Prominent Kyoto restaurants say no to Michelin

The Michelin guide Kyoto-Osaka 2010 was released on Oct 16. Listed in the book are 147 restaurants, including the high-end Hyotei and Kyoto Kiccho Arashiyama, both of which earned 3 stars.

Another 18 restaurants and two ryokans are on the list, all of which had declined Michelin’s request for a photo shoot. They may have had various reasons for refusing, but their response to Shukan Post’s interview revealed a chasm of an entirely different nature between the restaurants and Michelin.

The owner of Rikichi, awarded 1 star, comments, “Someone from Michelin contacted us for an interview which I declined. And this is what the person said – that so long as we operate a restaurant, it is a given that we should be evaluated. Seriously, who cares? Our only concern is our customers, whether they come from next door, who dine at our restaurant and enjoy our food.”

Another 1 star restaurant that also refused to be interviewed by Michelin went so far to say that they would change their telephone number if they got listed in the guide.

The negative reaction on the part of these restaurants has to do with what is perceived as Michelin’s pompous attitude. According to a gourmet journalist, the representative of Michelin guide Kyoto-Osaka made statements such as “those who refuse our evaluation should choose a different occupation” at a September press conference and went ahead in listing those that expressly declined to be reviewed.

While it may be an honor for restaurants in Europe to be evaluated by Michelin, long-established Kyoto restaurants cherish their distinct cuisine tradition, history and culture. From their perspective, the patron’s review is far more important than what the French think.

The appreciation of such cultural differences in values and culinary professionalism may be too much to ask for.

  • 0

    ben4short

    What an absolute riot! The two most arrogant people on the planet, those from France and Kyoto, in a pissing match over being pompous. And the winner is . . .

  • 0

    ironchef

    what do the French know about Japanese food? How can they evaluate it? Probably like most Westerners, they'll complain about Japanese food being bland, weird, etc. Forget Michelin.

  • 0

    ben4short

    And what do the Japanese know about French food, huh ironchef? Dumb comment.

  • 0

    franz75

    ironchef: wow! what do you know about the people evaluating Japanese restaurants? Forget your comment.

  • 0

    Potsu

    Anyone outside of France and Japan take the guide seriously anyway ?

  • 0

    Betting

    "Our only concern is our customers, whether they come from next door, who dine at our restaurant and enjoy our food".

    Well said :)

  • 0

    KallyPygous

    The whole Michelin story is getting tired.

  • 0

    womanforwomen

    I know that even the French cannot be bothered about Michelin these days.

  • 0

    bgaudry

    There are now so many decent restaurants all over Japan and the world, surely half the fun is trying to dins somewhere you like, rather than using a guide to get around?

  • 0

    knackerz

    I kind of agree with the Kyoto restaurants on this one, but their reasons I suspect, is not for the love of food, but to teep the barbarian hoards from the gates

  • 0

    Altria

    their reasons I suspect, is not for the love of food, but to teep the barbarian hoards from the gates

    Good point. The last thing authentic Kyoto restaurants want are loudmouthed, tatami-trampling tourists asking for a knife and fork to eat their tenpura with.

  • 0

    Xinef

    I know that even the French cannot be bothered about Michelin these days.

    I would add: What is the point in buying a book listing restaurants you cannot afford? At least in Japan you can find various price levels...

    Also, I doubt the people visiting restaurants and those making stupid comments in press conferences are the same... Restaurant owners reaction was to be expected.

  • 0

    timorborder

    Having had the pleasure of dining at some of the best restaurants in Kyoto over the years (a number of which are both nondescript and very much invitation-only), I have to agree with the argument of keeping out the barbarians, particularly those indigenous types with ideas above their station.

    It also has to be understood that the curse of the Michelin Guide is that it arms the Philistine mass with a modicum of intelligence, resulting in many fine establishments being over-run by the wrong sort of people. There is nothing worse than dining out at a nice establishment while surrounded by people whose table manners are more akin to those of farmyard animals.

  • 0

    timorborder

    Perhaps the "nice establishments" can feed the masses in a separate, segregated part of the restaurant so as not to offend his oh-so-delicate sensibilities.

    Unfortunately, setting up troughs would probably be in breach of health regulations.

  • 0

    ben4short

    And refusing entry to gaijins would be discriminatory.

  • 0

    dishdash

    I think its great the Kyoto restaurants gave the Michelin people a bit of stick. Have there been any articles about the Japanese tiring of this guide?

  • 0

    Yelnats

    I am so happy they reacted this way....just as I said the other day, Michelen has no right coming here to check up on food they nothing about.

  • 0

    The758

    A few months back was the story of Japanese chefs going over to L.A. to ensure that Japanese restaurants were preparing Japanese food to Japanese standards. Although a different group of people, I don't see how the Japanese can complain about foreigners coming over and reviewing their food. I think it's the underlying uchi soto BS

  • 0

    hankb

    One star, whoopie......probably just doesn't lift their ladles in Kyoto...

  • 0

    some14some

    the representative of Michelin guide Kyoto-Osaka made statements such as “those who refuse our evaluation should choose a different occupation”

    Better if Michelin change their business line mainly due to fast spreading news through internet, mobile phones and severe recession in Japan.

  • 0

    tclh

    Michelin doesn't know that Japanese people will reward arrogance with a finger pointing to the door:OUT!

  • 0

    ivarwind

    Good for the Kyoto restaurants, I say, would have been better if Michelin had just stayed away. But then I'll take two empty taxis outside the ramen place over two Michelin stars any day.

    A Michelin listing is very much a mixed blessing. A restaurant can make a lot of money while having it, but if they happen to lose it again, they'll lose their new customers - that maybe they never wanted - and have none of the old left.

    Also the Michelin people have a very specific taste - fortunately they don't have nearly as much impact on food as Parker has on wine. If they had, the world would be an even poorer place.

  • 0

    Seiharinokaze

    Kyotoites don't trust French sense of taste, perhaps. See what Rosanjin did at La Tour d'Argent.

  • 0

    dammit

    the representative of Michelin guide Kyoto-Osaka made statements such as “those who refuse our evaluation should choose a different occupation”

    Arrogant idiot.

    the patron’s review is far more important than what the French think.

    Actually, I've heard of French restaurateurs refusing the Michelin ratings too. This is after having them for a few years, and finding that they no longer have true control over the direction their business is going, and can't create new dishes that the regular old clients would like because the toffy nosed new guys are too snobbish.

    Is it legal for a guide like this to add restaurants to it's book when the owners have specifically said they don't want to get involved? Good on the owner who'll change his phone number to avoid creeps wanting to book a michelin rated restaurant, I hope his business goes from strength to strength.

    Ben4short, many Japanese apparently know nothing about French food. It seems that when in France they are so desperate to eat at Japanese restaurants they rarely try real French cuisine. Tough luck to them, what's the point of going to a foreign country and not trying the food? Robs you of half the fun that does.

    The758, surely if people are going to describe their creations as Japanese food they should be at least similar to real Japanese foods? Look at French toast for example, never heard of in France by any name but on school menus over here. Gotta keep up the standards, look at Parma ham, Melton-Mowbrays, and even the Italians are getting hot under the collar about pizzas. It's just because when foreigners make a product and name it after an existing product it should be very like the real thing, not some limp and feeble impersonation.

  • 0

    stirfry

    now here's a battle worth watching: the french and the japanese trying to out-pompous and out-arrogant each other...i'd call it a tie

  • 0

    TOXIN

    “those who refuse our evaluation should choose a different occupation”

    Isn't that a pretty bold claim?

    i prefer food with taste rather than pretty look and over price, but tasteless.

  • 0

    BigInJapan

    Would enlighten me someone why is it arrogant that a food critique declares his or her right to say opinion about food? There is no consumer opinion in Japan: you eat what they advertise you. I see 10 TV programs a day on food and restaurants but all of them advertisments payed by the actual restaurants. For sure, they are outraged by hte "arrogant French" when once for a while someone actually have his or her oppinion on the service and food. Off course, it is always easier to say: "no gaijins!" and make some Nihon e Youkosou! campaign to show how friendly and hospital the Japanese.

  • 0

    marushka

    Well, there is an opinion that a Michelin critic is based on personal preferences, and not really fair. There are lot of French movies based on stories like this. Despite certain level of prejudice, Michelin restaurant guide book reminds to be one of the references of gastronomy and high class level food performance.

  • 0

    OneForAll

    hilarious posts over food. Thank God for McDonalds. Same everywhere. Kids love it. Wish I had the funds for all the fine restaurants to find out what it is all about. Oh well. Apres les enfant, perhaps.

  • 0

    dammit

    Biginjapan,

    Would enlighten me someone why is it arrogant that a food critique declares his or her right to say opinion about food?

    That's not what the person said. Telling top chefs that if they don't appreciate Michelin and all it's trappings then they're not fit to cook food is insulting. Anyone can say what they think of a restaurant's food, even you or I. But we don't put it in a book, make money from it, and let our egos inflate to horrendous proportions with our wallowing in our own superiority. It's a personal taste, you know that. You probably love some of the foods I loathe. That's good, and probably natural. So what difference does it make if someone else thinks so-n-so's ramen is better than someone elses?

    BTW, OneForAll, allegedly McDonalds is not the same everywhere. I don't just mean the menu items either, but some allege that better and sometimes larger and higher quality articles are incorporated into the meals, instead of the usual standard you find in the US, Japan, UK etc.

  • 0

    BigInJapan

    Telling top chefs that if they don't appreciate Michelin and all it's trappings then they're not fit to cook food is insulting.

    Too much ego for cooks who supposed to have gods called costumers. If a cook find insulting that he is judged by a costumer, and the costumer does it publicly, then he is stupid and fascist at the same time.

  • 0

    BigInJapan

    By the way why don't I find this piece of news in the Japanese news, instead I always read "Oh, how proud we are that Michelin gave us stars! We are so developed and evolved culture!"

    So far, if you don't care what Michelin write about you, you don't need to read it. Whole generation of artist was able to cope with critique from the beginning of time, so self-important craftsmen should be able to do so.

  • 0

    DeepAir65

    Allez La France - all the way back home please!

    I much prefer word of mouth to restaurants that are overpriced because they have a star or a crown or whatever. Never bought the guide, never will

  • 0

    chewbakayaro

    I ate at the 3-star Joel Roebuchon's Atelier in Roppongi Hills, and it was one of the least satisfying meals I've ever had. The highlight was the bread.

    I say there should be Michelin guide for ramen - the most satisfying meal in Japan. Seriously, my mouth is salivating, my heart is palpitating, and my blood pressure is through the roof just thinking about all that fatty, salty goodness.

  • 0

    SiouxChef

    The populist jealousy in this thread is quite amusing. Especially since it's being fueled by hearsay and unsubstantiated claims in a tabloid.

    I would add: What is the point in buying a book listing restaurants you cannot afford?

    I buy it to identify potential new restaurants to dine at. Because you don't earn enough to eat at Michelin-rated establishments you write it off as inherently pointless? There's no shame in not being able to afford what's featured in the guide. That said, you might be surprised to find that not all of the restaurants are as expensive as you think.

    Some here are also ignorant of the Michelin inspection process itself (yet posted anyway).

    what do the French know about Japanese food? How can they evaluate it? Probably like most Westerners, they'll complain about Japanese food being bland, weird, etc. Forget Michelin.

    I am so happy they reacted this way....just as I said the other day, Michelen has no right coming here to check up on food they nothing about.

    The Kyoto/Osaka inspectors were Japanese.

    Also, while it's being presented by the illustrious Shukan Post as "we Japanese vs. ignorant pompous outsiders", it's not that uncommon for restaurants - for various reasons - to refuse to have their photograph taken. And yes, when they do so, sometimes Michelin still recommends them in the guide.

    Oh, the outrage.

  • 0

    SiouxChef

    I ate at the 3-star Joel Roebuchon's Atelier in Roppongi Hills

    L'Atelier received two stars.

    Agree on Michelin guide for ramen.

  • 0

    BuddhismTech

    Michelin needs to lose his weigh. He looks too fat and piggy!

  • 0

    BuddhismTech

    Very, very, very piggy Michelin!

    A picture of him and a Japanese female:

    http://og-made.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/michelin.jpg

  • 0

    marushka

    I don’t get why some people have to be so negative and almost having behaviour like first communists who wanted to destroy everything in order to create new world:) if some people don’t appreciate / like gastronomic restaurants, no one is pushing them to go there. Same goes for chefs, some put as goal to have Michelin’s stars and some are not interested in it.

  • 0

    Makkun70

    People who need a book to tell them where to ate are in my view exactly the same as those that look at the popular music charts to decide what music they like..

  • 0

    marushka

    makkun: Actually it doesn’t mean that people don’t know where to eat. It means that people would like to know where they can eat / enjoy certain quality of food and try some specialities in certain regions / countries. If you want, it is like a travel guide book. People who are buying such books could be treated as well as “poor people” as they don’t know where to go:) What would you say that Tokyo has even more stars given my Michelin then Paris?

  • 0

    Makkun70

    I would say this...

    How can a chef like Gordon Ramsey honestly claim three stars or whatever for himself personally when he's clearly not actually cooking anything in any of his restaurants?

    The only good thing about Michelin is that they always review the wine by the 'house red' in every establishment. Not really applicable in Japan thought that..

  • 0

    bdiego

    Wow, if those two quotes are accurate, Michelin is way more pompous than I thought. Very French attitude of "You cannot be a restaurant unless you bow down to us and play our game." Make no mistake, Michelin is the one making all these advances and threats. Like a stalker.

    This has nothing to do with being judged by real customers. This has to do with the French mafia coming in under the guise of giving ratings but in reality telling them to play by their rules or get out of town.

  • 0

    Cliffy

    Never read those restaurant guides. I judge it by my mouth. I always like to eat on the street rather than in a restaurant. I have found that some of the foods tastes much better from a street vendor than in a restaurant.

  • 0

    inakaRob

    good for those that refused. It is well known that there are many Kyoto restaurants that are basically local secrets. I have passed many such restaurants while walking down dark streets, and what I thought were just residential areas. They pride them selves on their small but often clients. They hide in dark allays for a reason. If they wanted every tourist, foreign and Japanese to come to their restaurant, then they would be in a well lit busy street with advertisements.

  • 0

    inakaRob

    Gordon Ramsey designs the dishes, the menus, he teaches people how to plate them, and what his standers for the dish are. I think you will be EXTREMELY hard pressed to find ANY head chef in a fine dinning restaurant that cooks a single grain of rice or ounce of meat. please stay on topic... I know

  • 0

    Ah_so

    People who need a book to tell them where to ate are in my view exactly the same as those that look at the popular music charts to decide what music they like..

    What a fatuous comment. Would they also be like people who buy a car magazine to help them decide what car to buy? In a country of thousands of restaurants, if you want to know the very best, a guide like this is invaluable.

  • 0

    bdiego

    Exactly, one bizarre thing about Japan is there are actually people who take pride in their work to the point that it even takes place over profits and getting the most customers through the door as possible. Similar mentality to monks and martial artists who aren't in it for the money. Obviously the minority, but a whole lot more of them in Japan than any other industrialized country.

  • 0

    bdiego

    And as much as I bashed the attitude of Michelin, their recommendations are spot on. They simply exclude good restaurants for the most inane reasons like "Chinese food can't go well with red wine" or "Your restaurant won't whore itself out to the public and give us exclusives"

  • 0

    Psyops

    give Michelin the bird

  • 0

    Makkun70

    Gordon Ramsey designs the dishes, the menus, he teaches people how to plate them, and what his standers for the dish are.

    And for this we believe he earns the right personally for 3 stars?

    What a fatuous comment. Would they also be like people who buy a car magazine to help them decide what car to buy? In a country of thousands of restaurants, if you want to know the very best, a guide like this is invaluable.

    They are not really the very best though are they? It's a bit of scam and has been found out as such in France.

  • 0

    Junnama

    "They are not really the very best though are they? It's a bit of scam and has been found out as such in France."

    It's kind of a given when you say "the best" that we are indeed just talking about someone's opinion, wouldn't you say?

  • 0

    Makkun70

    Very popular, safe and corporate choices most of the time, the obvious choices in a world of choice for people who cannot venture out on their own. These types need a book for everything, so sad...

  • 0

    Junnama

    "Very popular, safe and corporate choices most of the time, the obvious choices in a world of choice for people who cannot venture out on their own. These types need a book for everything, so sad..."

    I will conceed it is tedious to have to listen to pompous people pretending they know everything about great restaurants and are so superior to the plebes around them...Oh sorry, I'm talking about the Michelin people, of course!

  • 0

    SiouxChef

    People who need a book to tell them where to ate are in my view exactly the same as those that look at the popular music charts to decide what music they like..

    will conceed it is tedious to have to listen to pompous people pretending they know everything about great restaurants and are so superior to the plebes around them...Oh sorry, I'm talking about the Michelin people, of course!

    Don't forget all those people that read movie reviews to decide what to see at the movies and what can wait for DVD. I don't need some pompous movie critic telling me what's good and what's not. I can tell from a title whether or not a film is any good.

    Then there are the folks that read product reviews on Amazon before buying something. I mean, just how lame can you get? Like someone who's already bought a product has something to say worth listening to. It's obvious that the truly cool only buy things on impulse.

    Wait . . . this doesn't work without underlying jealousy, does it?

  • 0

    bdiego

    Wow, do you guys even know the first thing about Michelin stars. They're awarded to restaurants, not people. If someone wants to claim they "got" a Michelin star that's them, not Michelin. Ironic when talking about presumptuous, get your facts right before making an embarrassment.

  • 0

    BigInJapan

    I think there is a basic misunderstanding here from many who express opinion. Micheline doesn't say bad critiques, ONLY GOOD ones. So any uptight "I don't care if people like my food" actually sounds more like "Don't even dare to like my food, stupid gaijin."

  • 0

    Hezbella

    The proprietors of these establishments clearly want to avoid an influx of guidebook groupies who rely on a snobby rating system to judge food quality, while disrupting the dining experience of regular patrons. With squeals of "oishiiiii" and the inevitable camera phones recording every second of their one time visit, local customers will be driven away, and yet another community will be irreversibly damaged by the crass commercialism of globalization. These restauranteurs understand that once the coveted Michelin star(s) is bestowed to another establishment in subsequent guides, these tourists will have moved on to terrorize another neighborhood eatery. These Kyoto restaurant owners should be commended for their integrity and foresight.

  • 0

    2020hindsight

    While it may be an honor for restaurants in Europe to be evaluated by Michelin, long-established Kyoto restaurants cherish their distinct cuisine tradition, history and culture. From their perspective, the patron’s review is far more important than what the French think.

    Obviously they don't realise that most of the reviewers are Japanese.

  • 0

    bdiego

    Exactly, the last thing I want at a classic Kyoto restaurant are other gaijin who read about it in a guidebook. The same with my favorite hiking trails. Now if some restaurants happen to agree, so be it. Many restaurants prefer regulars over one-timers, that's just their way of doing things and Michelin will never get it. And that's okay Michelin, plenty of wine-centric restaurants for you to review without barging in on the rest.

  • 0

    selph

    To hell with Michelin, they have turned so many good places to eat into obnoxiously expensive and self-important "Michelin restaurants". All over the world. Go Kansai go!

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