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Michelin Predictions for 2014

With just over a month until Michelin releases Chicago’s 2014 guide I am making my predictions. The only newly starred restaurant to garner more than one star will be Grace (which I predict will debut as a two star venue – and has strong potential for three down the road). For now Alinea will remain as Chicago’s only Three Star venue.

Regarding currently starred venues moving up there are three one star venues I feel have a shot: Moto, Sixteen and Goosefoot – these seem to be clearly above other one star venues. Moto and Sixteen in particular I feel have shown significant improvement in food quality during the past two years. Goosefoot has the best tasting food of the bunch (the main criteria for Michelin stars) but much more laid back service and ambiance and no wine program. If I had to add a fourth to this group it would be Tru, but I do not see Michelin elevating more than one or two (and possibly none) and feel Tru is not quite up there with Moto, Sixteen and Goosefoot.

There are a handful of new venues that I feel will earn one star; I am most confident about The Lobby at the Peninsula (such incredible food from Chef Lee Wolen) and Elizabeth (one of the most enjoyable, whimsical and unique dining venues I have experienced). Chicago has seen several new high quality Asian venues open fairly recently (Embeya, Yusho, Sumi Robata, Juno and Kabocha being most notable); I think there is a good chance Michelin stars the venue they deem to be the best of this crop – in my opinion Embeya edges out the competition. Senza is a bit under the radar, but I am predicting them as a dark horse for a star. Out of the venues that were snubbed in 2012 I think the only one with a good chance of earning a star this time is El Ideas. I rarely dine in the suburbs, so I am not sure if I am missing out on any potential venues that may be in line for a star from outside the city limits.

I feel that Graham Elliot is the only of the multi-starred restaurants that will be demoted. I was rather surprised with their elevation to Two Stars last year. With the departure of Chef Brochu, the departure of their GM and with Graham Elliot focused on expansion that may be enough for Michelin to bump them back down to One Star.

My prediction is that no current One Star venue loses its star, though some have a small chance. Based on past history Michelin seems to view restaurants expanding as a red flag (i.e. Vie’s losing a star last year). As such Naha has some risk and for this reason I also think that Brindille will not be starred – though I think Naha is on solid enough ground to retain its star. Acadia seems to have some consistency issues (though should prevail). Schwa has some risk; when Schwa is on the food has multi star potential – yet Schwa often can be so chaotic that I can see an inspector having a disastrous experience. Chef Carlson has also spent significant time away from the kitchen this year. Nevertheless I think Schwa will hold onto its star and is such a unique venue that can be mind blowing that I hope it does. Takashi, Mexique and Longman and Eagle I felt were the weakest of the One Stars last year; Takashi now faces several new, high caliber Asian venues as competition, Mexique had Chef Gaytan away for periods of time as a Top Chef contestant and the Longman & Eagle team has been working on other projects. I think all three will retain their star, but if Michelin was to take stars away these would be the venues I would be least surprised about.

My Predictions:

Three Star:
Alinea

Two Star:
L2O
Grace

At Least One Star, Chance for Two:
Moto
Sixteen
Goosefoot

Solid One Star:
Tru
Everest
Topolobampo
Spiaggia
Boka
Blackbird
Sepia

One Star, Small Risk of Demotion:
Acadia
Naha
Schwa
Takashi
Longman & Eagle
Mexique

New One Star:
Lobby at the Peninsula (Likely)
Elizabeth (Likely)
Embeya (Somewhat Likely)
El Ideas (Somewhat Likely)
Senza (Dark Horse)

Demotions:
Graham Elliot down to One Star

Snubbed Again:
Next
North Pond
Les Nomades
MK
Girl & the Goat
Lula Cafe

I am curious to hear other people's predictions or thoughts.

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  1. L20 - wouldn't surprise me if they jumped to 3*. I dined there shortly after Gras left (when they were 3*) and again this July and I think it is better now than before. Based on the July meal (we're flying in to do it again in November, just to be sure) I think L20 is roughly equivalent to other Michelin 3*s Meadowood, Le Bernardin, Jean Georges and better than Daniel.

    Also saw L20 was rated # 18 in the world in one of those "World's Best Restaurants" rankings, so maybe their time has come.

    Grace - either one or two would not surprise me. Maybe we hit them on an off night (at least two other Chowhounders who were there the same week also felt it was overrated a bit). It's rare for a completely new place to jump above 1* the first time they are rated, but perhaps the inspectors are giving the chef credit for running a 2* restaurant at Avenues? Who knows how Michelin thinks on these things.

    Good post for discussion though :) Thanks for the write-up.

    6 Replies
    1. re: willyum

      I have to make it in to L2O again; I was there when it was technically three stars, but Chef Gras had recently left, so they were in a transition period. That would be nice if Chicago had at least a second three star venue.

      1. re: Gonzo70

        I will be very interested in the response to Elizabeth, and am not as confident as you are about the star. While I am rooting for Iliana and find her extremely talented, inspiring and endearing, I believe the restaurant experienced some significant growing pains throughout the year, and the front-of-the house did not always match the outstanding food. She has clearly paid attention and learned a great deal along the journey, so even if star-free this year I would maintain hope for the award next time.

        Next is the restaurant I believe most-deserving of a star or two and least likely to get any. I suspect Michelin will continue to dig in it's heels and have excuses like the problems obtaining tickets, although they are no longer difficult to score and many of the starred restaurants throughout the world are much harder to gain entry. I will repeat my opinion that I believe they, and to a certain extent Phil Vettel, do themselves a disservice by continuing to promote the concept that it is a "new restaurant every four months." It isn't. It is the same restaurant, with a menu that changes, as do the menus at many of the places on the list. The standard for multiple visits could then be met over a year, rather than within each season, and that is relatively simple.

        The distinction between Bib Gourmand and 1-stars is another myestery. L&E getting a star and GATG a Bib are the two that seem the most similar to me and in different award categories. Because of that, I predict Yusho for Bib, although it is one of my favorite restaurants in town and I'd love to see a star. I'd also like to see some praise for Maude's, but am not hopeful.

        Some of your "Solid One Star's" feel tired to me, but since your post is about predictions not opinions I won't name names. Arun's is a restaurant I believe was snubbed in the first go-round, along with Les Nomades, but I think they are winding down and not likely to draw new acclaim.

        Thanks for the thread. We hope to share some starry nights dining with you and Mrs Gonzo in the next year.

        1. re: GourmetWednesday

          Thanks for the comments; hope you guys are doing well. :)

          Elizabeth will be interesting; Michelin stars supposedly are all about the food (and not service or ambiance) so as long as the FOH issues you referenced did not impact the food quality they likely would be overlooked. I have had the privilege of enjoying four excellent dinners at Elizabeth and am really pulling for Iliana and think a star is deserved. If it is not awarded this year, she is becoming better each season and has potential to keep improving - so a star down the road is a strong possibility.

          Agree with you on Next. Other venues such as Sixteen completely change the menu multiple times per year and feel Next should not be penalized for this. While I think they should have received two stars from the get to, if anything I feel they have slipped a bit this year (haven't made it to Bocuse yet though) and don't see Michelin changing their position.

      2. re: willyum

        Michelin's and San Pellegrino's rankings are not always correlated. Noma and Mugaritz which have been in the top 10 are both 2 starred restaurants. Although now that you have said that, I'm intrigued with visiting L2O. lol. I just hate wearing a jacket.

        1. re: sunbrace

          >>> I'm intrigued with visiting L2O. lol. I just hate wearing a jacket.

          Last time we visited about 1/2 of the male diners just wore open collared shirts, no jackets or ties. "Business casual" I guess. On the website they do say "Jackets are suggested for gentlemen" but most of us dining that night weren't gentlemen, including me.

          >>> Michelin's and San Pellegrino's rankings are not always correlated.

          Yeah, there are always some head-scratchers on those "Best of" lists ... Pellegrino currently has EMP ranked as the # 1 restaurant in the USA but even the Manhattan ChowHounders (where EMP gets lots of love) would probably agree that EMP is not better than Per Se. And after seven meals at the 3 restaurants I'd pick Alinea over Per Se over EMP.

          Lot of trendy picks on Pellegrino, like 'Nordic forager cuisine'.

          And the list I mentioned, that has Alinea # 1 and L20 # 18 in the world, has Manhattan restaurant Daniel # 3 in the world and I personally think it's no higher than # 5 just in Manhattan, based on nine meals I've had there and at Per Se, EMP, Le Bernardin and Jean Georges.

          So it goes ... :) Most of us use the lists as a starting point and then pick what sounds best for our individual tastes. Going to Spain next week and while I've wanted to go to El Celler for a couple of years now, once they got to # 1 on Pellegrino it takes 11 months to get a reservation so I can't get in.

          But on the west coast swing we're skipping # 4 (Mugaritz) and # 8 (Arzak) to dine at Azurmendi, which isn't even on the Pellegrino list but which sounds like a better fit for our tastes (and is rated as the best restaurant in Spain by Andy Hayler, whom I trust ... most of the time :). Maybe the wrong choice, but we'll find out soon enough.

      3. I'm still rooting for Girl and the Goat for a star. That's been a head scratcher for me. Moto is likely to get another star just based on the tweets I've seen from Michelin. I believe it said something like every single dish they had wowed them. Senza may possibly get a star as well based on their tweets. I'm also hoping for The Lobby to get at least a star as well but that's my dark horse. Their tweets on the restaurant seemed to focus more on the songs being played by the string duo than the food themselves.

        1. I would be very happy to see if Michelin can give us a Chicago version of Tim Ho Wan. Some place cheap to moderately priced but still delicious. If I may add another one in the snubbed again category: Ruxbin

          Gonzo70: I'm curious as to why you think Schwa has a small risk of losing their star. I dined there a couple of months ago and thought their food was better than Sepia's or Goosefoot's. But, that's just me.

          Willyum: Thanks for the dress code tip for L2O. I'll definitely put that in my places to eat for next year list. Hope it is the same for Tru. If you intend to spend money in another Lettuce Entertain You establishment such as L2O, may I suggest that you open a frequent diner club card with them. That way, you can at least get a gift card after you spend an x amount of $$$. I'll be in Spain after you I think so I would appreciate it if you could post your thoughts in the Spain board. I was hoping to get into Azurmendi as well but they are closed on Mondays,as are most of the others I wanted to try. Will you be in Barcelona on Oct 29?

          3 Replies
          1. re: sunbrace

            Regarding Schwa they have some of the best food anywhere much of the time, but because the kitchen is often partying hard there can be inconsistencies (something Michelin judges). Michelin also has commented part of why they snubbed Next is difficulty obtaining tickets - Schwa can be hard to reserve (and cancels on short notice more than any other restaurant I know of). Michelin also commented El Ideas didn't get starred because of a customer's behavior while plating food; Schwa has a lot of interaction with customers (sometimes hanging out in the kitchen) so this could arise. Finally Chef Carlson this past year has been taking a fair amount of time off. Those are the reasons I feel there is a small chance they lose the star, but I consider Schwa among Chicago's best (and definitely most interesting) venues and think (and hope) they retain their star.

            1. re: sunbrace

              @sunbrace "Willyum: I'll be in Spain after you I think so I would appreciate it if you could post your thoughts in the Spain board. ... Will you be in Barcelona on Oct 29?" <<<

              Just got back, will post about Sant Pau, Extanobe (Bilbao), Azurmendi, Lasarte and Alkimia on the Spain board. Short version is 'no bad meals, really no bad dishes ... go for the seafood and mushrooms every chance you get ... wine is really inexpensive.'

              Believe it or not I'll be in Chicago Oct 29 (even though we live in Arizona). Three nights for Topolo, L20 and, on my birthday, Alinea.

              Have a great trip to Spain.

              1. re: willyum

                That is a great line up and wonderful way to celebrate a birthday.

            2. L20 may be currently as good as Meadowood, Le Bernardin, and Jean Georges. But, L20 under Gras was better than all other US three stars, including Keller. Go back and look at Gras' menus...

              1. Here are my two cents.

                More Likely to Happen
                - New
                o 1 star: Elizabeth, Brindille, The Lobby, Senza
                o 2 stars: Grace
                - Changes
                o promotion: Sixteen, Moto

                Less Likely to Happen but Still Possible
                - New
                o 1 star: EL ideas, Masaki
                - Changes
                o promotion: Tru
                o demotion: Mexique

                Personally, I really hope EL ideas gets a star. They deserve it.