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Michelin, tempura, and limits


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#1 Adrian

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 11:58 PM

So, every November we find out that Tokyo has now trumped Paris as the world gastronomic capital because Michelin has awarded more stars to more restaurants there than anywhere else (see: http://www.dailymail...o=feeds-newsxml). Now, even though I'm not going to Tokyo any time soon, I like to google the new 3 star additions to the list. This year, a tempura restaurant, 7 Chome Kyoboshi, was promoted to three stars. A lot of the discussion on the New York board these days centers around the decrease in formality in the actual food that is served - burgers, tacos, and other less refined foods are served using expensive ingredients in trendy settings. I don't mean to suggest that 7 Chome Kyoboshi is the Japanese version of Mile End, but I do question whether a restaurant that amounts to excellent shopping combined with a single, perfected technique, is really enough to merit what is still the world's top restaurant honour.

To bring this back to New York, a lot of people have difficulty believing that the type of food served by Lincoln could merit four NYT stars. Clearly, Lincoln was not aiming at four stars, but if technically perfect tempura is enough for Michelin, shouldn't a technically perfect eggplant parm be enough for the NYT (hypothetically, we know the Lincoln situation is a little different)? Is this an appropriate move? Or is this the reverse of the cultural misunderstanding Michelin is accused of having in Spain or Italy? Any thoughts?

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#2 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 02:02 AM

So, every November we find out that Tokyo has now trumped Paris as the world gastronomic capital because Michelin has awarded more stars to more restaurants there than anywhere else (see: http://www.dailymail...o=feeds-newsxml). Now, even though I'm not going to Tokyo any time soon, I like to google the new 3 star additions to the list. This year, a tempura restaurant, 7 Chome Kyoboshi, was promoted to three stars. A lot of the discussion on the New York board these days centers around the decrease in formality in the actual food that is served - burgers, tacos, and other less refined foods are served using expensive ingredients in trendy settings. I don't mean to suggest that 7 Chome Kyoboshi is the Japanese version of Mile End, but I do question whether a restaurant that amounts to excellent shopping combined with a single, perfected technique, is really enough to merit what is still the world's top restaurant honour.

To bring this back to New York, a lot of people have difficulty believing that the type of food served by Lincoln could merit four NYT stars. Clearly, Lincoln was not aiming at four stars, but if technically perfect tempura is enough for Michelin, shouldn't a technically perfect eggplant parm be enough for the NYT (hypothetically, we know the Lincoln situation is a little different)? Is this an appropriate move? Or is this the reverse of the cultural misunderstanding Michelin is accused of having in Spain or Italy? Any thoughts?

any blog posts out there? is it really just tempura?
Why not mayo?

#3 prasantrin

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 03:41 AM

I haven't been to 7-chome Kyobashi (note the spelling), but I've been to a couple of Michelin-starred tempura restaurants, and they are probably 90% tempura. At Ten-You (1* in Kyoto), the tempura kaiseki includes a tiny bit of sashimi and fruit or jelly for dessert. There might have been one other non-tempura dish, but it was very small. Plus all tempura places have rice and miso soup (and probably pickles). But on the menus, you really only see tempura. You can't usually order anything else a la carte, and any non-tempura items are usually only included as part of a kaiseki course.

At Tempura Kondo (1 or 2*?) in Tokyo, we didn't have any non-tempura items as part of our course except for dessert (and rice and miso soup).

#4 Wilfrid

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 04:01 AM

Perhaps recognition for Harry Ramsden's is at last on the way.

It gets very much blogged here, in a way which I think supports the skepticism.

#5 Orik

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 08:55 AM

any blog posts out there? is it really just tempura?



Yes. Three stars sounds ridiculous, but the Japanese have a strange fetish for these single technique or single ingredient places (e.g. Nodaiwa that I think also has at least one star, and is all eel all the time) and they will travel out of their way for them (or whatever the michelin-speak is for three stars) and in the less formal ones they'll even stand in line. Anyway, this may be a case of serious grade inflation, but overall the number of stars in Tokyo compared to Paris (or, now, in the Kansai region where there are even more stars) seems perfectly fair. If you ask "how many restaurants in Tokyo are better than the average Paris one star?" the answer has to be many hundreds.
I never said that

#6 Wilfrid

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 01:51 PM

(T)he Japanese have a strange fetish for these single technique or single ingredient places (e.g. Nodaiwa that I think also has at least one star, and is all eel all the time) and they will travel out of their way for them (or whatever the michelin-speak is for three stars) and in the less formal ones they'll even stand in line.


Sounds like the East Village. :P

#7 Orik

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 02:32 PM

Sort of, but with $200/lb beef.

Why aren't people surprised that sushi - a cuisine based on shopping for fish and cutting them up - gets three stars?
I never said that

#8 prasantrin

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 02:44 PM

Sort of, but with $200/lb beef.

Why aren't people surprised that sushi - a cuisine based on shopping for fish and cutting them up - gets three stars?


Sushi is much more foreign and exotic than fried food.

#9 Wilfrid

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 02:44 PM

Simplicity can be complex too? :shrug:

#10 Adrian

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 03:05 PM


Sort of, but with $200/lb beef.

Why aren't people surprised that sushi - a cuisine based on shopping for fish and cutting them up - gets three stars?


Sushi is much more foreign and exotic than fried food.


So, I'm actually kind of surprised that people readily accept that sushi restaurants can be worth top marks. I recall reading on a blog by one of those people who seems to eat at three stars for a living that he couldn't justify awarding a top rating to a restaurant that amounted to one really refined technique and great shopping. Thing is, it does seem slightly culturally insensitive to claim that a meal as formal, refined, and practiced as one at a first class sushi counter cannot be worth three stars. But then why are we so accepting to laud careful refinement of a simple technique in Japanese foods but unwilling to give the same sort of praise when we see the same thing in Western food? Haven't we seen people apply the same sort of fanatical devotion and refinement to Neapolitan pizza in recent years (but comparing the two seems absurd)? I think I'm probably the only one who's sent into conniptions by this.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#11 g.johnson

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 03:10 PM

Sort of, but with $200/lb beef.

Why aren't people surprised that sushi - a cuisine based on shopping for fish and cutting them up - gets three stars?

I am.
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#12 Lex

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 03:14 PM

I think I'm probably the only one who's sent into conniptions by this.

I'm with you.

I think that in this case the cultural differences work in favor of Japanese cuisine, particularly vis-a-vis the French.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

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#13 Orik

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 03:32 PM



Sort of, but with $200/lb beef.

Why aren't people surprised that sushi - a cuisine based on shopping for fish and cutting them up - gets three stars?


Sushi is much more foreign and exotic than fried food.


So, I'm actually kind of surprised that people readily accept that sushi restaurants can be worth top marks. I recall reading on a blog by one of those people who seems to eat at three stars for a living that he couldn't justify awarding a top rating to a restaurant that amounted to one really refined technique and great shopping. Thing is, it does seem slightly culturally insensitive to claim that a meal as formal, refined, and practiced as one at a first class sushi counter cannot be worth three stars. But then why are we so accepting to laud careful refinement of a simple technique in Japanese foods but unwilling to give the same sort of praise when we see the same thing in Western food? Haven't we seen people apply the same sort of fanatical devotion and refinement to Neapolitan pizza in recent years (but comparing the two seems absurd)? I think I'm probably the only one who's sent into conniptions by this.



It depends on the result, doesn't it? I find Michelin's dismissal of the traditional Spanish places ridiculous* (and some of those could be equated to sushi places in their dogged commitment to ingredients and simple treatment) because they do rise as high as good sushi, but Neapolitan pizza at its best is always going to be an unlikely combination of soggy and burnt dough, with some cheese and tomatoes. I'm sure some folks find that eating this is a similarly pleasurable experience and that the range of quality, skill, ingredients, etc. is similar to what's applied at sushi restaurants, but I guess most people don't. (personally I really don't understand the dish - I mean, why make dough this defective on purpose? and I find the current love affair with Italian cuisine** perplexing)




* of course they gave Etxebarri a star even though almost everything it does isn't at the top of its range, but I guess Michelin like how many different things they can grill.
** after speaking with some people about it I gather that one reason for it is that it is incorrectly thought of as healthier than French cuisine even though it's substantially worse
I never said that

#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 04:00 PM

If you find the current love affair with Italian food perplexing, wait till you see the coming love affair with Eastern European Jewish food.
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#15 Lex

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 04:02 PM

If you find the current love affair with Italian food perplexing, wait till you see the coming love affair with Eastern European Jewish food.

Posted Image

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52