Michelin, the world’s oldest restaurant guide, published its annual survey of the Five Boroughs today, awarding four new two-star restaurants and thirteen new one-star spots.
Any other year, the big news would’ve been that Le Coucou, Daniel Rose’s beloved bastion of haute French gastronomy finally earned a star, that Jeju became the first stateside noodle soup spot to earn a star, or that the empire of Joel Robuchon can still earn multiple stars, even after the legendary chef’s death.
The 2019 guide, however, is the European tiremaker’s first New York edition since the #MeToo movement rocked the hospitality industry with reports of systemic workplace abuse and misconduct last year. And it arrives on the same day that millions of disaffected Americans go to the polls to determine the future of the country.
Put more bluntly: Today is a tough day to be releasing an ode to expensive culinary establishments largely run by men.
The bigger takeaways of this year’s guide — which awards one, two, or three stars to worthy venues — concern other matters.
On Female Chefs
The Breslin has been stripped of its star. This means that April Bloomfield, a defining chef of her generation, has zero presence on Michelin’s list for the first time since 2005. She ceded control of the Spotted Pig, which lost its star in 2016, to Ken Friedman, her ex-partner who’s been accused of sexual misconduct. Gwendal Poullennec, the new international director of the guide, said in a phone interview that his inspectors witnessed declining “consistency and quality” at the Ace Hotel restaurant.
Some of Michelin’s other top female chefs have been downgraded or ignored. La Vara, run by two of the city’s best Spanish chefs — Alex Raij and Eder Montero — is starless is well, as is Patti Jackson’s Delaware and Hudson.
Mako Okano’s Shabushabu Macron, a rare and celebrated omakase spot run by a female chef, was overlooked for a star, while six new male-run Japanese spots received that same honor.
And while the newly starred Atomix is co-run by chef JP Park and partner Ellia Park, this is the second year in a row that none of the newly starred spots had a female chef at the helm.
Mario Batali, the subject of multiple reports of sexual misconduct, saw Babbo, Casa Mono, and Del Posto retain their Michelin stars. Batali operationally stepped away from his empire last year and is the process of divesting from his restaurants. His restaurants have long been run not by Batali himself but by his empire’s top deputies, like Del Posto’s Melissa Rodriguez and Babbo’s Robert Zwirz.
On Diversity and Ubiquity
Over the past year, food media outlets have been striving to improve diversity in their reviews and reports. The James Beard Foundation pivoted to highlighting underrepresented groups, awarding 11 of 15 chef awards to women or people of color earlier this year.
But Michelin’s anonymous inspectors don’t actively pay attention to cultural context. They direct their critical focus almost exclusively on a given venue’s food, according to Poullennec. “It’s important to emphasize that Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants, not to chefs,” he says, adding that “it’s about what’s on the plate, and has been that way for over a century.”
On this note: Claro and Oxomoco both received stars. Both are very good restaurants. And yet there’s something a bit curious about how two of the city’s three-starred Mexican spots are hip Brooklyn spots run by non-Mexican chefs (Long Island City’s Casa Enrique, helmed by Chiapas native Cosme Aguilar has held a star since 2015).
When asked why Daniela Sotto-Innes, one of the world’s most prominent Mexican chefs, was overlooked for a star again at Cosme, Poullennec said that restaurant’s “consistency was lacking.”
Michelin’s focus on the plate and consistency, incidentally, explains why the empire of Joel Robuchon has been able to rack up Michelin stars by opening up “greatest hits” restaurants around the globe, most recently in New York. Robuchon’s L’Atelier — which didn’t receive the most enthusiastic welcome from local critics when it opened last year — debuted with two Michelin stars, while Le Grille, a more affordable brasserie in the same space, earned one star.
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.” No New York establishments have been elevated to three-star status since 2012. There are just over 120 restaurants worldwide with that honor.
Here are some additional observations about this year’s list, followed by the full list:
- Other two star additions: In addition to L’Atelier, four new venues joined the two-star ranks, including Ichimura at Uchu, where a sushi meal starts at $300; Gabriel Kreuther, where four-courses run $150; and Basement at Tetsu, where a selection of grilled meats ran $350. New York critic Adam Platt classified the venue as overpriced and underwhelming. It closed after the guide was sent to publication.
- A big Japanese drop: Torishin, a more affordable grilled meat spot than Basement, was kicked off the starred list. It sells chicken skewer tastings for $65.
- A big Korean gain: Jeju Noodle Bar, a Korean ramyun spot in the West Village, suddenly became the first noodle soup shop in the states to claim a Michelin star. It’s a boon for the city’s thriving modern Korean movement, but one wonders why the inspectors continue to overlook the country’s hundreds of capable ramen spots, which remain starless.
- Japanese additions: Five of the new one star spots went to ambitious and expensive Japanese venues, including Nakazawa, Kosaka, Noda, Okuda, and Sushi Noz.
- French snubs: Some of the biggest omissions were perhaps Frenchette and La Mercerie, two of the year’s most heralded new Gallic restaurants.
- Two more of note: Tuome, an Asian-inspired East Village spot famous for its large format pork platter, also joined the one star ranks, as did Bouley at Home.
- A few more drops: Minetta Tavern no longer has a Michelin star, nor does Aureole, Ushiwakamaru, or Sushi Zo.
The 2019 list of Michelin stars for New York City
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Eleven Madison Park
Gabriel Kreuther (new)
Ichimura at Uchu (new)
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (new)
Sushi Ginza Onodera
Tetsu Basement (new, but closed)
Bouley at Home
Gotham Bar and Grill
Gunter Seeger NY
Jeju Noodle Bar (new)
Le Coucou (new)
Le Grill de Joel Robuchon (new)
The Musket Room
The River Cafe
Sushi Nakazawa (new)
Sushi Noz (new)
ZZ’s Clam Bar