What is the Michelin Guide?
The Michelin Guide is a generic term for various fan guidebooks published by the French company Michelin.
It is commonly known by the nickname "Michelin," the same name as the company.
One of the best known guidebooks is the Restaurant and Hotel Guide, which is known for expressing restaurant ratings with a number of stars.
It is commonly known as "Red Michelin," because of its red binding, or "le Guide Rouge."
There are various regional editions of the guide in Japan, the United States and Europe, with approximately one million copies sold annually.
The Michelin Guide also includes the green-bound Green Michelin (also known as le Guide Vert), a travel guidebook with road maps for traveling by car.
The History of the Michelin Guide
The Michelin Guide was first published in France in 1900, the year of the Paris Exposition, as a guidebook for motorists.
The main contents were a city map showing the location of post offices and telephones, a list of gas stations and hotels for each city, and even instructions on how to maintain a car.
35,000 copies of this book were issued and distributed free of charge.
The publisher, Michelin, was a tire company, and it is said that the guidebook was intended to stimulate automobile travel and boost tire sales.
The publication of this guidebook was interrupted from 1915 to 1918 due to World War I, but after the war, the "Rheims and the Battles for its Possession" was published as a series of travel guidebooks aimed at touring the battlefields of the war.
When Michelin visited one of the repair shops and saw the Michelin guides stacked on the ground in place of a leaning workbench's legs, he decided that "people only value what they pay for," so he stopped distributing them free of charge, and in 1920 he began to sell them for a fee.
In 1926, the system of rating hotels that served food with stars was launched.
The number of stars gradually increased, starting with one, then two, and by 1931, the same three-star system that we know today was implemented.
Since then, Michelin employees have also been anonymously reviewing establishments.
It is said that just one Michelin star for a restaurant can increase its sales by 30%, and the publication of the Michelin Guide in a country can even increase the number of people willing to buy Michelin tires in that country by 3%.
By 2004, more than 30 million copies of the French edition had been published, and more than 90 countries around the world had produced approximately 10 million maps, travel guides, restaurant and hotel guides each year, with more than 1.2 million copies of the Michelin Guide sold worldwide in 2008 and more than 1 million in 2009.
The Michelin Guide's Flagship Restaurant and Hotel Guide
Considered to be one of the leading Michelin guides, the Restaurant and Hotel Guide evaluates and provides a guide to restaurants and hotels.
The book is traditionally bound in red, and is divided into several volumes by language and city/region, mostly focused on France, but also in Japan, the U.S., and Europe.
Each restaurant and hotel is listed with its own classification and rating.
・Evaluations and Ratings
①Evaluation by star (evaluation of food)
The rating order is 3 stars > 2 stars > 1 star, with each star having the following meaning
・1 Star: A particularly good dish in its field
・2 Stars: Extremely delicious and well worth the long drive
・3 Stars: Outstanding cuisine that is worth a trip for the sole purpose of tasting it
It is known that just by having a star on your website, your sales will increase dramatically because you are recognized around the world.
Even without a star, you may make the list, which means that your restaurant has a certain reputation and sales tend to increase.
The 2010 edition of the French Restaurant Guide contains more than 3,453 restaurants in total, but only 26 were awarded three stars.
Normally, only 10-20% of the restaurants listed would receive a star, but only two of the restaurants in the Japanese editions - Tokyo-Yokohama-Kamakura and Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe - received a star.
In addition, the Michelin Guide Bonnes Petites Tables Tokyo, which introduces restaurants that can be enjoyed casually in Tokyo, includes restaurants without a star, and this has led to the introduction of a bib gourmand (a mark given to inexpensive and recommended restaurants) for the first time in the Japanese edition.
②Fork and Spoon rating (based on comfort and service)
The Fork and Spoon rating is a mark made up of an X-shaped combination of a spoon and a fork to indicate a rating on a 5-point scale.
Essentially, hotels are rated based on their comfort and service quality.
③Bib Gourmand (evaluation based on value for money)
The name Bib Gourmand comes from the word "bib," which is taken from the Michelin character "Bibendum."
It's a new criterion used in restaurants since 1997 and in hotels since 2003, and is a title based on cost effectiveness.
A designation given to dishes that meet Michelin standards and are made with ingredients that meet Michelin's specifications.
How the Michelin Guide is Researched
Generally, there are no advertisements in the Michelin guidebooks, and evaluations are conducted anonymously.
Reviewers are not stationed in any particular area, but move around from place to place.
The majority of reviewers are considered to be hotel school graduates and Michelin employees with 5 to 10 years of experience in the restaurant and hotel industry.
After a six-month training period, new reviewers spend a further six months with their predecessors to assess their suitability for reviewing.
Each country guide reviewer spends 130 days a year staying at hotels, visiting around 800 restaurants and hotels, and eating approximately 240 meals a year.
Names used during reviews are pseudonyms, and the same reviewer will not return to the same restaurant within three years.
City Guide reviewers come to work from home and generally do more tastings at restaurants as opposed to evaluating hotels.
Another part of the process involves "on-the-spot" interviews with the owners and chefs of the restaurants, hotels, and other establishments, where the researcher identifies him or herself.
The final decision is made by a unanimous vote of judges, which takes into account the report from the reviewer as well as the readers' opinions provided by a survey inside the Michelin Guide.
Japanese Restaurants With Three Michelin Stars
Japanese cuisine is highly regarded around the world, and several restaurants have been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide.
・Azabu Kadowaki (麻布 かどわき)
This upscale kaiseki restaurant is located in Azabujuban in Minato, Tokyo.
The restaurant's special atmosphere makes you feel as though you're stepping into another world. The only menu item offered is an omakase course, which lets the chef decide what he thinks is right for you.
The restaurant, which uses an abundance of seasonal ingredients, is superb and well worth a visit.
The Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant two stars for more than 10 years, and in 2020 it was finally awarded three stars.
・Azabu Yukimura (麻布 幸村)
Azabu Yukimura is a high-end restaurant located in Azabujuban, Tokyo, that specializes in Kappo cuisine.
Chef Jun Yukimura, who trained as a chef in Kyoto for 25 years, opened the restaurant in 2000, serving ingredients sourced mainly from Kyoto.
The restaurant has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide for 12 consecutive years.
・Kagurazaka Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ)
This luxury kaiseki restaurant is located behind Zenkokuji Temple in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
The course meal, which uses ingredients from each of Japan's four seasons, is superb and gives you a new experience each time you try it.
The restaurant was awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide in 2009.
Located in Motoazabu, Minato, Tokyo, this upscale restaurant offers seasonal Kappo cuisine, with a wide selection of sake to match it.
Kanda has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide for 13 consecutive years.
Quintessence is a high-class French restaurant located in Kita-Shinagawa, Shinagawa, Tokyo.
It's famous as one of Japan's leading French restaurants and is attracting attention from all over the world thanks to the skills of its chef, who was the youngest active Japanese chef to be awarded three Michelin stars in 2007.
Since being awarded his third Michelin star, he has maintained them for 13 consecutive years.
Ember is a high-class kaiseki restaurant located in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Even in Kagurazaka, a place lined with famous restaurants, the flavors of Kohaku put it head and shoulders above many other competitors. The head chef has also supported the three-star restaurant Kagurazaka Ishikagawa since its inception, and opened Kohaku in 2008.
The restaurant has been awarded three stars since 2016 and the chef is considered to be the youngest three-star chef in Japan.
After being awarded three stars in 2016, he has kept them for four consecutive years.
・Joël Robuchon Restaurant (ガストロノミー ジョエル・ロブション)
Joël Robuchon Restaurant is a high-class French restaurant located in Mita, Meguro, Tokyo.
The restaurant's French-inspired atmosphere is based on the concept of "We want you to surprise you," and the restaurant offers top-notch French cuisine that is not only delicious, but also visually pleasing.
The restaurant has been awarded 3 stars in the Michelin Guide since 2008.
・Sushi Yoshitake (鮨よしたけ)
A luxury sushi restaurant located in Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo.
After drifting from Ginza, New York, and Roppongi, the shop finally settled in Ginza.
The restaurant serves shiny, glistening sushi by a chef with 31 years of experience.
The restaurant was awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide in 2019.
A luxury kaiseki restaurant located in Shinagawa, Tokyo.
This Japanese restaurant is located in a quiet residential area in Omori, which is known as a historical and cultural town, and the main menu consists of kaiseki dishes with a focus on fresh and seasonal fish that the owner buys at Tsukiji every morning.
Makimura has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide since 2015.
RyuGin is a high-class kaiseki restaurant situated in Yurakucho, Chiyoda, Tokyo.
The restaurant has specialties for every season, and purchases only the best natural ingredients from all over the country, to deliver exquisite flavors to its customers.
The chef is known as one of the top 10 chefs in the world.
RyuGin has been listed as a three-star restaurant in the Michelin Guide for nine consecutive years.
L’Osier is a long-established restaurant offering luxury French cuisine with a location in Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo.
Founded in 1973, this old French restaurant has been in business for a very long time and is famous for its innovative cuisine, which continues to evolve.
The Michelin Guide awarded L’Osier three stars in 2020, making it its second consecutive year as a three star restaurant.
※"Michelin" is a registered trademark of Michelin & Cie.