Tokyo restaurants tops in Michelin

Tokyo is the top dining city in the world, according to the latest Michelin Guide. With 11 restaurants at three stars, it’s pushed past Paris, the former top dog in the culinary world. Eight of the nine Tokyo restaurants with three starts retained their Michelin ratings year-over-year, and three were bumped up from two stars to three for 2010. Paris has only 10 three-star restaurants in the 2010 Michelin Guide, and New York only has four.

According to Oyvind Naesheim, Nobu Hong Kong’s executive chef, “Tokyo is an unbelievable city for food,” continuing, “The passion and perfection at some top Tokyo restaurants show us why this city is so outstanding in fine dining.”

Two thirds of the 197 Tokyo restaurants listed by Michelin focus on Japanese food, focusing on common styles includingfugu, soba, sukiyaki, tempura and sushi. Three of the 11 three-star spots went to French Restaurants.

In total, Tokyo has 261 stars, more than any other city in the 23 countries that Michelin covers. Look for the list of Tokyo three star restaurants after the jump.

  1. Esaki, Classic Japanese (new)
  2. Ishikawa, Classic Japanese
  3. Joel Robuchon, French
  4. Kanda, Japanese
  5. Koju, Japanese
  6. L’Osier, French
  7. Quintessence, French
  8. Sushi Mizutani, Sushi
  9. Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Sushi
  10. Sushi Saito, Sushi (new)
  11. Yukimura, Classic Japanese (new)

Great drinking and dining at London’s gastropubs

The pub is a fine British institution, but the eating is rarely as good as the drinking. When you order food at most pubs, what you get is a preprepared meal that’s heated up in a microwave, not something that’s cooked especially for you.

Some pubs do have good kitchens where they make everything from scratch, like The Fir Tree, my local in Oxford, but it can be hard to tell just by looking at a pub whether the food is good or not. If you want to get some good dining with your real ales, either ask a local or go to a gastropub.

Gastropubs are just what the name implies–pubs that pride themselves as much on their kitchen as on their bar. Last week I tried the Anchor and Hope, named by the folks over at Square Meal and several other reviewers as one of London’s best.

I must admit I wasn’t going in with the clearest state of mind, having just flown in from Missouri that morning and done a full day’s work at the British Library. (Ever read medieval manuscripts while jetlagged? Neither had I) The meal soon perked me up.

It was a Tuesday night but the place was packed and noisy. My friend and I didn’t bother trying to get a table and simply sat at the bar. Service was quick and we enjoyed watching the chefs do their thing in the open kitchen. I ordered the braised hare, and my friend ordered the fried eel, peas, mustard, and bacon.

The braised hare was tender and rich, and I found my friend’s dish pretty good too, even though I am by no means an eel fan. Both dishes came with plenty of flavorful sauce and we cleaned our plates with some sourdough bread. For dessert we had custard fingers. They were good too, but nothing special, so after the excellent entrees they were a bit of a letdown. Our two meals, three pints of Bombardier, and dessert came to just 43 pounds ($70). That’s good value in a city infamous for overpriced and mediocre food.

Other dishes on offer included Foie gras terrine and poached quince; pot roast partridge; braised cuttlefish and chickpeas in ink; and whole roast sea bass, fennel and anchovy dressing. As the night wore on items were crossed off the menu. This is a good sign because it means they only had limited quantities of quality ingredients, but it can lead to disappointment. I’d gone in with my heart set on the wild rabbit, tomato, anchovy, and almonds.

Located at number 36, The Cut, the Anchor & Hope is conveniently close to Waterloo station and the Old Vic and Young Vic theatres, so give it a try when you’re in town, or try one of the many other recommended gastropubs listed at Square Meal.

The word “gastropub” was coined back in 1991 by the owners of The Eagle in Clerkenwell, pictured here. Gastropubs, like many other aspects of English life, are very class-specific. Working-class types tend to dismiss gastropubs as being full of toffs who don’t know what a real pub is, and I have to say there’s a bit of truth to that statement. The gastropubs I’ve been to tend to be a bit less social and attract fewer of the regulars that make traditional pubs into little communities. The three times I’ve lived in England I always had a local pub where I was a regular, but I’ve never become a regular at a gastropub.

Now if someone opened a gastropub that served Ethiopian food, that could change. . .

Montreal Musts, To Eat: Liverpool

Little Burgundy was once home to jazz musicians who fled Prohibition for Montreal to resume “normal” living – or at least get wasted regularly. Now, the pace isn’t what it was in the 1920s, but you can still find plenty of reasons to head over to this part of town. Among the best is Liverpool House, a small restaurant with a profound menu.

From the outside, Liverpool House looks like a neighborhood restaurant, the sort of place I’d find in my part of New York. The signage is subtle, hinting that you should really know about the restaurant already, and the external décor is almost unassuming. Yet, when you step through the front door, the scene changes entirely. The restaurant is overflowing with activity, from guests talking over meals to waiters and waitresses dashing around with plates of delicious food.

Make sure you have a reservation, particularly for peak nights, or you could be waiting for a while. If you don’t mind sitting at the bar, though, you should be able to squeeze yourself in at just about any time. Whether you choose this or to eat at a table, make your first stop Ryan. The bartender, he obviously has his finger on the pulse of this restaurant and can recommend dishes and wine pairings, explain the food in front of you and provide the insights that can unlock a spectacular culinary experience.

I had no idea, for example, that the boar belly I ate was smoked in the restaurant’s back yard … in a smoker the owner built with his own hands (literally welded it together himself). This is why you have to talk to Brian.

The service was prompt without being rushed. I received the courses as I expected them – they didn’t stack up on each other and did not leave me waiting impatiently for the next round. The oysters were from eastern Canada and perfectly delightful, and the boar belly evades any attempt at complete description. The combination of tenderness, texture and taste was perfect, but you’d have to taste it to understand. I also ordered the caprese salad and learned that some of the tomatoes are grown in the garden out back (in the same yard as the smoker). Liverpool House mixes in some of its own tomatoes but isn’t able to grow enough to support the entire restaurant (and the other two – on the owned block – that the owner has).

The star of the evening was the “lazy lobster.” By 8 PM, there were only two left, so it’s obviously a popular item (if you want it, get to Liverpool House fairly early). The lobster is served cracked and on a bed of lobster roe-infused mashed potatoes. Even if it means eating earlier than you’d like, make sure you have reservations that keep you from missing this.

The Little Burgundy neighborhood – and thus Liverpool House – is a bit of a hike from the downtown and Old Montreal hotels, so take a taxi both ways. It’s a bit of a pain compared to the ease of just eating near (or even in) your hotel, but the experience will be worth the 30 minutes (roundtrip) spent in a cab.

Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.

Five Upper West Side brunch favorites

Step onto any Upper West Side sidewalk on a Saturday or Sunday, and you’re bound to be swarmed by brunchers – coming from, going to or lingering outside their favorite spots. Though there is no shortage of unknown and overexposed eateries in this neighborhood, it’s not unusual to find yourself saddled with a long wait even if you have a reservation. Or, you could score with a great restaurant and no line.

Ultimately, knowledge is what makes the difference. Forty-five minutes could be worth it for a great meal, or you could find out that a restaurant has no line for a reason. Having a sense for the different options can define your weekend. So, here are five “sure thing” alternatives for brunch on the Upper West Side.

1. Café Luxembourg: This bistro is best for brunch before 10 AM – no lines, excellent service and a deep menu. Go with the steak and eggs (decent piece of meat compared to most breakfast steaks), and definitely order the hash browns. You can taste the butter!


2. Alice’s Teacup: My friends made fun of me for this one, because the place is definitely “girly.” The scones, however, are nothing short of amazing, and the attentive waitresses occasionally don fairy wings. Even if you’re hungry, leave room for dessert. Nothing matches the frustration of seeing those treats and not being able to handle another bite.

3. Good Enough to Eat: To be honest, I’ve never had great service here, but the food is outstanding. The sausage is served in the shape of a meatball, but it’s not a meatball! The length of the omelet selection is impressive, but skip the coffee. This is a place for food (at which it excels) and nothing else. Arrive at least a half hour before the restaurant opens.

4. Sarabeth’s: Yeah, everybody knows about it, and to go there for brunch is to live a cliché. But, Sarabeth’s deserves its reputation, and the cheese blintzes are a must. To minimize your wait, plan to show up about 15 minutes before the restaurant opens.

5. Fred’s: Satisfy your “puppy love” in a restaurant named for the family dog. The walls are adorned with the pets of satisfied customers, and you’ll probably want to add your canine to the pack. This is another stellar omelet find, so egg-lovers will be right at home.

Michelin comes to Hong Kong. Will it ever be the same?

Michelin, the famous (or infamous) French restaurant guide has been branching out lately. Two years ago, Tokyo became the first Asian city to be visited by the star-giving gourmet food experts. This year, Tokyo received more stars than any other city. For those unfamiliar with the Michelin rating system: 1 star means your restaurant is awesome, two means it is unbelievably awesome, and three means you provide nothing less than orgasmic gourmet experience.

Hong Kong and Macau became the second Asian destination for Michelin. Two restaurants received the coveted three star rating, while two dozen others received one or two stars.

In the US and Europe, a Michelin star can make a chef’s career. The fame doesn’t yet translate in the Pacific Rim. But gourmet cuisine is definitely on the rise in Hong Kong. I hope the coming of Michelin doesn’t change the culinary atmosphere there. What would the city be without the chaotic dim sum joints, the hidden away seafood restaurants, and tiny noodle shops? The whole “food as art” thing has its place. There is nothing wrong with it. But if everyone suddenly goes gourmet, Hong Kong would lose its wild restaurant culture. If that happens, then the whole territory might as well just break off and sink into the South China Seas.

[Via Globespotters and The Standard HK]