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The Biggest Winners and Losers From the 2023 NYC Michelin Guide
The French guide doesn't think too highly of New York's Mexican restaurants or ambitious neobistros, but spendy sushi spots performed well, again
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Michelin, arguably the world’s most recognizable restaurant guide, unveiled its annual starred selections for New York City last night.
Briefly: There were no new three-starred spots — Michelin’s highest honor — though Brooklyn Fare fell out of that prestigious category after a big chef shakeup. Eight new restaurants nabbed a single star, including the revamped Torrisi, the reborn Ichimura, and the Korean meat counter Bōm. Sushi Noz and Odo both jumped up to the exclusive tier of two-starred venues.
I reported on all the action yesterday, but today, let’s take a look at some of the big picture stuff. Whether you like Michelin or not, the stars can have an impact on sales, so it’s worth considering — like I did last year — whom the guide is favoring and overlooking.
Winners: Who Benefits from This Year’s Michelin Guide
Expensive Omakase Spots
If you’re running one of New York’s myriad omakase or kaiseki spots, a booming style of dining that caters to the city’s wealthiest diners, the new Michelin Guide was good to you, yet again. Both of the new two-star restaurants belong to this elite scene. Noz commands $495, while Odo charges a more modest $245 at dinner — still a lot of money. And joining the one star club are both Ichimura ($425), and Jōji ($375).
Literally 18 percent of New York’s starred selections are now ambitious sushi or kaiseki spots, and that number goes higher if you throw in spendy tempura and yakitori tastings.
Major Food Group
Once upon a time, Major Food had Michelin stars for Torrisi, Carbone, and ZZ’s. Then, all of a sudden, after last year’s list, they had none.
That dry-spell didn’t list long. The revamped and relocated Torrisi has nabbed a star again, seemingly replacing the slot that Michelin had previously allocated for the Italian American Don Angie (that’s not how Michelin works; there are no slots, but it seems kind of funny when things like this happen). Also, I recommend Torrisi!
Modern Korean Fare
Michelin has been doing good work over the past decade to highlight the city’s thriving Modern Korean scene. The French-y, two Michelin-starred Jungsik has never really been my cup of tea, but the inspectors have bestowed stars on scores of other fine spots. In fact I’m pretty sure the only real “steakhouse” in the city with a star is the Korean American Cote — and honestly it’s not a bad choice.
The inspectors gave stars to two more Modern Korean spots this year. One of those venues is Bōm, a beef-focused counter restaurant behind Oiji Mi that I’ve been meaning to check out when my next big paycheck comes in (dinner is $325 before tip). Hooni Kim, whose Danji used to hold a star, gained that recognition back at Meju, his acclaimed fermentation-focused spot in Long Island City.
If my math is right, about nine Modern Korean spots now have stars — roughly 13 percent of the list — with Atomix being a prime candidate for a third star soon.
Losers: What Spots Michelin Is Overlooking
Good Mexican and Latin American Restaurants
Not every guidebook or reviewer has to like the same thing. It’s honestly good that there’s diversity in criticism and listicles, as it can foster smart debates among both writers and diners. But it’s odd that as so many outlets highlight the city’s thriving Mexican and Latin American restaurants — I’m thinking of Ensenada, Cosme, Llama San, Aldama, Taqueria Ramirez, and others — Michelin’s inspectors are cutting down on the highest accolades they dole out to them.
Both Claro and Casa Enrique lost stars this year. So as the Red Guide continues to lavish praise on almost every single $500 omakase spot that opens, New York is left with just a single Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant: Oxomoco.
New York’s New Class of Neobistros and Gastro Taverns
Claud’s sizzling red shrimp and mushroom mille-feuille. Corner Bar’s charcoal chicken and merguez. Lord’s steak au poivre with beef fat fries. And Libertine’s duck au poivre and lamb terrine. Feeling hungry yet?
One of the most exciting things about New York gastronomy right now is how a new class of acclaimed French, American, and British spots are doing wildly creative things to disrupt more traditional and expensive establishments. None of those spots received stars in this year’s guide. I get that Michelin likely thinks these places aren’t ready; they’ve waited in the past to elevate, say, a Contra an Estela, or a Dirt Candy.
But if you’re one of the people responsible for this guide, you have to ask yourself: Do you want to be on the side of all the expensive new fine dining spots that are doing a lot of the same stuff the other expensive hangouts are already doing? Or do you want to take a chance and show off the chefs that are working hard to push the envelope and inject life into our city’s dining scene?
With Michelin, fortune always seems to favor the luxe, and not the edgy, innovative, or meaningful addition to our restaurant scene.
Tatiana and So Many Other Vital New York Spots
Like I said, not everyone has to like the same thing.
Just about every local critic loved Lincoln Center’s Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi. Those writers also appreciated the importance of serving West African, Puerto Rican, and other Caribbean dishes given Lincoln Center’s exclusionary cultural history and ugly origin story. Michelin’s decision to deny Tatiana a star will not cause the restaurant to suffer in any meaningful way, not with the crowds it draws.
Still, it should surprise literally no one that a restaurant dedicated to shining a spotlight on undervalued New York dishes — preparations that rarely get a platform at typical fine dining spots — doesn’t get a star from a guide that likes to champion typical fine dining spots.
Tatiana’s omission seems to make even more “Michelin sense” when you figure that so many vital New York restaurants — venues as dedicated to their art and craft as any tasting menu joint — don’t have stars either. I’m thinking of good Jewish delis, Modern Vietnamese restaurants, Thai spots, Uzbek grill spots, South American venues, pizzerias, and one stellar Persian destination.
This reality doesn’t feel like a smart, critical disagreement, at least not with Michelin’s sleepy, listicle-style writeups. It feels like….Michelin simply doesn’t enjoy this sort of food, at least not when the inspectors are looking for a starred meal.
Okay, that’s enough!
I’ll come back your way with some (paywalled) Sutton restaurant recommendations and reviews quite soon!
Like with any breaking news or early-take news analysis, this column has been updated.
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