Michelin Disses Del Posto; Zagat Keeps Per Se on Top

Chef Michael White
Chef Michael White of the restaurant Marea in New York. The restaurant received a second star in this year's Michelin Guide. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg News

Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Del Posto failed to win back its second Michelin star after removing a more affordably priced, casual section of the restaurant and instituting a $500 per person wine-paired tasting menu. Oops.

The “Michelin Guide New York City 2011”, whose results were released today, stripped the most expensive spot in the Batali-Bastianich empire of its second star last year. Del Posto also offers $125, $95 and a la carte menus.

The restaurant won a four-star rating from the New York Times last week, leading to sold-out status ever since. The discrepancy may reveal how much influence the Michelin stars have on local restaurant bookings.

“The discrepancy is not a surprise for a lot of people who know about food, obviously,” said Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin Guides in a telephone interview this morning.

Adour Alain Ducasse also failed to win back its second star after the restaurant installed Didier Elena, once the chef at Ducasse’s failed Essex House restaurant. Gordon Ramsay at the London, no longer owned by the financially beleaguered chef, kept its second star.

Michael White’s Marea, a major hit with diners and critics, won a second star.

Kings County upped its laurels with the chef’s table at Brooklyn Fare, the borough’s priciest restaurant. The Boerum Hill venue regularly books up a month in advance and charges $135 per person for 20 courses. It seats only 18 diners per night.

Naret said Michelin made six visits to Brooklyn Fare and that his recent dinner there was one of his “top three or four meals of the year.”

Two Japanese restaurants, Kajitsu, a vegetarian spot, and Soto, known for its intricate sea urchin preparations, were also honored with a second star.

New entrants in the one-star category are Aldea, The Breslin, Dovetail, Laut, A Voce at the Time Warner Center and Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen in Queens.


The other red guide, the “Zagat 2011 New York City Restaurants” survey, also released its results today, giving top food honors to Le Bernardin and best service to Per Se, both for the second year running. Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern won most popular venue for the sixth time in a decade, while his Maialino, snubbed by Michelin, was voted top newcomer.

While Michelin uses anonymous, professional inspectors to rate its restaurants, Zagat tallies the votes of 40,569 everyday diners to assign ratings. Sub-$20 restaurants occupied three of the four top newcomer slots, including Luke’s Lobster, a shack that sells $14 lobster rolls; Mile End, a Montreal-style Jewish deli in Brooklyn and Cascabel, a taqueria on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“People are being more careful about going out and when they do go out they’re spending less,” said Tim Zagat, founder of the survey, who added that 2010 was “probably the slowest year for fine dining in my memory.”

More Michelin

Maialino wasn’t the only Zagat-lauded restaurant to be snubbed by the Michelin star system. The extraordinarily popular Torrisi Italian Specialties, which serves a set menu for $50 and typically requires a three-hour wait, was denied a star, along with David Chang’s Ma Peche, which serves $510-$850 beef dinners. Tom Colicchio, one of the city’s most popular American cooks and host of the “Top Chef” television show, failed to win a star for his new Colicchio & Sons restaurant.

All five of Michelin’s three-star recipients from previous years kept their honors; they are Per Se, Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, Masa and Daniel. Three stars means “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey;” two, “Excellent cooking, worth a detour;” one, “Very good cooking in its category.”

(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)


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