Michelin star guide on the wane

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 9:13am

The news that the Michelin Guide for 2013 was being sold at City'super before its official release date this month was met with yawns.

When Michelin's inaugural guide to Hong Kong was published in December 2008 (with results for 2009), it made headlines around the world for giving three stars to Lung King Heen - the first Chinese restaurant ever to receive the top accolade. In Hong Kong, however, Michelin received much criticism for the number of chain restaurants that were included.

The next year, Hong Kong made headlines again for having the cheapest Michelin-star restaurants in the world, with places like Tim Ho Wan and Hung's Delicacies. Most food lovers - including this writer - considered those places appropriate for the Bib Gourmand section of the guide, serving good food at moderate prices.

With the 2011 results, Michelin courted controversy again for including the first Indian restaurant in Hong Kong, Hin Ho Curry Restaurant, whose owner has never been to India and admits to toning down his food to suit local tastes.

Each year, the Michelin "buzz" has been getting less audible. My foodie friends have stopped being irritated at what was included or left out - we just know that we won't agree with many of the assessments.

I rarely mention which restaurants in Hong Kong have Michelin stars, because if I acknowledged them for one place, I'd feel compelled to recognise them for all others, and, in some cases, that would be giving unwarranted validity to some of the ratings.

According to Michelin, the one-, two- and three-star restaurants in Hong Kong are equal to the one-, two- and three-star restaurants in Paris, which is a city I visit every year. I've eaten at the one-star Benoit in Paris, and it's on another level, in terms of quality of food, service and ambience, to Tim Ho Wan - even taking into consideration the huge price difference.

It's not that I think that Chinese food is in any way inferior to French because it's not, but Tim Ho Wan simply does not deserve a star. There are so many other excellent restaurants here, but they don't even rate a mention in the guide.