Michelin Adds Another Three Top-Tier Restaurants in West Japan

Michelin 2012
The cover of the Michelin 2012 guide to Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara. Source: Michelin via Bloomberg

Michelin today adds another three new three-star restaurants in western Japan, taking the total for that region to 15 -- and for the country to 29 -- as the French dining guide deepens its love affair with the Asian nation.

Wa Yamamura gains the top accolade in Nara, covered by Michelin for the first time this year, while Fujiya 1935 and Koryu, both in Osaka, are promoted to three stars from two. Seven more establishments gain two stars in the guide to Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara, Michelin said in an e-mailed release.

“Japan is a unique country with many cities that are full of high-level cuisine,” Bernard Delmas, president of Nihon Michelin Tire, said in the release. “This is why, as we reach the fifth anniversary of our arrival in Japan, we continue to discover new stars.”

Japan has emerged as a favorite with the Michelin inspectors, who in the 2011 guide for France awarded three stars to 25 venues, two stars to 76 and one star to 470. The guide to France is the last for each year’s cycle and is usually announced in February.

Michelin releases two separate guides in Japan. The first is for four cities in the west of the country and the other for Tokyo and neighboring conurbations.

The winners join the 14 restaurants currently holding three stars in the Tokyo area, whose results for 2012 are scheduled to be announced on Nov. 29. A total of 59 restaurants in western Japan (29 in Kyoto, 15 in Osaka, 12 in Kobe and 3 in Nara) and two ryokan inns (both in Kyoto) earn two stars.

Star Cities

The total number of three-star restaurants in the world now increases to 101. Seven venues in New York and two in London hold three stars.

Three stars mean exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey; two stars are for excellent cooking, worth a detour; one star denotes a very good restaurant in its category.

Various criteria are used: food quality, preparation and flavors; the chef’s personality as revealed through the cuisine; value for money; and consistency over time and across the menu.

Michelin & Cie. is the world’s second-biggest tiremaker, after Bridgestone Corp. It produced its first guide in August 1900, distributed free of charge (until 1920) and intended for chauffeurs. The guide contained practical information, including street maps and tips on using and repairing tires.

The three-star winners:

Chihana (Japanese)
Hyo-tei (Japanese)
Kikunoi Honten (Japanese)
Kitcho Arashiyama Honten (Japanese)
Mizai (Japanese)
Nakamura (Japanese)
Tsuruya (Japanese)

Fujiya 1935 (Fusion)
Hajime (French Contemporary)
Kashiwaya (Japanese)
Koryu (Japanese)
Taian (Japanese)

Ca Sento (Fusion)
Komago (Japanese)

Wa Yamamura (Japanese)

“MICHELIN guide Kyoto Osaka Kobe Nara 2012” will be published by Nihon Michelin Tire Co. on Oct. 21, priced at 2,520 yen, including tax. The English version goes on sale in France on Feb. 1, 2012. The Tokyo guide is scheduled for publication on Dec. 2, 2011.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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