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oakapple

Michelin Guide to New York est arrivé!

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[...]I also think it would be naive to think that Michelin doesn't want to prove the superiority of Paris over NYC. It seems likely that our consollation prizes are a sort of damnation with faint praise.

If that was their main goal, why didn't they give out fewer 3-star ratings?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I don't live in New York and have never been to any of the restaurants on the list, so I can just go by what I have heard, but....

I just recently (last month) completed a stage at a one star in Tuscany. Talking to the owner, the chef and the other guys in the restaurant I got the feeling that the Michelin system is a) biased toward "French" food and b) a little strange. This is what I was told:

1) Paris alone has something like 10 three star restaurants (I don't know the exact number), while the entire country of Italy has only four. I think that right there says something.

2) The difference in food between a 1 star and a 2 star is not that far off. What really makes the difference is the ambiance. I was told that the first star is awarded almost solely on food, the second on the decor and ambiance and the third is has to do with the wine list. Now I don't know how true this really is, but it does seem to make some sense. Then again, I was in Italy and they really don't like the French, so who knows? But, one of the best restaurants in Italy, Enoteca Pinchiorri, has a French chef and it's food is very much based in France. And it is three stars.

3) I was also told that most of the restaurants with two and three stars devote more time and energy to service and as such are not allowed to do more than 80 or so covers a night.

Again, this is all just speculation and things that I've heard. But I think some of it is very interesting.

Harlan


"Whatever doesn't kill me, only makes me stronger."

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I don't think that restaurants in France are awarded one star based solely on food. There has to be some level of formality, and there also has to be a decent wine list.

I haven't checked, but do any brasseries in Paris get a star? I don't think so, but I think some are listed without stars.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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The Michelin one stars are defined as "a quality restaurant that stands out from others in the same category of comfort", whereby the category of comfort is rated using between 1 and 5 fork and spoons.

My conclusion is, one shouldn't really compare a one star gastropub (such as the Spotted Pig) with the star of more upscale places (such as Babbo). If you look

to the European Michelin guides, one also finds simple gastropubs, trattorias, or bistros with a one-star rating which is not necessarily comparable to a star awarded to luxury places.

However, when it comes to Michelin's claim that the stars are awarded regardless of style of cuisine and level of comfort, this is simply not true. That stars are awarded regardless of the level of comfort is an outright contradiction to their own definition of one-star places, which requires that the restaurant stands out from others in the same category of comfort. To the claim that stars are awarded regardless of the style of cuisine, I would respond that the Michelin inspectors are not, and cannot be, qualified to judge asian food. Admittedly, from time to time an asian restaurant receives a star. But Michelin inspectors are usually european cooks by education which are necessarily indoctrinated by a certain style of cuisine, and therefore incapable of justly assessing other types of food. My guess is that no sushi restaurant in Tokyo, or the whole of Japan, would be awarded three stars by the Michelin inspectors. The Michelin guide thus is, at most, a dependable guide for styles of cuisine originating in Europe, and in particular, in France.

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Yes, Michelin claims that "Stars are awarded by the Michelin inspectors to restaurants offering the finest cooking, regardless of the style of cuisine and the level of comfort."

And it's simply not true.

"Our definition of three stars remains inclusive of the words “fine wines, faultless service, elegant surroundings.” which indicates that at this level we look for all round excellence." - Derek Bulmer, head of Michelin UK from his eGullet forum chat earlier this year. There's a lot of useful information straight from the horses mouth that should help de-code the guide ratings, including typical number of visits before awarding a star etc.

This FAQ on the Michelin website should also help with some of the other questions raised on this thread.

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The thing is, Michelin just isn't attuned to New York. The whole rating system is inapplicable here because the restaurants that succeed in this community by this community's standards are not necessarily the restaurants that would succeed in France by French standards.

A restaurant is a restaurant wherever it is in the world. Michelin's criteria, as far as they are willing to explain it (and there's actually quite a lot of information available when you look for it) is as valid in New York as it is in London, Paris, Dublin or Rome.

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The thing is, Michelin just isn't attuned to New York. The whole rating system is inapplicable here because the restaurants that succeed in this community by this community's standards are not necessarily the restaurants that would succeed in France by French standards.

A restaurant is a restaurant wherever it is in the world. Michelin's criteria, as far as they are willing to explain it (and there's actually quite a lot of information available when you look for it) is as valid in New York as it is in London, Paris, Dublin or Rome.

It should be, although it appears that a different standard might have been applied here. I believe Steven's criticism is a pertinent one.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Yes, Michelin claims that "Stars are awarded by the Michelin inspectors to restaurants offering the finest cooking, regardless of the style of cuisine and the level of comfort."

And it's simply not true.

"Our definition of three stars remains inclusive of the words “fine wines, faultless service, elegant surroundings.” which indicates that at this level we look for all round excellence." - Derek Bulmer, head of Michelin UK from his eGullet forum chat earlier this year. There's a lot of useful information straight from the horses mouth that should help de-code the guide ratings, including typical number of visits before awarding a star etc.

However he contradicted that to Heston B, where the dining room clearly wasn't at the level of the food.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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A restaurant is a restaurant wherever it is in the world.

I've got to disagree with that statement. There are types of restaurants. I don't even think it's accurate to say "a restaurant is a restaurant" when speaking about two restaurants across the street from one another, no less on different continents. The Michelin system is a rigorously developed (though not consistently honored by Michelin) system for rating French restaurants in France that happen to be striving for Michelin recognition. It's a self-perpetuating system that only works if a critical mass of establishments are buying into it. Once Michelin strays from the familiar and gets into non-French restaurants -- be it a Japanese restaurant in Paris or an American restaurant in New York -- the system collapses. It is simply not equipped to evaluate a polyglot dining culture outside of France, and the farther away the guide gets from France the less coherent it becomes. Recognizing some token ethnic restaurants and lowering standards for marketing purposes can't repair Michelin's fundamental unsuitability for any task other than rating French restaurants in France. It is barely adequate to that task anymore, given the expanding diversity of French haute cuisine styles. It was more relevant when everybody was cooking with Escoffier as the frame of reference. Beginning with Nouvelle Cuisine and especially with the rise of the culinary avant garde, Michelin has increasingly become an anachronism.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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especially with the rise of the culinary avant garde, Michelin has increasingly become an anachronism.

Even though many avant garde restaurants hold Michelin stars?

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Even if some of the restaurants were awarded stars that, for some are not deserved, do you believe it will create a competition in between restaurants to get a better rating next year and therefore make better restaurants ? I believe it will give a lot of chefs, maitre d waiters to be better, I believe they are going to play the game ... Am I wrong or what !


Edited by bigorre (log)

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I have been a frequent user of the Michelin Red Guides since 1964, and I have been awaiting the New York guide with great anticipation. As I have been staring at the ratings, I find that my initial negative reaction is becoming somewhat tempered.

On the plus side, they have made a substantial effort to be more flexible. Examples are Peter Luger, and I believe the Spotted Pig (never been). Giving Peter Luger a star, with its outstanding steak, but cardboard tomatoes, awful shrimp cocktail, mediocre sides and minimal deserts, represents a real departure for Michelin, and one that I applaud.

I also applaud them for recognizing that the empires of Meyer, Nieporent, and Batali are not built on culinary distinction.

On the negative side, they have allowed their desire to make an immediate marketing impact in New York compromise their historically conservative approach, and their standards.

-In the past, Michelin has introduced the guide slowly, often no 3 star restaurants and few 1 and 2 star restaurants the first year. By the third or fourth year, they would have expanded the starred list, and have gotten things pretty much right, although one can make the case that they have never gotten it right in Italy. By jumping so aggressively into New York, they have made a number of clear mistakes, commission and omission, which may create a target for their detractors. Most glaring is Danube, which in my opinion barely deserves 1 star, if that.

-By the standards of the European guides, the ratings are clearly inflated, I would estimate by one half star on average. For their existing user base, this may cause a significant negative reaction, with potential impact on their brand.

As others have pointed out, Michelin is Eurocentric, and is weak in its ability to evaluate Asian restaurants, which for the NY high-end, particularly means Japanese restaurants. This is a universal problem, not specific to the NY guide.

However, my bottom line is that despite any of the above, they have produced the best, by far, cuisine oriented list of the top 39 NY restaurants. They have largely penetrated beyond the hype, the cutting edge restaurant designs, the people scenes, and the places that offer solicitous service to insecure diners. For New Yorkers, and for visitors, this guide will be very useful to those who are focused on getting the best food available.

It must be recognized that this is not a guide for those seeking the quintessential "New York" experience. To me, this has always come across as a justification for why less is more, why it's good to be crowded into a loud restaurant, where one is expected to eat quickly, and accept that one only VIPs and regulars are well treated.

At the same time, looking at this list of top 39 creates a palpable sense of disappointment. Is this all that there is? Are any of these restaurants world class? Is New York a great restaurant city for serious dining? For me the answer is no.

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Even if some of the restaurants were awarded stars that, for some are not deserved, do you believe it will create a competition in between restaurants to get a better rating next year and therefore make better restaurants ? I believe it will give a lot of chefs, maitre d waiters to be better,  I believe they are going to play the game ... Am I wrong or what !

Among New Yorkers, Zagat remains king. The question is how much influence Michelin will have with tourist/business visitors. I suspect that, to restaurants that were flying below the 'foodie' radar, there could be a noticeable boost.

Michelin has made some changes for the NYC guide. It's 500 pages, with photos and text descriptions of the restaurants. It'll be interesting to see how they describe these places — particularly establishments like Chanterelle and L'Impero that believed they were in line for a star, but didn't get one. Will the write-up offer a hint as to why they were overlooked? (The much-lampooned "Yes...but" style of Zagat comes to mind.)

It is worth noting that there are 507 restaurants covered in the guide. Not every person is looking for a "starred" meal every night. It's not as if the 39 starred restaurants are "winners," and everybody else "losers."

Andy Lynes posted some useful links. According to Michelin, a star restaurant is comparable only to other restaurants in its category. They are most definitely not saying that Babbo and The Spotted Pig are comparable, since they are not in the same category.

Bigorre wondered whether restaurants will go "star-hunting." In general, I doubt it. Running a restaurant is a commercial proposition. They will change if it's in their best interest as a business; otherwise, they won't.

FatGuy said that Michelin is capable of judging classic French cuisine, and nothing else. How, then, does one explain restaurants like El Bulli and and The Fat Duck having three stars?

I do agree that non-European cuisines seem to have been under-represented in ths star list. It'll be interesting to see what they say about places like Sushi Yasuda and Kurumazushi, or for that matter Tabla.


Edited by oakapple (log)

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Do we know if Michelin has set up office in the United States/New York?

Did the European inspectors go out and help with the proceedings?

I thought they were going to be a lot more conservative for the first ever guide.

Paul


I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'

Tommy Cooper

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I'm going to echo Marcus to some extent.

I think we're treating the Michelin system as equivalent to the NYT 4-star system (with its many 1 and 2 stars)...instead of remembering that one-star is a remarkable mark of distinction (by their standards).

considered in this way, it's a damn fine list of 39....and if each of us came up with our own list of 39 there would probably be 75% overlap. which says something.

I, for one, will probably now check out Saul, something that otherwise I never would have done.

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[...]Which means that the 1 stars were going to be a grab-bag by definition.  I have to say that if they'd picked a Sriphathai instead of a Vong that might have made some waves....

Can you think of any similarly non-luxe restaurants in any other place that have gotten a star from Michelin? I tend to think that luxury is too important to their set of criteria for such an informal place to ever get a star, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

. . .

Are you referring to Sripthathai as the non-luxe standard or to the restaurants that got a star? I've been in a number of non-luxe Michelin one star restaurants in France and some of them were rather simple places. Even in Paris, some could have been described as little more than neighborhood places and sometimes not the most appealing looking place on the block. In Michelin's defense, I would note that even in France the one star listing is a hodgepodge group. (A left handed defense, I will admit.) In fact, in France, Michelin notes that one stars are a good place to stop on your journey--not a destination or reason to go out of your way. That four out of five inspectors were French might make the guide of more use to a traveling Frenchment than to a sophisticated New York diner. La Goulue has always been a upper east side enclave far less democratic than Cafe Boulud for instance, but a place where Frenchmen have always received first class treatment, or so it's always seemed to me.

This is what I see:

Michelin inspectors have divided up the restaurants into two categories - ONE STAR and BETTER THAN ONE STAR.

. . . .

The difference in France between one star and two is far greater than between two stars and three. A single star is relative. A single star in a region knot known for food is less significant than one in a food rich area. Likewise, one star is relative to the price in spite of there also being a bib gourmand classification.

Just another country and another continent where the Michelin list isn't my list. The interesting thing is to realize just how much perhaps we've let Michelin influence our thinking about French cuisine and choice of restaurants in France. Our opinions have, I suspect, always been tempered by knowing the star level in advance of a meal. Based on our tastes and experiences, I find a good part of this list to be rather bizarre, but no more out of kilter with our experience in Spain or more recently in Italy.

My guess is that Daniel was hurt by the sheer number of covers they serve an evening. Whether the numbers alone prejudiced the inspectors into believing they couldn't maintain consistency, whether they found inconsistency or were simply offended by the number of times a new table was seated are things we can only speculate about. . . . .

Took the words right out of my mouth. In retrospect, I suggest you will also understand why in spite of our willingness to accept Michelin's rating as almost above reproach, we had trouble with so many ratings. Certainly Roellinger in Cancale and Amat outside of Bordeaux put huge cracks in our faith. Amat, who lost a star, lost his place to creditors unlike Veyrat who with three stars was too great an asset for the bank to lose.

The guy eating in Peter Lugar's quoted by Florence Fabricant as saying "he had never heard of the Michelin guide," is humorous, but one wonders if the net effect of the publication of the NY guide will be to influence tourists as much as it will be to have traveling New Yorkers question the stars in the France guide.


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.

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Not having eaten in New York since 1980, I have nothing at all to say about the restaurants Michelin likes or doesn't.

But I find it very, very remarkable that the number of 3-star and 2-star restaurants is the same.

What is more surprising: the quantity of 3-stars or the paucity of 2-stars, I wonder?

I don't think there is any Guide Michelin where these categories are in equilibrium.


Charles Milton Ling

Vienna, Austria

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especially with the rise of the culinary avant garde, Michelin has increasingly become an anachronism.

Even though many avant garde restaurants hold Michelin stars?

It's been my experience when traveling in France that innovative cooking may be a faster way to gain a Michelin star than simply preparing classic cuisine. If anything, Michelin has bent over backwards to at least look for the avant garde, especially when awarding a first star. An avant garde style has never hurt Marc Veyrat or Pierre Gagnaire either. They're far more honored by their Michelin rating than by diner's recent comments. If Steven is saying Michelin can't recognize creativity when they find it, or if they can't tell the successful from the unsuccessful, that's another story, but not one I can confirm at this point.


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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Docsconz, I agree w. you.

We haven't dined at Per Se or Ducasse but would agree w. Jean George

as being 3* [when 'on']. Don't feel that Le Bernardin or Daniel offer a 3*

experience. If Bouley returned to a bit more precise cutting edge

[rather than the mostly unchanging tasting menu] & slowed down the

service to provide a more gracious experience, think he would merit 3*.

Glad to see some famous restaurants which we found less than riveting,

were not overly starred. For us, this would include Aureole, Gramercy,

Gptham, March. From my post just a week ago, I cannot even imagine

how La Goulue ever made the list...on any level and see no comparisons

between it and Fleur de Sel which has fine cuisine.

Perhaps the 'diverstiy' of 1* choices reflects coming to the 'new world'

which presents rather varied cuisine. Can you imagine the howl, if the

list tilted towards french? And Michelin never really embraces Italian

cuisine.

Corrected myself;meant Gotham, not Union Sq


Edited by PaulaJK (log)

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I'm going to echo Marcus to some extent.

I think we're treating the Michelin system as equivalent to the NYT 4-star system (with its many 1 and 2 stars)...instead of remembering that one-star is a remarkable mark of distinction (by their standards).

considered in this way, it's a damn fine list of 39....and if each of us came up with our own list of 39 there would probably be 75% overlap.  which says something.

I, for one, will probably now check out Saul, something that otherwise I never would have done.

Where do you live? In France, one would not usually leave an area loaded with multistarred restos simply to visit a one star restaurant in a less star infested region. If true to Michelin's own standards in France, the award of a star in Brooklyn, may be expected to be based on lower standards than one awarded in Manahattan. By a similar token, the award of one star for a restaurant alone in its class might also not a suprise even if restaurants in other classes were better values and did not get a star.

Two and three star awards may be thought of as absolute and that's why Michelin notes they are worth a detour or a special journey. In either case, that seems to meet the basic definition of destination restaurant. Someone should publish a guide with the simple numerical award of how many blocks out of one's way one should go for this food. You factor in your address and get your personal score.


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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Another question ....is any other major US city expected to be rated next year

In his online chat today, Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post said:

A spokesman for Michelin informs me that Washington is on the guide's radar, but the next U.S. city to be covered will be San Francisco. Indeed, inspectors are eating their way through the city by the bay as I type.


Bill Russell

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I think we're treating the Michelin system as equivalent to the NYT 4-star system (with its many 1 and 2 stars)...instead of remembering that one-star is a remarkable mark of distinction (by their standards).

considered in this way, it's a damn fine list of 39....and if each of us came up with our own list of 39 there would probably be 75% overlap.  which says something.

I, for one, will probably now check out Saul, something that otherwise I never would have done.

I can't critique their 2- and 3-star choices. I've dined at two of the former (Bouley & Danube) and none of the latter. I will say that I can far more easily see some of the current 1-stars being promoted to two, than any of the 2-stars being promoted to 3. The peculiar fact that there are an equal number of 2- and 3-star places is almost certainly not permanent.

I think I can comment on the 1-stars, since I've been to about half of them. I agree with Nathan that if we each made a list of our own 31 "special" places in NYC, there'd be a considerable amount of overlap with this list. Like it or not, I don't think they drew Saul out of a hat. A considerable amount of thought must have gone into awarding that star.

I've been in a number of non-luxe Michelin one star restaurants in France and some of them were rather simple places. Even in Paris, some could have been described as little more than neighborhood places and sometimes not the most appealing looking place on the block. In Michelin's defense, I would note that even in France the one star listing is a hodgepodge group. (A left handed defense, I will admit.)

That actually seems to me a pretty reasonable defense. Michelin was introducing an existing system to New York, not inventing a new system.

It's been my experience when traveling in France that innovative cooking may be a faster way to gain a Michelin star than simply preparing classic cuisine.

On the Q&A that Andy Lynes pointed to, Michelin's UK editor said that a restaurant can earn one star by preparing a traditional cuisine extremely well, but that two and three stars require originality (in addition to other things).


Edited by oakapple (log)

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I don't think that restaurants in France are awarded one star based solely on food. There has to be some level of formality, and there also has to be a decent wine list.

I simply don't believe that based on long experience of traveling in France and repeatedly making the mistake of going out of my way for a disappointing one star meal, often in a simple place with a selection wines that didn't match that of many an unstarred neighborhood restaurant in Manhattan.

I haven't checked, but do any brasseries in Paris get a star? I don't think so, but I think some are listed without stars.

I don't believe any of the brasseries have a star, but it would be a mistake to think that brassseries offer a low level of comfort or even formality. They are by far not the most informal places to eat in Paris and actually many are more than a bit formal. By and large, they fall in the two fork and spoon grouping. Crossed forks and spoons are Michelin's way of noting level of comfort, or ambience as we might put it. The rating goes from one (low) to five (high). I don't have the 2005 France guide, but in 2004, there was a restaurant in the 16th arr. that had a star and one fork and spoon.


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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