When the Michelin Red Guides for 2010 hit bookshelves last year, food critics worldwide had a field day. For the first time ever, a city other than Paris had amassed the most stars; those precious little gems inspectors out of Clermont-Ferrand bestow on restaurants to denote quality of food, wine and beverage service, dÃ©cor and myriad other elusive characteristics. Precious little gems that make or break careers and, in the case of more than one perfectionist French chef, drive some to commit suicide.
Tokyo – Photo credit
The city in question, by the way, was Tokyo. A surprise in some epicure circles, where a staunch French food bias persists, but overall, no major shock. While a few notable food journalists went wild on the story, the Japanese were relatively calm in response. Those familiar with the culinary scene in Tokyo simply shrugged and nodded in agreement. Why should Paris always dominate the Michelin star process?
Fastidious Tokyo, after all, is the most populous city on the planet and capital of a country with a deep and rich food culture. Add to that a prodigious, passionate interest in other food cultures (some of the best French chefs – pastry chefs in particular – hail from Japan) and the most recent Red Guide for Tokyo comes into focus.
Michelin only recently left Western Europe for the likes of New York City and San Francisco and the company only produces Red Guides in Asia for Tokyo (with Yokohama & Kamakura); Kyoto, Osaka & Kobe; and Hong Kong & Macau. While the tire company’s Bib Gourmand restaurants are always affordable fun and the one- and two-star establishments certainly shine, the three-star tables get all the love. And, for the most part, with good reason. Of the thirty three-star restaurants Michelin chose to laud in 2010 in Japan, Hong Kong and Macau, here is our top ten.
10. Robuchon a Galera
3/F, Lisboa Tower, Macau
Grand Lisboa, Macau – Photo credit
JoÃ«l Robuchon’s empire is boundless. The â€œChef of the Centuryâ€ by Gault-Millau is the venerable “Michelin Man”, with the most stars of any chef in the world. Robuchon a Galera was the first restaurant in China to receive the Wine Spectator â€œGrand Awardâ€ and has a list with over 7,600 labels.
9. Sushi Saito
1F Nihon Jitensha Kaikan, 1-9-15 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo
A bump from two- to three-stars in the 2010 guide put Sushi Saito in the select company it deserves.
8. Ca Sento
4-16-14, Nakayamate, Chuo-ku, Kobe
Ca Sento’s delicate 20 course dinner menu is a symphony. One of two three-stars in Kobe (Komago is the other).
3F, 1-5-5 Azabujuban, Minato, Tokyo
Tiny and with virtually no sign outside, Yukimura fashions beautiful Kyoto-style cuisine.
6. Lung King Heen
Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance Street,Â Central,Â Hong Kong
Hong Kong hotels offer a level of luxury unseen outside of Dubai. Food-wise, the quality is up there with New York and London. While many rightfully counter that the best grub in Hong Kong is in the streets and markets, the fare at Lung King Heen is sublime.
5. Kitcho Arashiyama Honten
58, Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
With seven three-star restaurants, Kyoto is behind only Tokyo and Paris. This should have been the main headline to come out of the 2010 guide. After all New York and London have seven total. Start with Kitcho Arashiyama Honten, where the ï¿¥42,000 prix fixe dinner is extraordinary.
4. 7chome Kyoboshi
Ozio Bldg 6F, 5-9-9 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
The airy and ethereal tempura at this Ginza three-star is legendary in Tokyo.
3. Usukifugu Yamada-ya
4-11-14 Nishi-Azabu, Minato, Tokyo
Almost impossible to track down from hotels in Tokyo without a mobile GPS or guide, Usukifugu Yamada-ya’s modest alleyway entrance belies brilliant fugu-centric cuisine.
1-9-11-1F, Edobori, Nishi-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka
The first three-star in food mad Osaka rolls out branchÃ© French cuisine with immaculate focus on details. Have the popcorn ice-cream for dessert.
1. Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten
Tsukamoto Building B1F, 4-2-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Sukiyabashi intersection, Tokyo – Photo credit
The ultimate decadent sushi trip, despite the contempt some locals and too-cool-for-school expats have for the place. Born in 1925, owner Jiro Ono is the dean of Michelin three-star chefs. Disclaimer: you will need a Japanese guide to make a reservation for you and, furthermore, dine with you here.