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May 16, 2011 10:21 AM

Michelin Stars; General question about how they inform your decisions?


3 stars obviously matters. 2 stars obviously matters.

Does 1 star matter to you?

Do you specifically go to a restaurant because it has a single michelin star? Does it inform your decisions in any way? Do people choose to go to a restaurant, specifically, because it has one star?

Pic not related, it is simply pretty. =)

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  1. Bib Gourmand is a plus. I think all the places I've gone to on that list were good.

    One star, at least in SF, their selection seems so random that it means nothing to me.

    Two or three stars is a minus, since that means they're more formal than I like. Though I would return to Manresa.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      "Two or three stars is a minus, since that means they're more formal than I like."

      I think this is a misconception. The level of food at restaurants that are more formal is often times more sophisticated and often results in a majority of the two and three starred places getting more stars, but if a casual place has exceptional food and service it can certainly get multiple michelin stars.

      1. re: twyst

        According to Michelin:

        Criteria for award of Stars
        Commonly misunderstood, criteria like: table setting, number of waiters, quality of facilities or equipment are NOT taken into account.

        There are only five criteria considered in awarding a Michelin Star;

        1) Quality of ingredients
        2) Skill in preparing them and in combining flavours
        3) Level of creativity
        4) Consistency of culinary standards
        5) Value for money

        Numbers 1, 3, and 5 strike me as subjective.

        Does "quality of ingredients" mean luxury ingredients? Local, sustainable, organic, etc.?

        Creativity? Does that mean that if you have a restaurant that serves traditional cuisine you can't get a Michelin star?

        Value for money? Really subjective. Michelin three stars are all expensive. I think most of them are worth the money, but that means the whole dining experience, which regardless of what Michelin says includes the table settings, the service, etc. If Thomas Keller set up shop in Mr. Pollo and started serving French Laundry meals *at French Laundry prices* would people consider that a good value? I don't think so.

        The French Laundry
        6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

        Mr. Pollo
        2823 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I had dinner at the Fat Duck while in England last month. It's a three star restaurant and it's very casual. I was in a suit and felt a bit overdressed. There were lots of people in jeans and the majority of men were simply in slacks with collared shirts. If the guy I was responding to feels having to wear pants instead of shorts meant it was too formal I guess I misunderstood him. I assume "too formal" means places where you should wear a jacket to most folks. I guess its subjective.

          1. re: twyst

            " ... the Fat Duck [is] a three star restaurant and it's very casual."

            I'm talking about the atmosphere, style of service, and presentation. People in the Bay Area wear whatever wherever.

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            Huh, I never saw those criteria. "Level of creativity" probably explains why the kind of more tradition-bound places I prefer never make the cut.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I would say numbers 2 and 4 are also subjective, if the experience and viewpoint of the tester is "outside" of the cuisine being sampled. It seems to me all 5 criteria contribute to why (so far) ratings for East Asian cuisine in general appear to be either lacking or odd. I posted some links in my post below:

              1. re: huiray

                Although Tokyo now has more 3* places than Paris.

            2. re: twyst

              While theoretically that's possible, it hasn't happened here. The two- and three-star places in the Bay Area are all too formal for me.

              It's very rare for informal places to get get even one star. Range had one but isn't on the 2011 list. If it were really all about the food, I can't see why some of the great Bib Gourmand places shouldn't get a star or two. I suppose consistency could be the kicker.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I love Range's bar area. Great example.

                I always find the "ownership of the star" issue to be confusing.

                I know the star is for the chef, and the star follows the chef. In theory. In practice, marketers exploit that star long after a chef leaves. Meadowood advertised 2 stars when Humphrey left, for quite some time. Marketers really skew the actuality versus pejoratively defined idea of the stars. It's confusing to me, and I work around the industry. ha.

                I assumed "too formal" meant "dinner jacket required or we will give you an awkward looking one that barely fits or is oversized, at the door, because you are low class and ill informed".

                1. re: pavlov

                  There are only two restaurants around here with enforced "jacket required," Masa's and the French Laundry.

                  Stars are for the restaurant. If a chef leaves, the rating might or might not change in the next year's guide, depends on whether the kitchen keeps the same standards under the new chef. Meadowood got two stars in 2008, kept its two stars under the new chef, and got a third in this year's guide. The old chef got only one star for his new employer.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Wait... sorry to be ignorant. I did think they followed the *chef*. But they are actually attached to the restaurant? Where is that? I always thought it was attached to the chef.

                    1. re: pavlov

                      The stars appear in annually issued restaurant guidebooks. If there's a chef change and the inspectors think the food has gone downhill, they'll lower the rating in the next edition.


            3. re: Robert Lauriston

              This post started on the San Francisco board and my comments were about stars there.

              In France, one star might be a plus, if it were in my price range.

            4. This is being starred from Michelin means to me:

              Travel Time:
              1 star - I'm driving to San Francisco at least.
              2 star - I'm driving to North Beach, Los Gatos or Healdsburg.
              3 star - I'm driving to Yountville or St. Helena.

              Foodwise, I expect that 1 star restaurants (at least for their tasting menus if they have them) typically have a good number of hits, with 2 stars having more hits than 1 stars, and 3 stars basically means that all of the dishes are hits, with no misses. I haven't dined at a 3-star (yet), but that is what my expectations are.

              2 star and 3 star restaurants are typically more formal than 1 stars; some places have a strict dress code forbidding jeans, but this being California, I've seen diners in 1 stars wearing t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.

              I will second Robert Lauriston's experiences that all the Bib Gourmand restaurants I've visited have been very good.

              I've visited one-stars in the past to see what the difference to set Manresa (2-star) apart from them; the one-stars are very random -- some are casual, some are formal, some are hotel restaurants, it's a very ecclectic spectrum of formality, atmosphere and cuisine.

              I like to use the list of restaurants as a way of expanding my circle of dining choices, but I'll happily try out any other restaurant I hear good things about, especially since we live in such great region for dining out.

              Manresa Restaurant
              320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

              1. Yep, one star certainly matters to me. Not least because we only have one stars in our region.

                I'm also interested in Bib Gourmand - accepting that the Bib is primarily awarded on price not cooking. So it's always useful to cross reference them with other sources. They're unlikely to be poor but they may not be worth a big detour.

                Michelin still holds to its original purpose, as a guide for drivers travelling to unfamiliar areas, that a 2* is worth a detour and a 3* worth a special journey.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  Such a good point. You see technologies by people like Revinate or Radian6 aggregating all publicly viewable web data. Revinate creates a dashboard so you can see all review sites in one place...

                  could you imagine an app that aggregated zagat, opentable, yelp, tripadvisor restaurants, michelin, etc... and created a composite rating based off the total culled info? It would be fairly reliable, I *think*, in that it would actually represent every subjective outlet that is responding to restaurants, be it professional reviews or crowdsourcing.

                  I notice on Open Table you can't sort by rating, so the silly going back and forth from review sites to open table is quite annoying. One app that resolves all this would be boffo.

                  @Robert Lauriston - well said. I really was only considering this region. I know people think it's a joke in NY, or even parts of northern europe, but I still think it's a fair waypoint in the mapping of local culinary delights. But yes... I would contemplate stars different from region to region, I think.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Bib Gourmand's not primarily about price, they just have a cutoff. In SF that means that you could at least in theory have two courses and a glass of wine for $40. Some of the places on that list I typically spend over $100 per person. .

                    The SF Bib Gourmand list is a MUCH more interesting group of restaurants that are FAR more representative of the local scene than the mostly French or French-influenced starred places.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Michelin defines the Bib as being "good food at moderate prices". The cut-off inherently means price is the primary objective determining issue.

                      1. re: Harters

                        The primary criteria for Bib Gourmand is good food.Getting two courses and a glass of wine for $40 is a very wide net in SF, it cuts out only a small percentage of high-end places. Elsewhere in the world things may be different.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          "The primary criteria for Bib Gourmand is good food"

                          I am happy to accept that this is your interpetation of what Michelin actually says. It is not my interpretation.

                          I am always happy to have the subjective discussion about what is "good food". But there is absolutely no subjectiuve discussion to be had about "moderate prices" when Michelin sets a specific limit . Only my interpretation, of course, about "primary"

                          1. re: Harters

                            There's a lot more work involved in researching whether a place has good food than in adding up three numbers to see if they total more than 40.

                            There is still plenty of room for discussion about prices when the criteria are so arbitrary. For example, the SF list includes Kokkari, Perbacco, and Sociale, which all have prices well above the local average.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Two courses and a glass of wine for $40 cuts out a lot more than "a small percentage of high-end places."

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              How many places are there in SF where the cheapest appetizer, entree, and glass of wine add up to more than $40? Once you get into that range, you're mostly looking at places that have or are shooting for Michelin stars. Even some of the one-star places you could get out for $40.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Maybe I am boring, but this is the most interesting discussion I have read about this in a long time. =) It so subjective, beyond not knowing (but trusting) the qualifications of all these reviewers. I wish there was some dashboard where you could pluck your favorite reviews from all walks... sort of like Rotten Tomatoes: favorite reviewers from newspapers, favorite yelp reviewers, food bloggers, etc. There is so much data out there, and so much is subjective, there's a certain point you need to throw up your hands, trust something, and eat. I seem to trust Michelin quite a bit.

                                But I still don't recall ever heading to a one star simply because it's one.

                                Bib - hell yes. Constantly. But I don't really know where the one star fits. Guess you have to start somewhere.

                    2. Once you reach a certain level it's like trying to rate art. It's more about what is in the eye of the beholder (mouth of the taster) than about what one art (food) critic or group of critics have to say about it. Besides the journey is often more fun than the destination.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: LorenM

                        Yes... but again - instead of getting into the subjectivity of the ratings, my intial question was whether a One Star will motivate you to go to the restaurant, without other factors or considerations.

                        pic related: cutest bump *ever*

                        1. re: pavlov

                          Okay, to answer your question. I think it would motivate me (1) if I was hosting someone important, especially someone whose taste I didn't know, and wanted a safe choice, (2) if I wanted a "nice" meal and didn't know anything about the restaurant scene in the area, again, a safe choice. Otherwise, I'd rather rely on my own research and on chowhound in picking a restaurant.

                          1. re: pavlov

                            Far enough. Michelin stars do not make a difference to me whether it be one or three stars. I have been just as disappointed by places that are "supposed" to be excellent as I have pleasantly surprised by places with no rating.

                            1. re: pavlov

                              Yes, probably, if not anything else but that at least someone liked the food there - as opposed to knowing nothing about the restaurant (unless it already had comments on it in CH or elsewhere and I had been able to look at those comments). However, I would not consider those stars as meaning that it was "the best" (3 stars) or really good etc (1, 2 stars) especially if the cuisine was non-French/non-French-derived and particularly if the cuisine was Chinese or East Asian or related.

                              Michelin also claims they rate places based only on the food; in general I find that difficult to believe.

                              Just a few links of interest:

                          2. I did go out of my way to plan starred restaurants in Paris. I don't pay nearly so much attention in other places, like SF.