The Michelin guide was originally published as a travel guide for French motorists in 1900, but now it is a globally recognized restaurant star system known by gourmands and chefs who chase the coveted award. The now familiar three-star system was introduced in 1931 to denote excellence in varying degrees – from the merely exceptional to those restaurants representing the pinnacle of gastronomy.
New York and London’s respective editions were recently released within weeks of one another and a perusal of the famous red guides reveals new stars have been given to worthy restaurants in both cities.
The latest round of awards have gone to unconventional choices, notably, London’s Umu has been upgraded from one- to two-star status, while Japanese sushi master Matsuhisa Araki’s eponymous Mayfair sushi counter has debuted with two stars. Similarly, New York’s high-end Japanese counters Cagen, Hirohisa and Sushi Yasuda have received their first stars, as has Tempura Matsui, which focuses on tempura in a seasonal omakase (chef’s selection) format.
Thai cuisine has also made inroads in Manhattan with the awarding of single stars to the East Village’s Somtum Der – which specializes in the fiery flavors of Thailand’s northern Isan region – and Uncle Boons, a more casual affair run by two former Per Se chefs. Brooklyn’s Semilla – which specializes in vegetarian tasting menus – has also been awarded its first star, adding further diversity to a guide traditionally filled with lumbering French restaurants.
Notably, every three-star restaurant in each city has retained its stars, and the guide still leans heavily towards classical Gallic and modern European dining rooms. But there are changes toward more contemporary design menu’s. ‘The next generation of chefs are really coming through to give the established chefs a run for their money,’ explains Rebecca Burr, the Guide’s editor. ‘They all have their own individual style and their ability – coupled with their confidence – looks set to lead them on to great things.’