Jean-Georges — widely considered one of New York’s best French spots since it opened two decades ago — is no longer one of the world’s finest restaurants, according to the Michelin Guide.
The anonymous inspectors at France’s most famous restaurant guide have demoted the Central Park West establishment, located in the Trump International Hotel & Tower, to its second-highest rating of two stars. It had held the top honor of three stars since 2006, the guide’s inaugural year in the U.S.
Michelin awarded seven restaurants new stars in its 2018 New York guide, but the demotion of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s flagship, famous for fusing French cuisine with Asian ingredients, is by far the biggest news.
“It was a difficult decision for us to make,” Michelin guide director Michael Ellis says in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, we saw a slow glide downward. It started off with small things ... and it didn’t get any better. It was kind of on cruise control.”
“Our hope is that he’ll be able to get that third star back very quickly,” Ellis adds.
The downgrade effectively confirms that New York is no longer the country’s fine dining capital in the eyes of Michelin. Only five local restaurants — Per Se, Le Bernardin, Masa, Brooklyn Fare, and Eleven Madison Park — now hold the guide’s highest honor of three stars, compared with seven in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Michelin upgraded just a single restaurant to the two star category this year: Ginza Onodera. The Tokyo-based chain, which held a single star last year, is the city’s second priciest sushi spot, with dinner menus at $300 and $400, service-included.
The inclusion of Ginza and others will give fresh ammunition to those who argue that Michelin leans heavily, perhaps too heavily, on expensive Japanese, European, and New American venues. Four of the seven new stars, including Suzuki ($75-$180), Bar Uchu ($200), and Sushi Amane ($250), are spendy sushi or kaiseki spots, a style of dining in which Manhattan has been experiencing a boom.
Approximately 20 percent of the New York’s guide’s starred selections are now Japanese.
Cote, Simon Kim’s Korean-American barbecue spot in Flatiron, is the newest entrant to the starred steakhouse category in New York. The only other two members of that group are Peter Luger and Minetta Tavern. This critic awarded three stars to Cote earlier in the fall, praising the venue for its extra dry-aged beef and accessible, $45 set menu.
Michelin is famous for not seeing eye-to-eye with local reviewers on some of the year’s biggest openings. True to form, the inspectors opted against awarding a star to The Grill, the theatrical midcentury chophouse that constitutes half of Major Food Group’s reboot of the old Four Seasons space. Reviewers, including this one, universally lauded it. The Pool, the other half of the space, also did not receive a star.
None of this year’s newly starred restaurants have female chefs at the helm. Only six of the 72 starred restaurants have women head chefs.
One star means "high quality cooking, worth a stop;” two stars indicates “excellent cooking, worth a detour;” three stars signifies “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” There are just over one hundred restaurants worldwide with three stars.
Here are a few observations about this year’s guide, followed by the full list:
- On the Demotion Process: Inspectors made up to 10 visits to Jean-Georges over the course of 18 months, according to Ellis. He said Michelin called Vongerichten in July and shared its findings. The purpose of that conversation, which Ellis says is a common Michelin practice, is to provide feedback and give the restaurant a chance to fix its issues before the guide closes.
- Le Coucou Overlooked Again: Last year’s biggest snub was Daniel Rose’s Le Coucou, Daniel Rose and Stephen Starr’s nationally-recognized love letter to the French fare of yesteryear. Michelin again decided against a star for that venue, which received the James Beard Award for best new restaurant, nationwide, in 2017.
- La Sirena vs. Lilia: Michelin is notoriously frugal on stars to Italian spots in the states, but few will understand why Mario Batali’s sleepy La Sirena holds a star, while Lilia by Missy Robbins, one of the city’s most critically acclaimed Italian spots, doesn’t.
- Japanese Snubs: Cagen in the East Village, which charges $160 for its tasting, was dropped from the list, and Shuko, one of the city’s most popular and fairly priced sushi spots, at $135 before tip, was left off the list for yet another year.
- Declining South Asian Stars: New York once had three Indian restaurants with stars. Now it has one: Junoon, as Tulsi in Midtown East was dropped. Indian Accent, the high-end New Dehli import that opened last year, was snubbed again, as was Paowalla, Floyd Cardoz’s bread-focused Indian spot in SoHo.
- NYC vs. Bay Area: New York hasn’t gained a single top tier Michelin spot since 2011. The larger Bay Area has gained five three-star restaurants in that same time frame.
- New York vs. Rest of Country: New York still has more single starred restaurants than any other area Michelin covers in the U.S., with 56, compared with 41 in the Bay Area, 19 in Chicago, and 11 in Washington.
- Questionable Timing on Tomate: For many locals, the chief draw of Rouge Tomate Chelsea wasn’t the food but rather master sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier and her eclectic list of natural wines. Michelin awarded the wine bar a star months after Lepeltier left.
- Michelin’s Comfort Zone: Of the 71 starred selections, only five restaurants fell outside of the guide’s European-American-Japanese comfort zone. Those venues are the Jungsik and Cote (Korean), Case Enrique (Mexican), Uncle Boons (Thai), and Cafe China (Sichuan).
Michelin’s 2018 Starred Selections for New York City
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (relocated to Manhattan)
Eleven Madison Park (retained star post-renovation)
Ginza Onodera (upgraded)
Bar Uchu (new)
The Clocktower (new)
Delaware and Hudson
Gotham Bar and Grill
Rouge Tomate (new)
Sushi Amane (new)
ZZ’s Clam Bar