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2007 Michelin New York


Fat Guy
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Another inconsistent and troubling US effort from Michelin, although there is improvement over 2006. I am reminded that in the past, it has taken Michelin about 4-5 years to get a new red guide mostly right, in Italy they have never gotten it right, however, in the process they have generally taken a low profile, awarding few stars, rather than the plethora of stars awarded in NY. It also seems clear, that on average, the NY ratings are pitched about one half star higher than they would be on the continent.

In the plus column most particularly is the demotion of Danube, the most glaring mistake among the 2006 2-3 star selections, which has been downgraded to one star. Other changes in the one star area show a slight improvement, although adding A Voce, although not a bad restaurant, seems misguided. Devi, may possibly be the best Indian restaurant in NY, but I have eaten there a number of times, and always leave mildly disappointed. On the other hand, it is better than Tamarind, which continues to receive one star in London. I am pleased to see that L'Impero and Union Square Cafe, both in my view prime exemplars of NY mediocrity, despite many predictions, did not receive stars. However, there remain many odd inclusions. The most notable omission is arguably Sugiyama. One might make a case for Blue Hill, although I wouldn't, but to my taste, Hearth is a clear step below. It should also be noted, that reading between the Michelin lines, the food quality level for receiving 2 and 3 stars appears to be invariate, however, for one star, the category of the restaurant is a factor. This can be used as a justification for awarding a, in my opinion proper, star to Peter Luger. I have never eaten at the Spotted Pig, so I can't comment there, but it appears to be a similar situation. There is thus nothing inherently inconsistent in giving one star to both Craft and, for example, the Spotted Pig.

Of interest are the 43 bib gourmand restaurants (under $40) introduced this year. I am familiar with somewhat more than half, and it's an odd collection of winners and losers. On the plus side are Cho Dang Gol and Saravanaas, my personal go to local restaurants when I am looking for authentic and savory asian ethnics. There are also interesting choices that show valid recognition of how NY is different than Europe, such as Katz's and NY Noodletown, which are so funky that they couldn't even get into those guides at all, let alone get a bib gourmand. There are also a number of good, if obvious choices, like Sripraphai, Pearl's, Mary's, etc. However, there are also: El Parador, Golden Unicorn, Home, Nyonya, Vatan, which are retro restaurants which long ago may have made a culinary statement, but have now been long since supassed by many newer and better arrivals. Blue Smoke and Dinosaur, only illustrate that NY does not have any good barbecue, and Jaiya, a Manhattan offshoot of the now defunct Queens restaurant, which never measured up to the original, is now so bad that I wouldn't have eaten the last meal that I had there for free.

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This post (I happen to agree with most of it) illustrates why I doubt an egullet consensus list would be any better than the Michelin list.

Marcus takes exactly the opposite viewpoint to some on this thread on several restaurants.

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and i think he's totally looney for it.

scott conant's food is amazing, it really is. if l'impero is enough to make scott:

food and wine best new chef

james beard award best new restaurant

3 stars from the new york times

maybe you might think michelin could give l'impero a star.

also, disclosure: i used to work there. i ate all the food. it's certainly at a 1 star level, here or in france or the uk or wherever.

and while we're on the subject of italian food, felidia should have one, too.

i agree that union square should not. it's an amazign restaurant and a really good time, great vibe, great service, but the food isn't really at the level of craft or gramercy or anissa or gotham.

also i think it's a huge foresight that blue hill doesn't have one. the quality of food is just there, it is. blue hill and stone barns are some of the best meals i've ever had, anywhere.

i can't speak about asian food because i don't eat it too often.

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I might disagree with marcus on some points, but I assign far more value to his choices than to Michelin's. For one thing, he's available to explain his reasoning. Michelin asks for faith but offers no credible reasons to take the leap. For another thing, he has both international perspective and long-time experience in the market in question (I'll disagree with marcus about L'Impero as soon as I hear one knowledgeable Italian gourmet say it's a great restaurant). Do the Michelin inspectors? Some of their looney choices indicate that they are, as a group, rather clueless. Of course we don't know who they are. And for still another thing, marcus isn't overreaching: he's offering opinions about what he knows, not trying to be an authority about what he doesn't know.

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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scott conant's food is amazing, it really is.  if l'impero is enough to make scott:

food and wine best new chef

james beard award best new restaurant

3 stars from the new york times

maybe you might think michelin could give l'impero a star.

I've never dined at L'Impero, but it isn't the only NYT 3-star restaurant that lacks a Michelin star. The Beard awards are notoriously political, and represent a point-in-time judgment, not what the restaurant is necessarily doing today. The Times reviews are similarly stale, and conceivably some of these restaurants wouldn't get three stars if they were reviewed again.

In terms of my personal favorites, I would give single Michelin stars to Chanterelle and Blue Hill. But another person says L'Impero, and another says Union Square Café, and yet another says Aquavit. That's why I agree with Nathan that a "consensus eGullet list" wouldn't be any better than Michelin's—it would merely be different.

Of NYT 3-star restaurants that currently do not have a Michelin star, my views are:

Felidia - no opinion

L'Impero - no opinion

Chanterelle - should have a Michelin Star

Blue Hill - should have a Michelin Star

Spice Market - rightly denied a star

JoJo - rightly denied a star

Nobu - rightly denied a star

Nobu 57 - rightly denied a star

March - no opinion

Union Square Café - no opinion

La Grenouille - no opinion

Aquavit - borderline, but IMO rightly denied a star

BLT Fish - rightly denied a star

That's off the top of my head; there are probably others.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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and i think he's totally looney for it.

scott conant's food is amazing, it really is.

I do understand your point of view. However, for me L'Impero has for a number of years been a primary touchstone restaurant, indicating whether I will find common ground with another person's opinions. I still have a strong recollection of spaghetti with a tomato basil sauce whose flavor was totally flat, and sliced venison, overcooked and with zero succulence.

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Just to clarify my point:

I can think of several people here of whom I have no question would put together a better individual list than Michelin. But that's not a fair consensus, since the Michelin list is a consensus list. My proposition is that an egullet consensus list would not be any better.

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I might disagree with marcus on some points, but I assign far more value to his choices than to Michelin's. For one thing, he's available to explain his reasoning. Michelin asks for faith but offers no credible reasons to take the leap. For another thing, he has both international perspective and long-time experience in the market in question (I'll disagree with marcus about L'Impero as soon as I hear one knowledgeable Italian gourmet say it's a great restaurant). Do the Michelin inspectors? Some of their looney choices indicate that they are, as a group, rather clueless. Of course we don't know who they are. And for still another thing, marcus isn't overreaching: he's offering opinions about what he knows, not trying to be an authority about what he doesn't know.

This is a rather parochial view of the world when speaking about Michelin (or similar guides - like Gault Millau/Gayot) and the world in general from a travelers' point of view. I am not sure that anyone who lives in a particular city needs a Michelin guide for his/her home turf (although a Zagat's is handy for addresses and phone numbers and the like). The main value of a guide - any guide - comes into play when you are traveling in a strange city - and - especially - in a strange country where you do not speak the language. You may value Marcus' opinion (and it may be an extremely informed opinion) - but assuming you're talking about a traveler to New York who doesn't speak English - his opinion is worthless to that traveler.

And turn this on its head. What happens when someone like you or me goes to a strange country where we do not speak the language? Sure - there's a "pilgrimage trail" of perhaps several dozen major restaurants in countries like France and Spain that have reams written about them in English. But what then?

I traveled to one major country this year (Japan) and am traveling to another next year (Germany) where there is almost zilch (or zilch) written about major restaurants in informed reviews in English - not even 3 star Michelin restaurants in Germany - or restaurants that would be 3 star Michelin restaurants in Japan if Japan had a Michelin guide. So if I have problems on this end - I can imagine how hard it is for someone from Japan or Germany who doesn't speak English - or serviceable English (and I'm sure most people in those countries don't) to find anything written about New York restaurants that's more informative than a Michelin star or stars - or Gault Millau/Gayot toques - or the like.

Take the New York Michelin guide for what it is. A useful - but not perfect - guide for travelers who think your city is worth a visit - and that certain restaurants in your city are worthy of their patronage. It's quite serviceable when viewed in that light - particularly at the upper end of the guidance. Robyn

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Robyn, you're assuming that your experience with travel in Japan and Germany is indicative of the Japanese and German experience when traveling in New York. True, there isn't so much written in English from a gourmet perspective about restaurants in Germany or Japan (though there's a lot more than none). But there is tons written in German and Japanese about restaurants in New York. Japanese guidebooks to New York, in particular, are legendary for their thoroughness not only with respect to restaurants but also clubs, shopping and everything else about New York. No Japanese traveler needs a Michelin guide to New York. Is it even available in Japanese? In addition, while even highly educated Americans tend to be mono-lingual (or if they have two languages those languages are English and Spanish), average folks in countries like Japan and Germany tend to study English as a second, third or fourth language -- so they're equipped to utilize English-language guidebooks and websites. Do you really think Japanese and German tourists need the Michelin guide to find Per Se or Peter Luger?

Nathan and oakapple, why are you hung up on the question of whether an "eGullet consensus list" would be better than the Michelin list? I think it's kind of bizarre to argue that eGullet Society members disagree about restaurants, therefore an eGullet consensus list would be just as bad as Michelin, therefore Michelin's list is, what, good? We offer a totally different kind of resource. What would be really funny, I think, would be Michelin's version of online discussion forums, with rules like "You may write one sentence, unless it's about New York in which case you may write a page, however you are prohibited from imparting any useful information or real opinions except via symbols." Then again, there aren't enough keys on a computer keyboard to communicate in Michelin symbol-speak.

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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Robyn, you're assuming that your experience with travel in Japan and Germany is indicative of the Japanese and German experience when traveling in New York. True, there isn't so much written in English from a gourmet perspective about restaurants in Germany or Japan (though there's a lot more than none). But there is tons written in German and Japanese about restaurants in New York. Japanese guidebooks to New York, in particular, are legendary for their thoroughness not only with respect to restaurants but also clubs, shopping and everything else about New York. No Japanese traveler needs a Michelin guide to New York. Is it even available in Japanese? In addition, while even highly educated Americans tend to be mono-lingual (or if they have two languages those languages are English and Spanish), average folks in countries like Japan and Germany tend to study English as a second, third or fourth language -- so they're equipped to utilize English-language guidebooks and websites. Do you really think Japanese and German tourists need the Michelin guide to find Per Se or Peter Luger?

Well I think the average eGullet user (much less the average person who doesn't know that much about food) needs a guide to tell me the 3 arguably best restaurants in cities like Tokyo (and probably more widely traveled cities like London or Paris or Madrid as well). So it is probable that the average Japanese or British or French or Spanish traveler needs a similar guide to places in the US. If you walk into a high class restaurant in a major city like Tokyo or Berlin - or even London - and mention Per Se - you'll probably be met with a blank stare.

Now that guide doesn't necessarily have to be Michelin. Perhaps there are "Fuji" guides in Japan written in Japanese that help Japanese tourists. All I'm saying is that because a guide isn't 100% perfect doesn't mean that it's not useful to travelers.

Where would you have non-US residents look for useful information about US restaurants? Do you object to guide books in general - or just Michelin? And do you object to Michelin just in the US - or in other places too?

Keep in mind that what you said about languages is a big myth. Americans who generally speak not 10 words of any foreign language like to think that just about everyone everywhere else speaks English as a second, third or fourth language. I have found this in general not to be true once one leaves concierge desks in better hotels. I have been to 3 star restaurants in France (as well as places outside restaurants) where almost no - or no English - is spoken. Ditto in Italy and Spain. Central America. Even Miami :wink: . Certainly there are about as many people in Japan who speak passable English as there are people in the US who speak passable Japanese (even the Japanese people who come to visit my town to play big deal golf usually don't speak a word of English). And although I was assured this was not the case in Germany - I am having language difficulties communicating with reservations desks at luxury hotels in Germany in email. All in all - I've found the only countries where one can depend on excellent English as a second or third language are - for example - those in Scandinavia (it's important to learn a second or third language which is "major" when the primary language in your country is spoken by a relatively small number of people).

If many (wealthy) Japanese were so conversant with English - why does every Gucci store in the US (even the one in Palm Beach) have a sales person who speaks fluent Japanese?

I guess what I'm saying is I don't get the point of this discussion. If it's that people who live in New York and speak English know more about the restaurants in New York than the people who've been working on a Michelin guide for all of 2 years now - ok - I can buy that. If it's that guides like Michelin (and others) and Michelin's star system (and other "star systems" - like Gault/Millau's toques) aren't useful for travelers - I can't buy that. Robyn

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Certainly there are about as many people in Japan who speak passable English as there are people in the US who speak passable Japanese

I'd love to see any evidence for that claim. Perhaps you'll find it if you research the mandatory English education programs in Japanese schools. Not that guidebooks speak. I think you'll find that the number of Japanese who can understand written English is about infinity times the number of Americans who can understand written Japanese. Not that you need to understand much of any language to read a Michelin guide, since the Michelin red guides don't really say anything. They're great gifts for space aliens who speak purely mathematical languages and don't care about the reliability of their sources.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't get the point of this discussion.  If it's that people who live in New York and speak English know more about the restaurants in New York than the people who've been working on a Michelin guide for all of 2 years now - ok - I can buy that.  If it's that guides like Michelin (and others) and Michelin's star system (and other "star systems" - like Gault/Millau's toques) aren't useful for travelers - I can't buy that. 

The point is that the Michelin red guide to New York is neither well informed nor particularly useful especially given all the other information sources out there.

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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Nathan and oakapple, why are you hung up on the question of whether an "eGullet consensus list" would be better than the Michelin list? I think it's kind of bizarre to argue that eGullet Society members disagree about restaurants, therefore an eGullet consensus list would be just as bad as Michelin, therefore Michelin's list is, what, good?

I'm not really all that "hung up" on it. It's really just a response to comments like, "Michelin didn't award a star to Blue Hill; therefore, their ratings are garbage." In fact, their stars have a reasonably high correlation to other media sources that rate restaurants. A few of their choices are odd, but a few of Zagat's choices are odd, and a few of Frank Bruni's choices are odd, and a few of Adam Platt's choices are odd, etc., etc. The "eGullet consensus list" is obviously a hypothetical construct, because as FG has pointed out, eGullet doesn't formally do restaurant ratings, and doesn't intend to.

I do think the Michelin Guide is the best New York restaurant guidebook I've seen. For those visitors that buy restaurant guidebooks—I don't know how many do, but Michelin isn't printing them as a public service—it's a pretty good resource. I would recommend it more highly than the Zagat Guide. That doesn't excuse Michelin's lapses, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

I agree with FG that eGullet and the Michelin Guide really aren't comparable. They're just different types of resources. As a regular here, I have a sense of this site's strengths and limitations. Someone just parachuting in for a quick look won't necessarily know. And there are huge gaps in what eGullet covers. Some restaurants are covered in practically encyclopedic detail, while some other excellent ones are seldom mentioned.

As someone with a higher-than-average interest in New York dining, I have the time and interest to collect data from many diverse information sources. The tourist or occasional diner might not be inclined to do that. And for that purpose, I find the Michelin Guide reasonably well-informed and useful. Indeed, it is useful enough that I bought a copy for myself, even though I am obviously not relying on it as a primary source.

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Certainly there are about as many people in Japan who speak passable English as there are people in the US who speak passable Japanese

I'd love to see any evidence for that claim. Perhaps you'll find it if you research the mandatory English education programs in Japanese schools. Not that guidebooks speak. I think you'll find that the number of Japanese who can understand written English is about infinity times the number of Americans who can understand written Japanese. Not that you need to understand much of any language to read a Michelin guide, since the Michelin red guides don't really say anything. They're great gifts for space aliens who speak purely mathematical languages and don't care about the reliability of their sources.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't get the point of this discussion.  If it's that people who live in New York and speak English know more about the restaurants in New York than the people who've been working on a Michelin guide for all of 2 years now - ok - I can buy that.  If it's that guides like Michelin (and others) and Michelin's star system (and other "star systems" - like Gault/Millau's toques) aren't useful for travelers - I can't buy that. 

The point is that the Michelin red guide to New York is neither well informed nor particularly useful especially given all the other information sources out there.

Japanese people are supposed to be able to *read* more English than they *speak*. Which is why your hotel concierge won't let you leave the hotel without a card or instructions written in Japanese detailing the places you want to go - and how to get back to your hotel. Note that I am not fussing at the Japanese. How many Americans can put together a single coherent sentence in French 10 years after their last high school course? I used to speak fluent Spanish - and my fluency has disappeared rapidly after 10 years of non-use. By the way - one reason Japanese may be able to read English better than they speak it is one form of "Japanese" writing is Romanji - which is the use of the Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. But that's like saying I can "read" French (without understanding a word of what I'm reading).

But more to the main point - I think what you're saying is you just don't like the Michelin guide system. That you find the concept of awarding stars and knives and forks - a kind of shorthand - essentially worthless - and that you don't trust the organization because you don't know the origin (or reliability) of the source material. Is this what you're saying? If not - please explain. And does your opinion extend to all Michelin red guides - or only the one in New York?

On my part - I am more inclined to trust the anonymity of the Michelin guide than anything that a fellow like Frank Bruni says about a place (because he has - in my opinion - broken the first rule of restaurant reviewers - which is to be anonymous if at all possible).

And - of course - when you're talking about New York - you don't have to rely on anyone. You live there. If you want to try a new place - or revisit an old one - you hop into a cab and do it. What do you use when you're "on the road" and want to find great places to dine? Robyn

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But more to the main point - I think what you're saying is you just don't like the Michelin guide system.  That you find the concept of awarding stars and knives and forks - a kind of shorthand - essentially worthless - and that you don't trust the organization because you don't know the origin (or reliability) of the source material.  Is this what you're saying?  If not - please explain.

I've explained it more times than I have energy to count.

And does your opinion extend to all Michelin red guides - or only the one in New York?

All of them, with the French guide being the most credible (though not particularly credible these days) and the American guides being the least credible.

On my part - I am more inclined to trust the anonymity of the Michelin guide

So anonymity equals reliability? Shouldn't knowledge enter into the picture? How do you know the Michelin inspectors have any knowledge? We don't know enough about them to make any such judgments, so we have to take it on faith. Why are you so willing to do that? You don't strike me as a person who takes much on faith.

What do you use when you're "on the road" and want to find great places to dine?  Robyn

Depends where I am. The internet, newspapers, various guidebooks, recommendations of friends . . . never Michelin -- it means nothing to me.

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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Nathan and oakapple, why are you hung up on the question of whether an "eGullet consensus list" would be better than the Michelin list? I think it's kind of bizarre to argue that eGullet Society members disagree about restaurants, therefore an eGullet consensus list would be just as bad as Michelin, therefore Michelin's list is, what, good?

I'm not really all that "hung up" on it. It's really just a response to comments like, "Michelin didn't award a star to Blue Hill; therefore, their ratings are garbage." In fact, their stars have a reasonably high correlation to other media sources that rate restaurants. A few of their choices are odd, but a few of Zagat's choices are odd, and a few of Frank Bruni's choices are odd, and a few of Adam Platt's choices are odd, etc., etc. The "eGullet consensus list" is obviously a hypothetical construct, because as FG has pointed out, eGullet doesn't formally do restaurant ratings, and doesn't intend to.

I do think the Michelin Guide is the best New York restaurant guidebook I've seen. For those visitors that buy restaurant guidebooks—I don't know how many do, but Michelin isn't printing them as a public service—it's a pretty good resource. I would recommend it more highly than the Zagat Guide. That doesn't excuse Michelin's lapses, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

I agree with FG that eGullet and the Michelin Guide really aren't comparable. They're just different types of resources. As a regular here, I have a sense of this site's strengths and limitations. Someone just parachuting in for a quick look won't necessarily know. And there are huge gaps in what eGullet covers. Some restaurants are covered in practically encyclopedic detail, while some other excellent ones are seldom mentioned.

As someone with a higher-than-average interest in New York dining, I have the time and interest to collect data from many diverse information sources. The tourist or occasional diner might not be inclined to do that. And for that purpose, I find the Michelin Guide reasonably well-informed and useful. Indeed, it is useful enough that I bought a copy for myself, even though I am obviously not relying on it as a primary source.

I agree with you. I think the Michelin red guide (anywhere it is available) is simply one source of information about a destination. In some destinations it covers - it may be the only reasonable source of information. Because other food guide books aren't available. Because of language limitations (you can't speak the language in a foreign destination). Or because a local restaurant reviewer for a major newspaper is partially or totally unreliable. Etc.

Note that I've read a lot of messages here - and on other chat boards - and I basically do not trust what amateurs have to say about high end restaurants (although I think they're sometimes useful to find the names of lesser places you're unlikely to find elsewhere). Some just don't know anything about food - and are impressed by restaurants simply because they're famous.

At the other end of the spectrum - there are people who do know a lot about fine dining - but are well known at certain places - and sometimes receive treatment different than the treatment I get (I don't think that should happen at any fine restaurant - but it does). I find the opinions of people in the latter category more dangerous than the former - because - at first blush - you think you should listen to them. But then - if you read a lot of what they write - you realize that their opinions are often influenced by how much a particular places fawns over them. They will "upgrade" an opinion based on fawning (which is more likely to happen at a place they go to frequently) - and dismiss a place unfairly if they aren't treated like royalty (which is more likely to happen at a place they go to once).

I'm sure there are people in between - who do know good food and write about it objectively - but they don't cover a whole lot of ground in terms of geography. And sometimes their taste in food isn't your cup of tea (I personally am sick of people/restaurants who think a high end meal without foie gras isn't a high end meal - I'd rather see the chef do something creative with pears).

Even I have personal rules about my writing. I will almost never write anything bad about a restaurant unless it is an extremely famous celebrity chef restaurant where the reality of the meal was so far below what I'd read about it on a chat board that I felt compelled to give "an opposing point of view". Otherwise - I just keep quiet about the bad meal. I'm sure there are people who do what I do - or people who will even lie about a bad meal because of business or personal relationships.

By the way - just curious - what sources/resources do you use to research restaurants in New York - and other areas? Robyn

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But more to the main point - I think what you're saying is you just don't like the Michelin guide system.  That you find the concept of awarding stars and knives and forks - a kind of shorthand - essentially worthless - and that you don't trust the organization because you don't know the origin (or reliability) of the source material.  Is this what you're saying?  If not - please explain.

I've explained it more times than I have energy to count.

And does your opinion extend to all Michelin red guides - or only the one in New York?

All of them, with the French guide being the most credible (though not particularly credible these days) and the American guides being the least credible.

On my part - I am more inclined to trust the anonymity of the Michelin guide

So anonymity equals reliability? Shouldn't knowledge enter into the picture? How do you know the Michelin inspectors have any knowledge? We don't know enough about them to make any such judgments, so we have to take it on faith. Why are you so willing to do that? You don't strike me as a person who takes much on faith.

What do you use when you're "on the road" and want to find great places to dine?  Robyn

Depends where I am. The internet, newspapers, various guidebooks, recommendations of friends . . . never Michelin -- it means nothing to me.

The reason I use Michelin is I have found it in general to be reliable at the high end level - 2/3 stars. One is a lot more variable. I do use it with a grain of salt though. Since it is generally very slow to "demote" 2/3 restaurants - I think the newer the rating - the more reliable it probably is.

Michelin is new in the US. Although I travel a fair amount - I don't do a lot of repeat visits to one place. Nevertheless - we were at 3 1 star restaurants in San Francisco last year - and I thought the stars were pretty much on target. Ate at 2 of the 3 stars in NY (1 in 2001 - the other in 2004) - and I thought they were pretty much on target too. With one caveat. I do think there is some "grade inflation" in the US. Neither Per Se nor ADNY was as good as Gordon Ramsay RHR (most recent European 3 star). And Quince and La Folie in San Francisco weren't as good as a place like Tom Aikens (another European 1 star). La Folie probably got some "grade inflation" from being French too. Chez Panisse was however in line with the best of European 1 stars that I've dined at recently.

I think we'll be dining at 2 3 star restaurants in Germany. One is relatively recent in terms of 3 stars - the other is relatively old. They are pretty close together - and neither is particularly expensive (in terms of 3 star restaurants worldwide). So I'll see if the thesis about the age of the stars holds. Even though I've found exceptions to this rule. The stars at Gordon Ramsay RHR aren't new and bright. Nevertheless - our meal there was superb.

I guess another rule of thumb I use is to avoid tasting menus. I genuinely hate the concept. And the execution is frequently mediocre or stale (the chef's greatest hits). Not to mention that what's on the tasting menu may not be my idea of a "good time" dining. The main on the tasting menu may be the best pork in the world - but if the chef also has a Bresse pigeon - well I want the pigeon. That's just my taste. The chef's tasting menu really locks you in.

Anyway - in a nutshell - I guess Michelin is a lot like what people have said about democracy. Not perfect - but better than the alternatives. And I don't generally use it in a vacuum. I do try to get back-up opinions - especially at the 3 star level. But sometimes you can't - or you think what you're reading in terms of back-ups might not be reliable. Or you just take a plunge. When we went to ADNY - your review was about the only positive piece I'd read about the place. And we were a walk-in - not going on any reviews. It was a rainy night - and we just hoped for a fabulous place to eat on our 30th anniversary. In the end - when you're traveling thousands of miles to eat in a place you've never been before - it's basically a crap-shoot - and you just hope you leave dinner with a smile and not a frown. We've been pretty lucky recently - and we hope our luck holds. I'll be buying a Michelin red guide to Germany - and I'll report back and let you know how useful/accurate I think it is (I'll be using it for both big and little deal dining). Robyn

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and i think he's totally looney for it.

scott conant's food is amazing, it really is.

I do understand your point of view. However, for me L'Impero has for a number of years been a primary touchstone restaurant, indicating whether I will find common ground with another person's opinions. I still have a strong recollection of spaghetti with a tomato basil sauce whose flavor was totally flat, and sliced venison, overcooked and with zero succulence.

i really don't know what to say. i've been cooking tomato sauce since i was 5 years old (20 years ago). i'm italian. i went to cornell and the cia. i've eaten everywhere. and i haven't had a better spaghetti and tomato sauce, anywhere, including at least 30 italian mothers, or at any of the batali restaurants.

if your venison was over cooked, you should have sent it back? in all my time that i worked there, nobody ever sent venison back.

its too bad you had a bad experience, you should go back.

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Here's the thing. I could see, in theory, a productive Michelin-like effort. It would involve:

1- Selecting a group of expert inspectors with significant dining experience both internationally and in the market in question.

2- Multiple visits by multiple inspectors to each restaurant under consideration.

3- A tabulation process free of agendas, politics, favoritism, etc.

4- A presentation of information that gives customers the benefit of the experts' expertise: best and worst dishes, times to go, various tips for getting the most out of that particular restaurant, reasons why some people might like the place and others might not, an indication of whether the inspectors had uniform reactions or whether it was a love-it-or-hate-it restaurant, perhaps even a glimpse at why some inspectors thought it was good and some didn't.

That would be a pretty good book.

But we have no reason to believe the inspectors have the relevant expertise (experience, perspective) and therefore no reason to accept their judgments. Secondary epistemic criteria, such as the pabulum printed in the guide, argue against very much expertise. Likewise, the quirky and out-of-touch results indicate that, as a group, the inspectors aren't all that well clued in.

In addition, the revelations of the Remy book show that Michelin's inspectors make infrequent visits to the restaurants under review (on average once every 3.5 years, according to him, for the un-starred restaurants) and that especially at the starred level the guide is political rather than based on any sort of attempt at impartiality.

Then there's the matter of the information content of the book beyond the symbols, which is essentially zero. For most of Michelin's history, there was no commentary -- just a bunch of codes. This is essentially a religion, where people are asked to place faith in the revealed expertise of anonymous (not just to the restaurants: to the world!) inspectors and the all-mighty Michelin corporation. Later, sentences were added, which contain no particularly useful information -- they're actually laughable. In the US guides, there are more words, but little in the way of useful content. It's just patronizing. The Grub Street blog is right that it reads like a travel advertorial more than a consumers' guide.

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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But we have no reason to believe the inspectors have the relevant expertise (experience, perspective) and therefore no reason to accept their judgments.

Short of publishing resumes of the inspectors themselves one just has to judge them on 107 years of European experience/training and now trying to attain a foothold on a new market which will take some time. There is a reason(s) why the guide has such clout over what is an astonishing length of time. Over time they have proven their reliability and their expertise by how much the market has embraced them. Certainly the Euroean fining dining consumer market and their emphasis on michelin is proof enough.

Secondary epistemic criteria, such as the pabulum printed in the guide, argue against very much expertise. Likewise, the quirky and out-of-touch results indicate that, as a group, the inspectors aren't all that well clued in.

One would think that over time the quirky nature of the US guides wil be worked out over a couple of years. As for being out of touch, that is a subjective opinion by persons who simply don't agree with the results. One has to calibrate their own personal tastes to this or any other outlet (various food discussion forums, blogs, other guides, public surveys, etc.) for this information

Frankly, I think it is a pretty good list, better than last year's, and will only improve with time. There are many folks who would agree.

It is obvious that a major part of their MO was to be provacative, to cause discussion by offering differences of opinion or a different viewpoint. they certainly accomplished that. People in the industry certainly can't stop talking about Michelin nor can they apparently stop buying the guides.

Who knows, maybe many restaurants and hotels will work hard to improve themselves because of the high profile it has received. It would not surprise me to see that, even from the ones who say they don't care.

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Short of publishing resumes of the inspectors themselves one just has to judge them on 107 years of European experience/training

The only reason I can think of not to publish bios of the inspectors is that the bios are mediocre or worse. Otherwise why not document their excellence? But I agree, Michelin should be judged on its performance in Europe!

People in the industry certainly can't stop talking about Michelin

And they have precious little good to say about it, unless they've received accolades -- deserved or not.

nor can they apparently stop buying the guides.

Really?

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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The only reason I can think of not to publish bios of the inspectors is that the bios are mediocre or worse. Otherwise why not document their excellence? But I agree, Michelin should be judged on its performance in Europe!

to be anonymous?

How many Michelin inspectors to you know? That would be the only proof of your judgement of their bios being mediocre.

Yes, without question the France edition is the standard to be judged against for any and all new guides. it is a tough example to follow. Over 100 years head start!

We shall see over time as it establishes itself.

People in the industry certainly can't stop talking about Michelin...
And they have precious little good to say about it, unless they've received accolades -- deserved or not.

Well, that certainly makes a lot of sense.

Edited by milla (log)
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People who get good Michelin rankings are of course invested in supporting Michelin, and have nothing to gain by publicly stating that Michelin is ridiculous (which is what most of them believe). It's the same with Zagat or Mobil or any of the guides or top-50 lists out there: restaurants would rather be included than not, no matter how silly the ratings are.

There's no conflict between publishing bios and maintaining anonymity. Inspectors don't have to reserve using their real names. Bios could even be published without names. The failure to publish information about the inspectors should create, at least for the skeptic, a presumption that Michelin has something to hide. Likewise, the quirky nature of the guide indicates that the inspectors are collectively not well informed about the New York dining scene -- that they may learn enough in three or four years to fake their way through assembling the guide gives me little comfort. And what we know from the Remy book and general experience about Michelin's politicization and lack of rigor also introduce a negative presumption.

In addition, the Michelin inspectors eventually reveal themselves to the restaurants when they do kitchen inspections, so I wouldn't believe too firmly in their absolute anonymity. I don't know any Michelin inspectors but I do know plenty of chefs who can recognize a couple of them.

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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