New York City’s Fine-Dining Crown Slips in Latest Michelin Rankings
(Bloomberg) -- Anyone who is worried about New York’s place as a restaurant powerhouse will find fuel for the fire in the Michelin Guide’s 2021 list of stars.
Last year there were 76 starred restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the fancy Westchester suburbs north of the city; this year there are only 68. Seven new places were added to the list, all one-star spots, so that means 15 restaurants fell off the list. By comparison, last year’s guide didn’t lose any net restaurants. The unhappy news echoes the overwhelming effects on the dining scene in one of the earliest epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S.; around 5,000 restaurants are estimated to have closed since March.
In the May 4 announcement of the Bib Gourmands, its (ostensibly) cheap eats list, the list contains 131 restaurants, two less than in the 2020 edition. The reality for the city is even grimmer when you factor in that Westchester, which was added to the region last year, actually added five places.
The effect hasn’t yet been felt at the top of the dining ladder. The three- and two-starred restaurants stayed exactly the same. In fact, New York’s three-star landscape—Le Bernardin, Masa, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, Per Se, and the now-plant-based Eleven Madison Park— has not budged since the 2018 guide. Any changes to the top-tiered spots was all but certain not to happen this year as Michelin has said that places that were temporarily closed during the pandemic would retain their stars.
The chief inspector of Michelin’s North America team, who spoke in a phone interview on condition of anonymity, said that visits took place before the pandemic and as the restaurants re-opened, following pandemic protocols. He says that he and his fellow inspectors were sensitive to the restrictions and stayed in touch with chefs and owners on openings and closings.
Several time-honored restaurants that represented decades of dining came off the list because they closed including Aldea, Gotham Bar & Grill, and Del Posto. Another long-time Michelin honoree, Babbo, fell off even though it’s still open with packed sidewalk tables in its Washington Square Park locale.
Among the new one-star spots that are stepping into the void are Kochi, a new one-star, offers Korean-inspired grilled skewers in midtown Manhattan. “The award is especially meaningful after navigating the pandemic over the past year,” says Don Angie’s chef and owner Angie Rito, who runs the restaurant with her husband Scott Tacinelli. “We found out via a Zoom call from the king of Italian cuisine himself, legendary chef Massimo Bottura, and we were in a state of pure shock.”
With the exception of the new American brasserie Francie, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all the newcomers are located in Manhattan. The list also has very few women-led kitchens, and almost no kitchens run by a Black chef with the exception of Eric Gestel at Le Bernardin. Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown recently instituted a resident chef program that includes renowned cooks such as Shola Olunloyo and pitmaster Bryan Furman.
As incongruous as the awards seem as restaurants still struggle with the effects of the pandemic, it’s a powerful signal for operators. And one that can directly translate into reservations and revenue. For New York’s restaurant eco-system it can be a trickle down from the top. “This is something that so many chefs dream of achieving,” says Don Angie’s Tacinelli. “The fact that Michelin has recognized our efforts is a tremendous honor.”
On May 5, Michelin announced their first Green Star for New York. (The award itself, which recognizes with notably sustainable practices like ingredient sourcing and cooking debuted in international guides in 2000.) It was given to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the restaurant that epitomizes farm-to-table dining. The award is timely: the conversation around eco-friendly fine dining reached a fever pitch this week with news that Eleven Madison Park would re-open June 10 with an exclusively vegan $335 tasting menu—except for milk and honey during the coffee and tea course.
Even amidst the discouraging numbers, New York City has one booster. Gwendal Poullennec, the guide’s international director, points to a hopeful future for the Big Apple. “We’ve seen an energy in the city, and a rebound. There are new concepts and dynamics emerging,” he says via the phone from a trip to Russia. “More than ever the New York food scene will have new creativity.”
A list of New York’s Michelin winners follows. An asterisk denotes a new listing. Neighborhoods are designated by Michelin.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (Midtown West)
Eleven Madison Park (Gramercy)
Le Bernardin (Midtown West)
Masa (Midtown West)
Per Se (Midtown West)
Aquavit (Midtown East)
Blanca (Fort Greene)
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Westchester)
Daniel (Upper East Side)
Gabriel Kreuther (Midtown West)
Ichimura at Uchū (Lower East Side)
Jean-Georges (Upper West Side)
Ko (East Village)
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Chelsea)
The Modern (Midtown West)
Ai Fiori (Midtown West)
Blue Hill (Greenwich Village)
Carbone (Greenwich Village)
Casa Enrique (Queens)
Casa Mono (Gramercy)
Caviar Russe (Midtown East)
Claro (Sunset Park)
The Clocktower (Gramercy)
Contra (Lower East Side)
Crown Shy (Financial District)
*Don Angie (Greenwich Village)
Estela (SoHo & Nolita)
The Four Horsemen (Williamsburg)
Gramercy Tavern (Greenwich Village)
Jeju Noodle Bar (Greenwich Village)
Kajitsu (Midtown East)
Kanoyama (East Village)
*Kochi (Midtown West)
Kosaka (Greenwich Village)
L’Appart (Financial District)
Le Coucou (SoHo)
Le Jardinier (Midtown East)
Marea (Midtown West)
The Musket Room (SoHo)
Oxalis (Fort Greene & Bushwick)
Peter Luger (Williamsburg)
The River Café (Downtown Brooklyn)
Sushi Amane (Midtown East)
Sushi Ginza Onodera (Midtown West)
Sushi Nakazawa (Greenwich Village)
Sushi Noz (Upper East Side)
Sushi Yasuda (Midtown East)
Tempura Matsui (Midtown East)
*Tsukimi (East Village)
Tuome (East Village)
Wallse (Greenwich Village)
ZZ’s Clam Bar (Greenwich Village)
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