Hong Kong’s Michelin Stars
Let the controversy begin. Michelin are finally releasing their Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau’s restaurants and there is sure to be a storm of protest about the awards given, the restaurants not recognised and the comments and reviews. Hong Kong has done very poorly compared to Tokyo – 31 stars compared to 227. […]
Let the controversy begin. Michelin are finally releasing their Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau’s restaurants and there is sure to be a storm of protest about the awards given, the restaurants not recognised and the comments and reviews. Hong Kong has done very poorly compared to Tokyo – 31 stars compared to 227. Also Tokyo matches Paris with 9 restaurants winning the 3 star award, compared to one for Hong Kong and one for Macau.
Frankly, I’m not surprised. Hong Kong has great food and a rich food culture, there’s no question about that. But standards of service and consistency of food preparation are wildly variable, even in the so-called, best restaurants and it is remarkably easy to pay good money for bad food (and dour service). There’s also a lot of very expensive joints that do little more than reheat and dish out can and bag food.
It was good to see three personal favourites do very well. Lung King Heen one the city’s only three star. Although I find the service in the restaurant a little cold and stiff, the food is inspirational. We’ve enjoyed L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon since it opened and I’m personally very glad to see them recognised as one of the outstanding western restaurants in the city with a two star award. Robuchon’s vision merges traditional French ideas, with a Spanish influence and a modern sensibility – it’s quite honestly the kind of food I could eat everyday. Caprice also managed to gain two stars and deserve recognition for their innovative food and excellent wine-list.
Of course, not everyone is impressed. Today’s SCMP reports that a number of local food critics are scornful of the Guide. Chua Lam is quoted as saying the guide is “…just a joke… like a dialogue between idiots.” Walter Kei said “It only picked restaurants from a tourist’s point of view.” A common refrain was that the reviewers must not have understood Chinese food.
Now is not the time to unpack the whole issue of postcolonial history, but it’s hard not to see some lingering resentment and possibly even racism in some critics of the guide. Whilst Michelin does have a French bias, it is a very international publication. It’s reviews are not populist, but based on a set of criteria that include not only taste, but service, consistency, creativity and flair. It’s more than fair to criticise the Guide for being elitist – a restaurant must invest an awful lot of money and employ a lot of staff to stand a chance of winning three stars. But, the cultural criticisms may well say more about the way the critics do not understand the guide, or perhaps over-estimate their own culture to the point of being blind to commentary.
I’m glad the Guide has arrived, I’m glad it has handed out only a few stars and I’m glad that it has created a controversy. Despite the quality and potential of the Hong Kong restaurant scene things really are in need of a shake up. If the guide does that and both food lovers and restauranteurs respond, then it will be a great service to the city.
Thank You Michelin.