It’s here. The 2014 Michelin Stars have been handed out and taken away. Old standards like Per Se, Le Bernardin, and Masa still reign, but the new year brings seven previously starless restaurants to the guidebook, resurrects one, promotes one, and demotes two.
How exactly do Michelin Stars get awarded? Reviewers are called inspectors and anonymously visit the restaurants they are evaluating multiple times before deciding whether or not to award stars. The stars are, of course, highly coveted by restaurateurs; thousands of restaurants are considered in each eligible city (in the U.S., that’s New York, San Francisco, and Chicago), but only a few are deemed worthy. For 2014, out of the 950 NYC restaurants in the guidebook, 55 have one star, five have two stars, and seven have three stars. It’s kind of a big deal.
According to Michelin, the stars are awarded based only on what’s on the plate–service and ambiance do not factor in. This is how Michelin explains their stars:
“One star indicates a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard. A good place to stop on your journey. Two stars denote excellent cuisine, skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality. Worth a detour. Three stars reward exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. Worth a special journey.”
Here are the 4 Ws of these 11 restaurants with gained or lost stars: who, where, when, and what’s for dinner.
We start with the prodigal son — the one who was lost but then was found. When Michelin first started rating U.S. restaurants in 2006, Babbo was given one star. This star was taken away in 2009, though in true Michelin style, the retraction was never explained. Babbo is renowned as much for its traditional, rustic Italian food as it is for its atmosphere. It’s not often that you get a Michelin starred restaurant with classic and contemporary rock as the nightly dinner music choice. Michelin’s review cites the bar as being very lively and getting a bit rowdy at times. Babbo rotates monthly through regions of Italy, allowing you to eat your way around the country without ever going through customs.
Who: Opened and owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Executive Chef is Frank Langello.
Where: 110 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10011, right off Washington Square.
When: Babbo opened in 1998.
What’s for dinner: Babbo has a pasta tasting menu, which is different and intriguing, that runs $80 per person — and everyone at the table must participate if ordered. The specials can range from $15 to $120 per dish. Michelin calls out the beef cheek ravioli, poached pork tonnato, and rosemary-olive oil cake with a scoop of olive oil gelato. A reviewer on popular-among-foodies website Chowhound claims that the first courses, or primi, are stronger picks than the mains, or secondi. The suggestion for a party of two is two antipasti, two primi, and one secondo while definitely saving room for dessert. As for choices, the Chowhound has pointed to the house-made salumi, fennel-dusted sweetbreads, and any of the gelato flavors (though notably the olive oil and bittersweet chocolate).
Featuring a “modern and unique understanding of contemporary Korean cuisine,” this TriBeCa restaurant has just been promoted from one star to two. Michelin cites the space as being hip and sophisticated with forgiving lighting and gracious service. Beyond its dining room is a gallery called the Cube showcasing rotating exhibits on Korean culture, extending the art from the plate to the gallery.
Who: Opened and run by Executive Chef Jung Sik.
Where: 2 Harrison Street, New York, NY 10013, TriBeCa.
When: Opened in September, 2011. Received its first Michelin star for 2013 as soon as it became eligible for rating.
What’s for dinner: Michelin recommends sea urchin over sticky rice and seaweed, Seoul duck breast and confit of leg0, lobster in a curry-like sauce, and strawberry puree with green pistachio sponge and stewed berries. Chowhound recommend the yellowtail sashimi, smoked pork jowl, wagyu beef, and green tea cremeux.
Aska, Swedish for “ashes,” is a new Scandinavian restaurant featuring hyperlocal, sustainable, and often foraged ingredients (not from the cracks in city sidewalks, don’t worry). The 33-year-old chef, Fredrik Berselius, is considered one of the big wigs in the New Nordic food movement. He was one in a two-chef duo running Frej, a pop-up precursor to Aska. The restaurant is housed in the back of Kinfolk Studios, described by Michelin to be “intimate” with a “blithe attitude that’s very appealing, never off-putting.”
Who: Fredrik Berselius.
Where: 90 Wythe Avenue at North 11th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11249. Accessible by car, L and G trains, and the East River Ferry.
When: Opened November 2012; just became eligible for rating and has received one star.
What’s for dinner: Michelin lists Rhode Island oysters in cucumber juice, fried baby squid, cold smoked pike under grated egg yolk, 100-day dry-aged beef, and cardamom ice cream with browned butter whipped cream and hazelnut powder. Chowhound touts the more unique dishes like the hay, tomato, parsnip, and milk salad; oats, marrow, shad roe, and egg yolk; and cured lamb heart with salsify and lichen.
Named after the city in southern Italy and its head chef, Carbone is an Italian-American restaurant that combines the elegant but unpretentious air of mid-20th century Italian-American eateries with styles and techniques of the culinary present and future. Michelin describes the space as an “upscale and indefinitely more stylish version of an old-timey hangout, complete with jammed tables, black-and-white tiled floors, and curtained windows.” The waiters don burgundy three-pieces. Michelin swears this isn’t over the top — as long as you’re a Scorsese fan.
Who: Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick.
Where: 181 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10003, off the Houston Street stop.
When: Just opened March 2013.
What’s for dinner: Michelin raves about the baked clams topped with sea urchin and lemon, the rigatoni alla vodka, the veal parm, and the chocolate layer cake. Chowhound reviewers claim the octopus pizzaioii, caesar salad, tortellini al ragu, and chicken cacciatore are not to be missed.
5. Ichimura at Brushstroke
The quieter, incredibly intimate sushi bar side of Brushstroke (also a one star establishment) is more raucous nature. Ichimura is a small nook in TriBeCa with eight bar seats and takes reservations up to two per party for two dining times: 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Chef Eiji Ichimura prepares and serves your sushi directly before you — and in true omakase (I’ll leave it to you) style, he decides what you will eat. Michelin describes the space as immaculate and gracious. Required watching before attending: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s on Netflix. Don’t watch while hungry.
Who: Chef Eiji Ichimura, who often serves alone as well.
Where: 30 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013. In keeping with the low-profile, highly-rated sushi bars of Japan, there is no sign for Ichimura. You must enter through Brushstroke.
When: Opened April, 2012 and has received one star. Brushstroke opened April 2011 and has held one star since 2012.
What’s for dinner: Because this meal is chef’s choice, you won’t have to decide! What you can expect, according to Michelin and Chowhound, is marinated toro, chunks of albacore, hirami cured in seaweed steamed chawan mushi with black truffle, abalone and squid livers, uni, and hokkaido ocean trout, toro, and salmon roe.
6. Le Restaurant
Too hip for images and situated in the All Good Things food hall, Le Restaurant is behind a “secreted doorway where a metal staircase leads you” down to the subterranean restaurant. The decor is described by Michelin as “oh-so-now rusticity” and “Scandi-minimalism,” featuring an on-display, wood-fueled kitchen, blonde wood seats, and globe pendant lights.
Who: Chef Ryan Tate, previously of Savoy in SoHo.
Where: 102 Franklin Street, New York, NY 10013 in TriBeCa.
When: Opened in March, 2013 and has received one star.
What’s for dinner: Again, not your choice. The prix-fixe menu is not even presented to you before your dishes are, though servers will ask about any food allergies. Michelin speaks of asparagus-tinged tapioca bursting with caviar, sweet peas, and tendrils surrounded by trout roe, sorrel ice, bacon dust, sweet and sour halibut braised with endives, raisins, and citrus, and a dessert of black cherry cremeux with passion fruit gel and vanilla-and-pepper-poached carrot with iced homemade crème fraîche. Chowhounder describes a red salad of beets, red cabbage, red raddish, and pomegranate; silver dori with basil cavatelli; and pork belly with marinated white anchovies.
7. The Musket Room
The Musket Room brings to New York a cuisine that isn’t often explored internationally: New Zealand’s. Featuring a lush backyard herb garden, a gigantic walnut bar, lime-washed exposed brick, and mid-century brass chandeliers, Michelin calls the space a “reprieve from [Nolita’s] ongoing fiesta.” The crowd at this establishment tends to be on the younger, hipper side, and Michelin says the service is surprisingly friendly and warm. Unlike most other Michelin-starred restaurants that only serve dinner, The Musket Room also has a brunch service featuring dishes from the chef’s upbringing, such as his grandmother’s mustard sauce and waffles with strawberry curd and balsamic syrup.
Who: Chef and Owner Matt Lambert.
Where: 265 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012
When: Opened May 2013, receiving one star. Not bad, especially considering that it was funded by crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter.
What’s for dinner: Michelin lists cold-smoked scallop with black garlic, cucumber rosettes, and sea beans; New Zealand red doe flavored with juniper meringue, roast fennel puree, and licorice jus; and peach with fennel ice cream, lavender yogurt, puffed rice, and candied nuts. Chowhounder notes the wagyu tongue, foie gras bon bons, tofu gnocchi with bok choy, panna cotta, and barley pudding with mango sorbet.
8. Caviar Russe
Caviar Russe is, of course, a caviar establishment. Michelin notes that it’s a slightly obscure location — you have to ring the bell to enter — but is actually an incredibly ornate and intimate room with flowers, murals, marble, and a large window overlooking Madison Avenue. Of course, caviar here is the main event, but Michelin warns that ignoring the rest of the menu would be a huge mistake.
Who: Executive Chef Christopher Agnew and Executive Sous Chef Alex Dilling.
Where: 538 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022
When: Opened in 1996. Having flown under the radar (maybe no one knew to ring the doorbell) for years, it has finally achieved its first star.
What’s for dinner: Michelin says that beyond the caviar, you can’t miss the perfectly cooked risotto with sea urchin topped with caviar, the turbot with squid and black truffle, or desserts containing dark chocolate, salted caramel, lavender, and gold leaf. Chowhounders describes the caviar tasting menu as ranging from beluga to American sturgeon with accompanying toast, blinis, fingerling potatoes, crème fraîche, and chives and the entree to enjoy as roasted quail breast on polenta.
Named after Chef Bill Telepan, Telepan is a snug and cozy restaurant on a quiet block just west of Central Square at West 69th. This restaurant is dedicated to its farm-to-table principles and demonstrates this not only with its food, but also with the large mural of heirloom tomatoes decorating one wall. It’s the parent of the chef’s new and more casual project, Telepan Local, opening now.
Who: Chef Bill Telepan and Pastry Chef Larissa Raphael.
Where: 72 West 69th Street, New York, NY 10023
When: Telepan opened in December, 2005.
What’s for dinner: Michelin has great things to say about house-made pasta like cavatelli in pork bolognese bianco or spaetzle with Brussels sprouts, egg and pecorino, and layered peanut butter and chocolate gianduja over sponge cake with peanut brittle ice cream and huckleberry gelee. Chowhounder recommends the trout blini, any chicken dish, the hummus crostada, the lamb, and the buttermilk panna cotta with rhubarb syrup. The menu, of course, is highly variable with the seasons.
This restaurant has been dealt a blow in this guide; from one star in 2006 and 2007 to two stars through 2011, falling to one star in 2012, this establishment has been stripped of its last star. That’s not to say it isn’t still a good restaurant — even though it has demoted Picholine below one star, Michelin still describes the place as having superior cooking. The dining room is lavish: crystal chandeliers, carved molding, and excessive drapery in its signature purple.
Who: Chef Terrance Brennan and Chef de Cuisine Brian Nasworthy.
Where: 35 West 64th Street, New York, NY 10023
When: Picholine has been serving since 1993.
What’s for dinner: Michelin still raves about the agnolotti in bottarga and squash blossom pesto, their cheese course, and their roasted peach melba with raspberry-yogurt sorbet. Chowhound talks about enjoying the smoked sturgeon panna cotta with beet carpaccio and foie gras shabu-shabu.
11. Gordon Ramsay at the London
How the mighty has fallen — and, as some say, it’s about time. Eater National puts the demotion in context, reporting that, “No restaurant in the history of Michelin has ever gone from two stars to zero because of ‘quality issues.’” Gordon Ramsay, by the way, hasn’t actually owned the restaurant since 2009. He opened it in 2006 but then sold it to the London hotel with the rights to keep his name — and with it, the Michelin stars — because of financial trouble in 2009. It received two stars in his last year, which it has carried up until now. Michelin inspectors have reported problems with consistency. This could be caused by the fact that the place is lacking an executive chef, which the PR rep calls a “transitional period” but is more akin to a disaster.
Who: Who knows? Hadn’t a stable chef since Markus Glocker left in July, 2013 until Michael Wurster came on October 29, 2013. Bets on how long he lasts will be taken now.
Where: 151 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019
When: Gordon Ramsay opened the place in 2006 and sold it to the London hotel in 2009.
What’s for dinner: Because the place has been stripped of all Michelin ranking, including its Bib Gourmand status, it doesn’t even show up in the Michelin guidebook this year. As far as Michelin is concerned, Gordon Ramsay at the London is completely off its suggestion map. Chowhound hasn’t reviewed the restaurant in years, and commenters in Eater National have nothing good to say about it either. Looks like you’d best try your luck at restaurants 1 – 10, because this one needs some time to recuperate — or fail for good.
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