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11.01.2005

The Michelin Stars of New York

Perhaps the most anticipated publishing of dining related information in the last several years, the Michelin guide has just released its star ratings for New York restaurants. Known as the gold standard for restaurant ratings in Europe, where its coveted stars have made or broken careers, businesses, and even lives, the Michelin Guide announced earlier this year that it would be publishing its first ever guide to New York.

Today its star ratings have been made public, and can be seen as the first serious competition to the reign of the New York Times food section, many of whose ratings are seriously challenged by the list that appears below. I'm not an expert on the NY dining scene, so my observations must be limited to musing on the seeming random mix of quality in the one star establishments. Comparing most of these places to my one star dining experiences in Paris is a bizarre task, as my meals in Paris are of a significantly higher standard than many of the New York one-star restaurants.

ONE STAR:

Annisa
Aureole
Babbo
BLT Fish
Café Boulud
Café Gray
Craft
Cru
Etats-Unis
Fiamma Osteria
Fleur de Sel
Gotham Bar and Grill
Gramercy Tavern
JoJo
Jewel Bako
La Goulue
Lever House
Lo Scalco
March
Nobu
Oceana
Peter Luger
Picholine
Saul
Scalini Fedeli
Spotted Pig
The Modern
Veritas
Vong
Wallsé
WD-50

TWO STARS:

Bouley
Daniel
Danube
Masa


THREE STARS:

Alain Ducasse
Jean-Georges
Le Bernardin
Per Se

Comments (9)

Terry Hughes wrote:
11.02.05 at 3:35 AM

Well, Alder, all I can say is that real New Yorkers read Zagat. That may change, but somehow I doubt it. Zagat is a participation sport, so to speak, and Michelin reports from on high. My partner and many of our friends write Zagat reviews all the time. The issue with Michelin is their lack of transparency and the suspicion that raises.

The other issue, and the real one, is why were certain restaurants awarded a star at all? Initial reaction among our foodie friends is dismay, bemusement and plain old disbelief. Spotted Pig? Annisa? Very good -- but worth a star?

A little known point (I think): The Paris Zagat en francais is widely read by the Parisians themselves, and they show the same inclination to make their preferences known as New Yorkers do. Michelin is still regarded and respected, but there's something a little dated about it too.

Joe Hinder wrote:
11.02.05 at 10:56 AM

Do they only rate the quality of french cuisine, or do these just have a French cuisine slant because they're, well, French?

Terry Hughes wrote:
11.03.05 at 10:16 AM

They rate all kinds of cuisines, but they sure seem to prefer the familiar, don't they? I mean, n'est-ce pas?

matt wrote:
11.03.05 at 11:52 AM

The negative feedback has been awesome in NYC. People are VERY upset that resturants like Chanterelle and Four Seasons didnt get a star, but the Spotted Pig did.

Jean-Louis wrote:
11.06.05 at 5:19 PM

Michelin puts out a rating that is more reliable and consistent than Zagat. Not that Zagat does not fulfill a very useful role, but Michelin can set the record straight when it comes to pointing out that some popular places have no clothes, so to speak. In more than thirty years of dining in Europe and here, I have seldom been disappointed by a Michelin rated place, and I cannot say the same for Zagat.
To be fair, Michelin scores highest in French styled food, but I do not know it can adapt itself to, say, Asian influences. In New York, Michelin can easily rate Jean George but I do not know about Vong or the Spice Market.
On the whole, the New York ratings are fairly generous at the top (two and three stars)--I have been to half of those-- and more subject to dispute at the lower level, where I do not see that e.g. Cafe Boulud or Cru belong, while Gramercy Tavern and Gotham and Aureole and Veritas certainly do; and Tabla and some others should. The most unfair rating may go to Babbo, which should be higher in my book.
Finally, I would note that Michelin rates more than the quality of the food, and that in pratice the quality of the surroundings, and the flair and finesse of the service heavily influence the overall rating; thus Jean George can claim a three star rating but Babbo never could as the "cadre" for one will never be posh enough for Michelin.

11.10.05 at 6:08 AM

It isn't that Michelin values French technique more than other culinary techniques, it's that they value technique period. And typically, French restaurants employ more sophisticated culinary technique than other restuarants that feature other cuisines do. Say all you want about Babbo but, Italian cuisine in general is very low on culinary technique, and it isn't surprising that Babbo can languish at a single star besides serving food that people think is delicious (although I find the cooking sloppy.) In fact the level of technique they employ at Babbo is on par, or maybe even below, what they employ at places like Cafe Boulud and Chanterelle. You will find that Michelin is fairly consistant in employing this standard across the board and in every country.

Darren Teoh wrote:
11.18.05 at 9:28 AM

Well, in the UK there is a one michelin star restaurant which features indian cuisine, but then again i think its the only one around. Michelin in many aspects is over rated but it is structured and wide spread. i suppose that is its saving grace.

Bastien Simeon wrote:
12.26.05 at 3:09 PM

We are from Paris, used to the Michelin system, and just back from a week in NYC. I agree Michelin is not the best guide around, and we just use it as a starting point. Here in Paris some chefs have even refused to be awarded Michelin stars, as they don't want the pressure and the media attention.

Our first day in NY we had lunch at the Spotted Pig. We go to NY very often but to be honest I had never heard of the place before I read about it in the Michelin guide. I liked it but I am not sure it deserves a star. On the other hand, it is now a well known place which attracts tourists (like us) and is getting too crowded for the real New-Yorkers, especially from the Village. It's a pitty.

We had lunch at the Gotham, tried the prix fixe, which for 25$++ is really a bargain. It was a nice but not a memorable experience (I was there several time before and I am getting a bit tired of it).

The last evening we went for a culinary experience at Cru. Now that was some evening!! We had the tasting menu, it was fantastic, we went from one surprise to another, the combinations were incredible, and whenever the chef used "luxury" ingredients like truffle or caviar he was generous with them. For 85$ per person, believe me, it was a bargain. We even had an extra surprise course, because the chef enjoyed my comments on our meal.

Then the wine, which of course is supposed to be the main attraction there. You get two large books, one for the whites and one for the reds. We went for a Puligny Montrachet Villages 2001 from Pillot, a fantastic bottle at a very reasonable price and an excellent advice from the sommelier (difficult to make your mind when you have so many choices, although I had it somewhat narrowed down).

The only small criticism was that the pace of the meal was too fast, we had to slow them down after the third course.

We have been to lots of excellent restaurants around the world, some with one, two or three Michelin stars. This one definitely deserves more than one, that's for sure (at least that evening when we were there).

Enjoy,

Bastien

Bob wrote:
01.13.06 at 1:18 PM

I am a chef living in the USA but I received training at several michelin starred restaurants in Italy. One of which definitely did not deserve the one star that it had. I heard that the chef owner (a woman) had slept with the inspector in order to earn the star. From my perspective that would have been the only plausible way for her to have received that star. Michelin should stick to tires.

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