Chocolate Banana Mousse Coconut Puree Lime Ice Cream Caramelized Banana Dessert Tasting Menu Fine Dining One Michelin Star Lords of the Manor Cotswolds England Great Britain United Kingdom

No More Michelin Stars, But Still Dining at the World’s Top Restaurants

Now that we are halfway through the year, I’m close to calling it: We are not going to add more than two Michelin stars to our portfolio this year (those two stars being from Restaurant Andre in Singapore). Going back to our first star in late 2010, we have averaged 12.5 stars per year, accumulating a total of 77 Michelin stars to date. Last year, we added a crazy 25 Michelin stars from dining at:

So, what’s the deal? Have we traveled less this year? No. Have we dined out less this year? No.

In fact, when the year is over, we will have visited five new countries – Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and Peru – and dined at many of the world’s top-rated and top-ranked restaurants, including the restaurant that has topped Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for three years in a row – Gaggan in Bangkok.  And, even though Gaggan has no Michelin stars, as you can read about, Gaggan was one of our favorite meals yet. Similarly, we loved our lunch at the highly-rated Burnt Ends in Singapore, but it does not have any stars.

Uni Ice Cream Thirteenth Course Sea Urchin Wasabi Ice Cream Mango Puree Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok Thailand Asia's 50 Best World's 50 Best Fine Dining Tasting Menu Ice Cream Emoji Food Courses Progressive Indian Cuisine
Ice Cream Emoji: Uni Ice Cream at Gaggan

At this point, we probably seem like Michelin star junkies (or snobs). That’s not the case. We simply have fun accumulating stars. And, stars are easy to quantify – they are easy to keep track of. All of this is not to say that the Michelin Guide is our definitive resource for choosing our dining experiences. Quite the contrary: We use it as a guide.

The problem is – that we’ve run into this year – is that the Michelin Guide does not have worldwide coverage. Its coveted stars are only awarded to restaurants in certain cities and countries. While the guide has recently expanded to include cities such as Shanghai and Washington D.C., it is nowhere near worldwide coverage.

Yi Long Court Peninsula Shanghai Two Michelin Stars Michelin Guide Shanghai China Fine Dining Gastronomy Chinese Food Conpoy
Poached Cantonese Can Xin with Black Fungus and Golden Mushrooms at Yi Long Court in Shanghai

What that means, of course, is that while our meal at Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, was exceptional and likely worthy of at least two Michelin stars, the restaurant cannot be awarded any stars solely due to its  location. NOTE: It was recently announced, though, that the 2018 Michelin Guide will be released for Bangkok later this year. So, we’ll have to go back and try some of the newly-starred restaurants!

This is where lists like The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Elite Traveler’s Top 100 Restaurants in the World come into play. So, while Restaurant Andre will likely be our only Michelin-starred experience this year, we are nevertheless checking off many of the world’s top-rated restaurants this year (rankings correspond to the 2017 lists):

  • Gaggan – #7 World’s 50 Best;
  • Nahm – #28 World’s 50 Best;
  • Burnt Ends – #53 World’s 50 Best;
  • Quay Restaurant – #95 World’s 50 Best; #79 Elite Traveler
  • Sepia – #97 Elite Traveler
  • Tetsuya’s Restaurant – Not on the current lists; On World’s 50 Best from 2004-2012.
  • Central – #5 World’s 50 Best
  • Maido – #8 World’s 50 Best
  • Astrid y Gaston – #33 World’s 50 Best

While no list can have truly universal coverage without its voters dining at every restaurant in the world every year, the World’s 50 Best and Elite Traveler lists really do help fill the Michelin Guide’s gap in coverage. They also provide different perspectives, different rating systems, and, therefore, another point of reference.

Confit of Tasmanian Ocean Trout Salad of Celery and Apple Salmon Roe Khombu Signature Dish Seafood Main Courses Tetsuya's Restaurant Sydney Australia Chef Tetsuya Wakuda Restaurant Review Fine Dining Dinner Tasting Menu Gastronomy Haute Cuisine Luxury Travel Foodie Japanese Fusion Food Pictures Food Photography Food Lovers
Confit of Ocean Trout, Salad of Celery and Apple at Tetsuya’s in Sydney

Still, these lists aren’t without fault. The World’s 50 Best list is often criticized for their voting system, and Elite Traveler’s list is considered to be heavily skewed towards restaurants in cities that are frequented by travelers (vs. less popular or more remote cities). They are also criticized for being nothing more than a popularity contest and Euro-centric (as the Michelin Guide is also criticized).

Regardless, we think that lists such as The World’s 50 Best and Elite Traveler, and the Michelin Guide, provide at least some measure of a restaurant’s relative status. Like we discussed in a previous post, except for what we’d consider an anomaly, we’ve never had a bad experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Importantly, we believe that these lists and the Michelin Guide – and the resulting spoils that come along with being awarded a coveted spot on them or star – provide essential motivation for chefs to continue to innovate, push the boundaries, refine their techniques and flavors, and impress all of us!

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