Hong Kong, Macau to get Michelin guides

28th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Hong Kong and Macau will be the next Asian cities after Japan to have their top eateries put on the international culinary map by France's Michelin guide.

28 August 2008
HONG KONG -- Hong Kong and Macau will be the next Asian cities to have their top eateries put on the international culinary map by France's Michelin guide, the little red book that can make or break a

The two cities will each get a guide in December, in English and Chinese, the publisher said Thursday, appearing one year after Michelin took its first step outside Europe and the United States and launched a Tokyo edition that rapidly became a bestseller.

"It is our first step to China," the guide's director, Jean-Luc Naret, told reporters here.

"Hong Kong has a fantastic number of great restaurants here, incredible hotels. And Macau next door is the 'little Las Vegas' which has (had) an incredible boom in terms of restaurants."

Naret said Beijing and Shanghai were also possible targets for future guides, along with cities throughout Asia from New Delhi to Sydney. Twelve Michelin inspectors of various nationalities, two of them Chinese, have visited restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong and Macau, he said.

In Hong Kong, they pre-selected 1,200 of the city's 15,000 restaurants before whittling down the number to appear in the book to between 250 and 300.

Naret would not confirm which restaurants were being inspected or whether any would be awarded Michelin's coveted three stars, but insisted that some smaller eateries would be examined.

"We hope we can find some very good one-star, two-star and three-star places in very small places," he said.

Cantonese cuisine with influences from other regions of China is most popular in Hong Kong, a British territory until it was handed back to China in 1997, but the city has a huge number of international restaurants as well.

Restaurants in Macau, returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999 after 400 years as a Portuguese colony, often mix Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines. Macau has enjoyed a gambling-inspired boom in recent years, and has attracted top international chefs to serve the VIP punters in the luxurious casinos.

Tokyo's guide shifted 120,000 copies on its first day on sale, and Naret said he was hoping for similar success here. Eight restaurants in the Japanese capital were honoured with three stars.

Michelin guides give one star for "a very good restaurant in its category," two for "excellent cooking worth a detour" and the top three stars for "exceptional cuisine worth a special journey."

The Michelin guide had been awaited with some trepidation in Tokyo, where critics had questioned whether a Western guide could assess Japanese cuisine in which presentation is as important as the food itself.

Michelin published its first guide outside Europe in New York in 2005. Much of the New York media skewered it, saying it focused on French cuisine and ignored the sweeping range of restaurants offered by the city's ethnic communities, but it sold well and led to other US city guides.

The Michelin guide, first published in 1900, introduced its system of star ratings in 1926.

Its evaluations play a crucial part in the fortunes of the chefs who struggle to get into the book and rise in its ranks.

Three stars is a guarantee that wealthy diners will queue up for a table, while the loss of even one star can spell financial or emotional ruin.

But the guides, which sold 1.2 million copies across the world in 2007, have come under criticism for focussing on ultra-expensive dining and ignoring new trends in cooking.

[AFP / Expatica]

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