In practice, this means much more than that opaqueness, with the restaurant featuring exemplary service and setting, often featuring extremely pricey plating, glassware and utensils, often expensive linens and regularly supplied fresh flowers, a selection of terrific wines complementing the cuisine, and a substantial kitchen, service and administrative staff to provide guests with an extremely cosseted visit. Gaining and keeping three stars, about the highest award a restaurant can earn, is not only a difficult endeavor in terms of creating the food – much more than from a technical aspect – it is an expensive one, too. That fact requires well-heeled customers along with a certain level of business patrons.
But, more than any the difficulty in successfully forging an ambitious and consistently rewarding cuisine at the very highest level is not the real reason there are only now thirteen restaurants in this country with three Michelin stars, it is because the Michelin guide is only four US metropolitan areas: New York, Washington, DC, Chicago and San Francisco. With the exception of Washington, these are most likely the top three or three of the top four restaurant cities the country, and the ones with the most likelihood to have restaurants with three stars. But, the total of three stars in this country would certainly be much higher if the guide was throughout the country as it is in other countries. High-roller and expense account haven Las Vegas for one, and possibly New Orleans for another might have a few.
Los Angeles is the other one in the mix among the top handful of restaurant cities – and, not incidentally, used to be a Michelin guide stop. It did not succeed there because its ratings did not seem accurate to the frequent diners. A famed Angeleno restaurateur, a European native, told me that Michelin Los Angeles just did not get the city, and, though accurate and very useful for Europe, Michelin was not nearly as useful for the United States. I do find Michelin extremely helpful for traveling in Europe, though I have not really used it when traveling to its limited number of restaurants here. I’ll likely rely upon trusted friends and folks in the wine and food industries, as they have served me fairly well in the past. I would like to see Michelin expand in this country, and hopefully become more acceptable and, I guess, reliable.
The Platter of Nine Delicacies at La Yeon in Korea that was awarded three stars in 2017.