Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on Hong Kong

This is the headline for today’s Ming Pao: Michelin confirming that Hong Kong is worthy of being branded the “Paradise” for food lovers. Thanks! That’s great and all … but behind all of this fanfare, is Michelin Guide worthy of our recognition? I’m tempted to say no.

Ming Pao Headline

Ming Pao Headline

As expected, the introduction of a Hong Kong & Macau Michelin Guide drew heavy criticism recently with a famous local food critic, Chua Lam, saying that this is “just a joke … like a dialogue between idiots”. I think the Guide definitely awarded stars to restaurants that are undisputedly worthy of the recognition, but there are also ones that probably should not have been on the list. And there are quite a few more that wasn’t even mentioned! The problem is, there are just too many restaurants in Hong Kong (and Macau) that are also “worthy” of such recognition, and the folks at Michelin would risk diluting the power of the stars if they had went on a star-awarding spree …

It should also be noted that of the current 90 Michelin “inspectors”, 70 are based in Europe, 10 in the United States and only 10 are based in Asia … I dunno … Not to offend this chubby white tire-man named Bibendum (Edit: Thanks Peech!), but Asia’s a big place … and with 70 inspectors based in Europe, I’m in favour of the camp that says “Michelin’s a little bias in favour of Western cuisine and in particular, French cuisine”.

Oh, it is also worth noting that only 2 out of 20 “inspectors” who “inspected” all of these fine restaurants were Chinese. Hmm … I dunno, I think Chinese can rate their own cuisine just fine. I’m just trying to connect the dot and something seems a little fishy … (oh what a pun).

It’d be interesting to see what they do with the guide next year … on the one hand, they have a 108-year-old tradition to follow, but on the other hand, if they want to write a good food guide for Asian countries (save Japan), they need to drop their arrogance (or some might say, their narrow perspective) and embrace fine dining at a local level. Nevermind the ambience, “innovative dishes” and the servers’ attitude. This is Asia, screw the knifes and forks (and even chopsticks) … use your hands for the fried pigeons … forget manners, get down and dirty and just dig in, because at the end of the day … its all about the food.

**********

Here’s an article from today’s South China Morning Post:

SCMP Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK

SCMP Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK

Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK
By Vivienne Chow, Ng Yuk-hang and Amy Nip

A Hong Kong chef has become the world’s first Chinese Michelin three-star chef. Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons hotel, whose kitchen is presided over by 40-year veteran Chan Yan-tak, was the city’s only restaurant awarded the top three-star accolade by Michelin in its first guide to Hong Kong and Macau, launched yesterday – its first venture into China in 108 years.

French restaurant Robuchon a Galera in Macau won the only other three-star ranking, which denotes “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. There are only 75 three-star restaurants in the world.

The rankings delighted the chosen restaurants but the guide came under criticism from some food critics after it was disclosed that just two of the 20 inspectors who assessed the restaurants were Chinese.

Guide Jean-Luc Naret said inspectors had visited the Lung King Heen 12 times and found its quality was consistently high.

Seven Hong Kong restaurants were awarded the second-ranked two stars, including Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and T’ang Court. Fourteen received one star, including Fook Lam Moon, Forum and Yung Kee.

Twenty-four restaurants that didn’t make it to the list were recommended in the Bib Gourmand section, which highlights quality restaurants offering a full three-course meal for HK$300 or less. Also mentioned were less pricey choices, such as Mak’s Noodle and Tsim Chai Kee.

Macau had one two-star restaurant, four one-star restaurants and two in the Bib Gourmand section.

The guide, which goes on sale on Friday, features 169 restaurants from Hong Kong and 33 from Macau, chosen from a shortlist of more than 1,000 visited anonymously by more than 20 inspectors since last year. It also featured 33 hotels in Hong Kong and 16 in Macau.

Of the inspectors, one was from Hong Kong and one from the mainland.

Questioned about the others’ expertise on Chinese food, Mr. Naret said: “You don’t have to be French to understand French cuisine.”

But Chua Lam, one of Hong Kong’s most famous food experts, said it was “just a joke … like a dialogue between idiots”.

“These people didn’t know about Chinese cuisines. The guide was only to create controversy so that people would buy it,” he said.

Lau Kin-wai, food critic and owner of Kin’s Kitchen, which was listed in the Bib Gourmand section, also questioned the inspectors’ knowledge of Chinese food. He could not agree with some of the choices.

Winning restauranteurs were more complimentary. “This guide has a long history and it has international recognition,” Michael Au, resident manager for both L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Robuchon a Galera, said, adding that the honour might increase the chosen restaurants’ business 20 to 30 percent despite the financial crisis.

Alvin Leung, chief chef of two-star Chinese restaurant Bo Innovation, said the uniqueness of the dishes was the key and vowed to make Chinese cuisine more fashionable. “I want to drive Chinese dishes to a fine dining level,” he said. Kinsen Kam, director and general manager of Yung Kee, said he was “very happy” that the restaurant had made it to the top 22.

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6 Responses

  1. I have to agree. Michelin guides seems to reflect taste of the Westerner more than local’s taste. The Hong Kong food culture, where people enjoy their food in a relaxed and easygoing setting are a different world from the pretentious and stuffy restaurants in the Michelin guide. It will be a sad day if the colourful restaurant scene in the city becomes dour and snobby because of the overrated “stars”.

  2. I am a Korean who used to live in Hong Kong for ten years before. Well, I think Lung King Heen is a very fine Choinese restaurant indeed.

    However, I think Yan Toh Heen and Man Wah are equally as good as, if not better than, Lung King Heen.

    Michelin Guide H.K. 2009 to me, is a joke. There are far more fine restaurants in Hong Kong than those on the Michelin list, IMHO.

  3. Ming Pao obviously got it wrong with the title “World’s only 3-star Chinese…” what about the ones in Tokyo?

    Oh, and the man’s name is not Michelin…his name is Bibendum

  4. Tokyo does not have any 3-stars chinese restaurant, they got 2-stars and 1-star only.

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