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Michelin Guide to New York est arrivé!


oakapple
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Just to be clear, my post quoted above was in response to a query about Katz's from a vegetarian! ("i'm a pesce-vegetarian and was wondering if there's anything i could eat there that's really good").

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In reading through the book, I've found some proofreading errors, but none as extreme as those Steve Cuozzo reported in the Post.

Maybe you can't blame them for not knowing the "M" on stations stands for MTA rather than the Metro of Paris. But just what were the French tire tycoons thinking when they set out to crack the U.S. market?....

* How, if Michelin was at three-star recipient Le Bernardin even once, can it say the "a la carte menu . . . spotlights the bounty of the sea"? Le Bernardin has no a la carte menu; it is prix fixe only.

* The Four Seasons has not had art by Joan Miró for 10 years or by Jackson Pollock for decades; Michelin must have gotten the idea from a 1960s Craig Claiborne review on the restaurant's Web site.....

If the endless goofs don't have you holding your sides, the prose will — from inane advice ("While you're in the neighborhood" of obscure Luca on First Avenue, "consider a tour of Gracie Mansion") to language straining to mimic Yankee lingo ("Barbaluc won't break the bank." It sure won't; the place closed).

If you're not familiar with the area, Gracie Mansion (the Mayor's mansion) does not offer public tours. (What obviously happened here was that much of the text was assembled by non-residents who munged a lot of the data from public websites.)

Cuozzo visits the starred Etats-Unis and finds "terrific meatloaf," but also "weird 'lobster lasagna,'" such as "you find in second-class food towns like Miami."

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Oakapple, I think there are two ways to process the information. What we have here are quite a few convincing objections. There are ethical ones.... There are substantive ones..... There are process ones -- mainly that we don't know the process, the qualifications of the inspectors or much of anything because it's all done in secret and we're just asked to trust Michelin.....

However, you don't know that for any travel or restaurant guide that has a corporate publisher. And at other media outlets where you do know the reviewer's name (Frank Bruni at the New York Times), you still really don't know much of anything about the process or standards that led to the review.

I don't so much care what the process was, when I can read the book and draw my own conclusions. Nathan made a rather pertinent point, which no one so far has disputed:

Here's a wager, if we asked egullet members to put together a list of 39 1 to 3 star restaurants (as well as a larger list of 500) (requiring some sort of vote for each one (maybe 80% unanimity)?)....I would bet that it would be a slightly better list but having with 75-90% commonality with the Michelin list.

I do agree with Fat Guy that not all screw-ups have the same weight. Theoretically, you could have just a handful of errors, or perhaps just one huge error that invalidates the whole exercise. I haven't yet seen that (much as I cringe at some of the mistakes), but I realize some people do. What's interesting is that those who say the guide is nearly worthless can't agree precisely which mistake(s) put it over the edge. For Rich, it's the lack of a star for Tasting Room, but to Fat Guy that decision is "within the margin of error." (I concur with FG on that one.)

Another way of putting it is to ask what other guide having an equivalent purpose (a pocket-sized book for out-of-town travelers who want to dine well) has done a better job? Zagat is the comparison everyone is making, for obvious reasons. While I have no doubt that Zagat will remain king of the local market, no one yet has claimed that Zagat is better; only that it has its own set of peculiar flaws.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Oakapple, I think there are two ways to process the information. What we have here are quite a few convincing objections. There are ethical ones.... There are substantive ones..... There are process ones -- mainly that we don't know the process, the qualifications of the inspectors or much of anything because it's all done in secret and we're just asked to trust Michelin.....

However, you don't know that for any travel or restaurant guide that has a corporate publisher. And at other media outlets where you do know the reviewer's name (Frank Bruni at the New York Times), you still really don't know much of anything about the process or standards that led to the review.

I don't so much care what the process was, when I can read the book and draw my own conclusions. Nathan made a rather pertinent point, which no one so far has disputed:

Here's a wager, if we asked egullet members to put together a list of 39 1 to 3 star restaurants (as well as a larger list of 500) (requiring some sort of vote for each one (maybe 80% unanimity)?)....I would bet that it would be a slightly better list but having with 75-90% commonality with the Michelin list.

I do agree with Fat Guy that not all screw-ups have the same weight. Theoretically, you could have just a handful of errors, or perhaps just one huge error that invalidates the whole exercise. I haven't yet seen that (much as I cringe at some of the mistakes), but I realize some people do. What's interesting is that those who say the guide is nearly worthless can't agree precisely which mistake(s) put it over the edge. For Rich, it's the lack of a star for Tasting Room, but to Fat Guy that decision is "within the margin of error." (I concur with FG on that one.)

Another way of putting it is to ask what other guide having an equivalent purpose (a pocket-sized book for out-of-town travelers who want to dine well) has done a better job? Zagat is the comparison everyone is making, for obvious reasons. While I have no doubt that Zagat will remain king of the local market, no one yet has claimed that Zagat is better; only that it has its own set of peculiar flaws.

I feel Fat Guy is making some of the wrong points, but just as Michelin's mistakes over time don't necessarily negate the validity of it's ratings, Fat Guy's mistakes may not invalidate his overall opinion. In your previous post you offer the kind of information that, along with the Brussels incident is telling and damning. Michelin is way understaffed for the job. They're taking short cuts in gathering their material, and I suspect, in reaching some of their conclusions by relying on already published material by others. It lends an air of alien falseness to the guide.

If they, or anyone else, publishes what may be not much more than a synopsis of respected or educated opinion, it's going to be full of holes and hard to defend, but likely still more reliable than a Zagat Survy where the participants need not be qualified.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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In terms of scope, exclusions like Katz's deli -- widely acknowledged by a large cross-section of people who comprehend deli as having the best pastrami in the world -- indicate some pretty sad methodology

My guess is that based on decor, service and cleanliness, Katz's did not qualify even to receive a single spoon and fork, and was excluded from the guide on that basis. Whether one agrees or not, this is consistent Michelin guide methodology. The most famous example is l'Ami Louis which as far as I know has never been listed. The purported story is that Michelin considers the narrow steep staircase down to the restroom to be unacceptable.

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Based on some of the places that did receive a single fork, then their standards are very strange, indeed.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Katz's is a one trick pony as has been suggested, but I'd also note that it's a much idfferent kind of trick than Lugar has to offer. I haven't seen the actual guide yet. Were any diners listed? Were any of NYC's ubiquitous "coffee shop/luncheonettes" listed. I'd list Katz's, but I can also understand why it seems like a sandwhich shop or diner rather than a restaurant. I'm assuming the Second Avenue Deli was listed.

spelling

Edited by Bux (log)

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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...If you want to go to the dozen or so places that are ultimate New York dining experiences, you go to Peter Luger, you go to Papaya King (also not in the guide), you go to Katz's, you go to a few upscale European-derived places, you go to a few Asian places. This isn't a question of lowest common denominator popularity -- this is the guidance you're going to get from most knowledgeable, experienced observers of the New York dining scene who have international perspective and exposure...

I don't think any Michelin guide purports to be "a guide to all the places a tourist should eat in city or country X to get the flavor of the place". For that - you buy Frommer's. In its guide to Japan (which I have on my desk now) - the list of "Best Culinary Experiences" at the beginning of the book includes everything from "Experiencing a Kaiseki Feast" to "Slurping Noodles in a Noodle Shop" to "Buying Prepared Meals at a Department Store".

Perhaps someone writing a similar list for New York might include a place like Papaya King (I've managed never to have heard of it after all these years - but it seems from its web site that it's a local frankfurter and fruit drink place which also sells franchises - and frankfurters to supermarkets) - but that doesn't mean it should be in a Michelin guide. Robyn

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...I had dinner last month in London, at Tower 24, which is I think Michelin one star.  It was fine, but nothing special.  The Indoneson Fried Rice I had last night in a very modest London place was better than anything at Tower 24...

You mean Rhodes 24? A couple of members here praised it last year when I was asking about London restaurants. They were particularly fond of the mutton and suet pudding (which didn't sound very appetizing to me - but they set me straight on the issue :wink: ).

The more important point is that the validity of any guidebook or reviewer (professional or non-professional) can't be judged by whether someone disagrees with a particular restaurant rating (or even a bunch of ratings - since some are harsh graders and some are lenient graders). The only issue is whether the guidebook or the reviewer helps you to make intelligent decisions about where to dine. Which is a function of 1) the nature of the guidebook or the reviewer; and 2) your nature. Some restaurants - and restaurant practices - are controversial. So you have to learn which sources best lead you to the kinds of places *you* like. It's a very personal thing.

On my part - whenever I'm making choices about where to dine when I'm on the road - I frequently use multiple sources to make decisions. And even with the best of homework - my experiences run the gamut from homeruns to strikeouts. But sometimes I use a single source. Best example of that is when I tried ADNY because a single voice in the wilderness - the old fatguy.com - said the place was terrific - while the rest of the mainstream press was dissing it. The reaction to the new Michelin guide kind of reminds me of that initial New York press response to ADNY. Robyn

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Hope you can open this link. This is Slate's take on Michelin "lowering standards" so some NY restuarants could get three stars:

http://www.slate.com/id/2129306/

And a "waitron" at Les Halles downtown is very upset that LH was referred to in the Times on Thursday (Section B8) as "a generic French diner." I let him vent and smoothed out his hurt feelings - and ordered more game (!) My husband was mystified - he thought a bistro WAS a French diner, so I'm going to have point out the preceding comments about "bistros" as opposed to "brasseries" and hope all feelings get assuaged (!)

:rolleyes:

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...I had dinner last month in London, at Tower 24, which is I think Michelin one star.  It was fine, but nothing special.  The Indoneson Fried Rice I had last night in a very modest London place was better than anything at Tower 24...

You mean Rhodes 24? A couple of members here praised it last year when I was asking about London restaurants. They were particularly fond of the mutton and suet pudding (which didn't sound very appetizing to me - but they set me straight on the issue :wink: ).

The more important point is that the validity of any guidebook or reviewer (professional or non-professional) can't be judged by whether someone disagrees with a particular restaurant rating (or even a bunch of ratings - since some are harsh graders and some are lenient graders). The only issue is whether the guidebook or the reviewer helps you to make intelligent decisions about where to dine. Which is a function of 1) the nature of the guidebook or the reviewer; and 2) your nature. Some restaurants - and restaurant practices - are controversial. So you have to learn which sources best lead you to the kinds of places *you* like. It's a very personal thing.

On my part - whenever I'm making choices about where to dine when I'm on the road - I frequently use multiple sources to make decisions. And even with the best of homework - my experiences run the gamut from homeruns to strikeouts. But sometimes I use a single source. Best example of that is when I tried ADNY because a single voice in the wilderness - the old fatguy.com - said the place was terrific - while the rest of the mainstream press was dissing it. The reaction to the new Michelin guide kind of reminds me of that initial New York press response to ADNY. Robyn

Rhodes 24 it was.

Check out the hotel ratings in Michelin....they are a bit off when compared to conventional wisdom. The Palace must be worried....

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This news is a bit old, but in the run-up to the release of the Michelin in New York, Oct 29-30, Le Figaro listed the favorite places of Ruth Reichl (Masa, Le Bernadin, Babbo, Pearly Oyster Bar + Peter Lugar), Anya Von Bremzen (Cru, Bouley, Landmarc, Masa + Momofuko), Jeffrey Steingarten (Kurumazuchi, Katz, Le Bernadin, WD-50 + Four Seasons Grill Room) and Nina Zagat (Le Bernadin, Sushi Yasuda, Babbo, The Modern + Oriental Garden).

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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. . . . .

There are substantive ones -- specific restaurants that are not borderline calls but, rather, major screwups like the inclusion of Boathouse Cafe and the omission of Katz's (I would distinguish those from within-the-margin-of-error screwups like the failure to give a star to Blue Hill or Tasting Room)

. . . . .

Did any of you really think that Katz's had any chances to make it to the guide for a second? I can't think of any place like Katz's that has appeared in the European red guides I know and thinking of Spain and the tapas bars, the inclusion of places like Katz's would mean that thousands of places should be added to the guide.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Pedro, how many of those tapas bars are widely considered to serve the very best of a particular prized thing that people expressly come to get during trips from the other side of the world?

Yes, I thought Katz's would be mentioned, and if it isn't, why is Luger not only mentioned but with a star?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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To me, the surprising thing is Luger getting a star, not the omission of Katz's, Pan. Admittedly, I'm more familiar with Michelin standards for Spain, which to say the least, are more than uptight.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Pedro, how many of those tapas bars are widely considered to serve the very best of a particular prized thing that people expressly come to get during trips from the other side of the world?

actually quite a few

i can think of three in barcelona and three in san sebastian

for starters

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Another interesting question is why did about half of the NYT three star restaurants merit no stars from Michelin?

there are several possibilities

either the times has a much more lenient star policy

the times has been so inconsistent in recent years that the star system is less meaningful

or michelin did not feel that these restaurants were even good in their category

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To me, the surprising thing is Luger getting a star, not the omission of Katz's, Pan. Admittedly, I'm more familiar with Michelin standards for Spain, which to say the least, are more than uptight.

also important to remember michelins historic snubbery of spain and italy

i hope that there is a fact checker for me

but i would wager that new york would rank as a top nation in europe as judged from 3 and 2 stars

wg

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Pedro, the answer to your question is no, nobody (well, other than Pan!) thought Katz's had a chance. But then the New York guide came out, and it turned out not to use the same standards as the European guide. In the New York guide there are inclusions like Sripraphai and New York Noodle Town, cheap-eats places that would never be included in European Michelin guides. So, it seems that in tailoring the guide to the American market, Michelin has tried to include various best-in-class dives. If so, the omission of Katz's is a monumental screwup, especially when the inferior Second Avenue Deli is included. It puts the lie to Michelin's claim to be searching for the best food, and on the terms Michelin has set for its New York guide it's a glaring omission. At the low end, Michelin is confused, inconsistent and out of touch.

Mike Steinberger in Slate, referenced above, does an excellent job pointing out Michelin's failings at the high end. These are mostly the arguments that have been made here, but Steinberger builds the case relentlessly, with all the most compelling arguments assembled in one place and sequenced properly. (He even references this eG Forums topic, and me). His conclusion:

Its integrity and competence under assault as never before in France, Michelin clearly needed to generate some positive headlines in New York, so it did the craven thing and judged New York on an inflated scale. To the extent Michelin's arrival stateside was cause for excitement, it was the expectation that the guide's supposedly universal standards would at last be applied to New York, ending years of dinner-table speculation about how the city's top restaurants stack up. Clearly, though, Michelin had another agenda, and in pursuing it I suspect it may have alienated that small subset of food-obsessed people with enough experience on both sides of the Atlantic to form their own comparative judgments.

http://www.slate.com/id/2129306/

The Cuozzo piece is, standing alone, amusing for the way it exposes Michelin's shortcuts. Maybe, instead of spending so much money on a publication party at the Guggenheim, Michelin should have hired a fact checker. The question that remains is whether this is just the beginning. Journalists and eGullet types have only had the book for a few days so far. It will be a few weeks before a significant number of people have a chance to read it cover to cover.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Another interesting question is why did about half of the NYT three star restaurants merit no stars from Michelin?

there are several possibilities

either the times has a much more lenient star policy

the times has been so inconsistent in recent years that the star system is less meaningful

or michelin did not feel that these restaurants were even good in their category

Historically, it has been much easier to get a New York Times star than a Michelin star. This isn't a new phenomenon. It's true that there are some similarities between the two systems, given that every restaurant that got 2 or 3 stars from Michelin carries 3 or 4 from the Times. But in general, the Michelin system is simply more stingy. The Times rates 52 restaurants a year, and almost all of them get at least one star. Michelin awarded stars to just 39 restaurants in total.

The Michelin ratings also reflect a fresh look. Most NYT 3-star restaurants go many years without a re-review. For instance, La Grenouille hasn't had a full review since the Ruth Reichl era. Perhaps that venerable restaurant has lost a step — and if the Michelin inspectors were qualified at anything, surely they were qualified to evaluate an haute French restaurant like La Grenouille.

To me, the surprising thing is Luger getting a star, not the omission of Katz's.

The American Steakhouse is a quintessential New York experience. I think it was appropriate to award a star to the restaurant that, many believe, best exemplifies the style. Of course, I know there are some who say that Luger is overrated, alongside those who say that it's still as good as it was.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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How prestigious or how big of an honor is it for the to simply be listed in the guide?

On one hand, there's only 500 or so places out of tens of thousands in the city, and Michelin did say that mere inclusion means "a quality restaurant that stands out from others." On the other hand, that puts Michael Jordan Steakhouse on the same level as the Tasting Room and Blue Hill.

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How prestigious or how big of an honor is it for the to simply be listed in the guide?

In Europe, it is considered an honor. Most New Yorkers, except for those who have a stake in the outcome, have responded with a collective yawn. Zagat and New York Times reviews are considered more important.

Obviously, those restaurants that did better-than-expected are elated, and those that did worse-than-expected are saying the guide doesn't matter. Since this is but one of many sources of dining information, I suspect it won't have much of a perceptible impact at most places. (That is, it may have an impact, but you won't be able to measure it, since there are so many other factors at play.)

A comparatively unheralded restaurant like Saul (an unexpected one-star recipient) has probably seen a noticeable influx of diners. That may just be a temporary blip, but I'm sure they'll take it.

On one hand, there's only 500 or so places out of tens of thousands in the city, and Michelin did say that mere inclusion means "a quality restaurant that stands out from others."  On the other hand, that puts Michael Jordan Steakhouse on the same level as the Tasting Room and Blue Hill.

I don't think anyone has claimed that the 468 unstarred restaurants are on the same level.

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