Saturday, June 4, 2022

Michelin Comes to Miami

The fat man’s coming to Miami. After various state and local tourism agencies paid the Michelin Guide undisclosed amounts which could exceed a million dollars, the star system will start coverage of Florida, with a big announcement of its ratings scheduled for June 9 in Orlando. So of course inquiring minds want to know: which restaurants will get the coveted recognition?

In theory, the Michelin Guide claims to rate restaurants based on five criteria: “quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits.” In practice, the Michelin Guide has long championed a certain type of restaurant: Euro-centric, fussy and expensive. While the focus is understandable given the guide’s origins – a traveling companion published by a tire company as a marketing tool to get people to drive their cars around Europe – it is not necessarily representative of the best that any particular region has to offer these days, especially outside of Europe. But if you look at the U.S. restaurants that have received multiple stars,[1] they fit a certain profile: they are almost universally high-end, tasting-menu venues. They are also overwhelmingly of the “Contemporary American” genre, with some French, Italian and Scandinavian thrown in the mix. Of 49 restaurants in the U.S. that have received 2 or 3 stars, there are less than ten that stray from these genres.[2]

So I’m not at all sure Michelin is going to find what it’s typically looking for in Miami. Theirs is not a style that has had much traction in South Florida for the past several decades.[3] We may like flashy, but we don’t particularly like stuffy. And IMO, the best dining in Miami these days is not necessarily at the highest end venues, but rather at places that are putting out great, inspired food without a lot of pomp and circumstance.

My predictions?

(1) No Florida restaurant will receive three Michelin stars.

Michelin currently has a three-star rating for at least one restaurant in every region it covers. (There are six in California, five in New York, one each in Chicago and DC). That streak will end in Florida, where as much as I am a champion of the local scene, I can’t think of any place that fits the Michelin Man’s vision of a three-star restaurant.

(2) There will be no more than three two-star restaurants and possibly none.

Chicago had only four restaurants receive two Michelin stars. DC managed only three. My guess is that Florida gets three at most, and that’s a stretch. The most likely Miami candidates, IMO (I know nothing about Orlando or Tampa, which appear to be the other Florida cities Michelin has focused on): L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Ariete, and Naoe. Wild card: Ghee. L’Atelier seems like the most viable candidate, since five Ateliers in other cities have already received two or more stars.[4] If the inspectors pay attention to the more ambitious facets of Ariete’s menu (the Versos Diarios tasting menu, the Canard a la Presse), they may well find what they’re looking for. I think Naoe is possibly in contention, but I also think that Michelin has devalued many outstanding Japanese restaurants in the U.S. The only ones to crack the one-star ceiling are Masa in NY (3*), and Hayato, n/naka and Sushi Ginza Onodera in LA (2*), which is kind of crazy given the options available in LA and NY these days. Niven Patel’s wonderful restaurant, Ghee, nails every single one of the Michelin guide’s criteria, but I have little faith that they’ll give two stars to an Indian restaurant in Kendall using local ingredients from Homestead farms.

(3) There will be 15-20 one-star restaurants from this list:

The “shoo-ins”:

These are places which I’m almost certain will get a star because other locations have already received stars. So, yes, I’m cheating to make my predictions by checking the answers from elsewhere.

Carbone (1* NY)
Cote (1* NY)
El Cielo (1* DC)
Fiola (1* DC)
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (3* Hong Kong; 2* Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei, New York, 1* Paris)
Le Jardinier (1* NY)
Surf Club (3* French Laundry CA, 3* Per Se NY).[5]

The “better be there or I’m slashing your tires”:

These are places that are unquestionably deserving of recognition IMO, and if you miss them your credibility is shot, Roly-Poly Tire Dude.

The “pretty sure they’ll make it”:

These are places that I could easily see picking up a star.

The “on the cusp” candidates”:

Some of these I have “on the cusp” because they may be too casual for Michelin’s tastes (MGFD, Amara), or too new (Orno, Luca, Kojin). Others are parts of restaurant groups that Michelin appears disinclined to recognize with stars (Bazaar, Bourbon Steak, La Mar).[6] I’m not saying these are any worse (or better) than others listed above – or that all of these are any better (or worse) than other local restaurants I’ve not listed at all – only that I have less confidence they’re going to make it into the little red book.[7]

Let’s see how my predictions fare on June 9. But more importantly, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Michelin really doesn’t know bupkis about what makes dining in Miami unique, special and great.

[1] Michelin currently publishes guides for New York, California, Chicago and Washington DC. If you're keeping score at home, I've made a chart with all the U.S. restaurants to receive Michelin stars.

[2] There are four Japanese restaurants (Hayato, Sushi Ginza Onodera, and n/naka in LA, Masa in NY); two Korean (Atomix, Jungsik, both in NY); one each for Chinese (Benu, SF), Mexican (Californios, SF), and Indian (Campton Place, SF). My "genrefication" of many of these places is both reductive on my part (most are not strictly bound to a particular regional cuisine), and also symptomatic of Michelin's biases (even those places with Asian or Latin American inspiration that make their way into the guide generally are reflecting it through a "Contemporary American" tasting menu prism).

[3Ironically, the chef who was most likely to have earned the Michelin inspectors’ attention no longer has a restaurant open to the public. Brad Kilgore’s Alter both was the kind of place and was executing at the kind of high level that could have picked up two stars. But sadly Alter was a pandemic casualty, and Kilgore is currently running Verge at the Concours Club, a members-only restaurant within an automotive club for people with very expensive cars who want to drive them very fast and find other ways to flaunt their wealth. I'm very glad Brad is relieving them of some of their cash, particularly since he just became a proud new papa (Congrats!). Selfishly, I hope he makes a return to the public restaurant world someday.

[4] 3* for Hong Kong, 2* for Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei and New York, though curiously, none of the Paris locations have received more than 1*. Since it’s hard to believe that the satellite Ateliers in the far-flung quarters of China, Taiwan, Japan and New York are better than the home offices in Paris, I take this to mean at least one of two things (likely both): (1) Michelin is grading these other regions on a curve; and/or (2) Michelin’s ratings bely a Euro-centric chauvinism that favors French restaurants even in Asian countries, i.e., “Our scout team is better than your starting roster.”

[5] Keller has 3* on each coast with French Laundry and Per Se, but Surf Club is far less ambitious, and its parallel in NY, TAK Room, was not recognized by Michelin, though it may have closed before it could make it into a guide.

[6] Jose Andres’ minibar in DC has 2* and Somni in LA had 2*, but Bazaar in LA was not starred, so I don’t put Bazaar Miami in the “shoo-in” category. Michael Mina (Bourbon Steak) had 1* for his namesake SF restaurant, but not for any of his other restaurants.

[7]Edited to add: I forgot that Michael White, who earned 1* at Marea and Ai Fiori in NY,  is now at Lido at the Surf Club, which could certainly be in contention. And consistent with my general blind spot for expensive Italian restaurants, I also left out Forte dei Marmi and Casa Tua, which for all I know could be in the mix (I've never been to either).


  1. If Carbone gets a star, I will wonder about the whole system. It was so mediocre and overpriced, I can’t imagine ever going back.

    1. Prepare to wonder. Carbone got a star in NY which is a much more competitive market, and I can't believe there's that much difference between NY and MIA.

  2. No restaurant in Florida deserves a star. This is a cash grab

    1. There are at least a handful of restaurants in Miami that are every bit as good as 1* restaurants I've eaten at in NY and CA. Of course there are also several restaurants in NY, CA and Chicago I've eaten at that have no stars, and are every bit as good as those that have gotten 1*, so go figure.

    2. Naoe absolutely deserves at least 2 stars imo.

  3. Interesting assessment. Does it extend into Broward?

    1. They're covering "Florida" not Miami so restaurants across the state are eligible in theory. It appears their focus has been on Miami / Orlando / Tampa. FWIW the Michelin "Illinois" guide does not appear to include any restaurants outside of Chicago (not just for stars, but for any commentary at all in the online guide).