foodie who says that the demotion of Babbo was a crime, there's another who says, "Thank goodness they finally got wise about Babbo."

I wonder about Babbo. I certainly thought my food was great 3-star food, using the NYT stars (and that should equal at least one Michelin star, I would think), but I've only been there once so far, so I can't say anything about their consistency.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Baffled that Eleven Madison Park misses the cut again.

And yet Jewel Bako retains its star.

I'm not surprised the devi lost its star, though Babbo's loss does surprise me.

Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Well, the last time I checked, Colicchio still owns the now starless Craft. And Batali still owns Babbo.

Do you think Babbo has deteriorated?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Baffled that Eleven Madison Park misses the cut again.

And yet Jewel Bako retains its star.

I'm not surprised the devi lost its star, though Babbo's loss does surprise me.

Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Well, the last time I checked, Colicchio still owns the now starless Craft. And Batali still owns Babbo.

The Craft point brings up an interesting question. Does Michelin recognize restaurants of the format of Tom: Tuesday Dinner? It's not really a full time thing, but from my limited experience, the food would certainly merit a couple of stars. I'm guessing the answer is no, due to limited exposure and atypical format, but it's an interesting question.

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The Craft point brings up an interesting question.  Does Michelin recognize restaurants of the format of Tom: Tuesday Dinner?

I'm not sure if anybody does. I mean, I can't think of very many "restaurants" that serve dinner just one night out of 14. I suspect that, for this reason, it won't get a full rated review in the Times, either. Edited by oakapple (log)
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But isn't it ultimately a problem for the stature of the Guide when the locals don't use the Michelin Guide but the tourists do?[...]

No, I don't think so. Michelin is a foreign tire brand, and their New York Guide is pretty new. It would be unrealistic for them to expect to become the go-to restaurant guide for New Yorkers.

...however much they might hope...

I doubt that even the Michelin people expected their guide to become the go-to source for New Yorkers. Even with perfect execution, that wouldn't have been realistic, given Zagat's huge market lead. But the Guide has been influential with visitors, which of course was its intention.
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Baffled that Eleven Madison Park misses the cut again.

And yet Jewel Bako retains its star.

I'm not surprised the devi lost its star, though Babbo's loss does surprise me.

Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Well, the last time I checked, Colicchio still owns the now starless Craft. And Batali still owns Babbo.

Do you think Babbo has deteriorated?

I'm unqualified to answer that question. The last time I ate at Babbo was in 2007, well before they lost their star. Actually, that was the only time I've eaten there. Judging by my experience, it earned its star solely because the food (for me, anyway) was good enough to overlook the decibel level and so-so service.

I also can't give you an opinion as to whether devi has deteriorated. I've only eaten there once - this year in June, when the restaurant was arguably on its way to losing its star. I can't say I was terribly impressed. The food was good. Some of it was great. The service was pretty rocky (though the servers were all very welcoming, together, they were a bit incompetent). And, though I'm not one to usually care much about tangible refinements, the restaurant did lack the ambiance/environment regularly associated with a Michelin-starred restaurant (I would say the same of the noise-level at Babbo). I recognize that one Michelin star doesn't require the arsenal of silver and yards of linens that two and three stars usually do, but devi really could feel dingy at times. It's got it's own style which I can't say is unattractive; it just doesn't fit the "one star" mold in looks or feel. So, I guess what I'm saying is, based on my limited experience, I can't say that I'm convinced that devi was ever really supposed to be a one-starred Michelin restaurant - by Michelin's standards, not mine. Again, given the mass of devi devotees, I'm willing to concede that my one experience was not representative. Still, I was not shocked that it lost its star this year.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Plenty of restaurants deteriorate. I don't know whether this one did, as I haven't gone lately, but there would be nothing strange about this. It happens all the time.
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Devi has deteriorated? That would be strange, since Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are still co-owners.

Plenty of restaurants deteriorate. I don't know whether this one did, as I haven't gone lately, but there would be nothing strange about this. It happens all the time.

It's a little stranger to me when the owner(s) is (are) the chef(s), as I believe has always been the case at Devi.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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