Chefs can insist all they want that their primary goal is to run a reasonably successful restaurant that makes their patrons happy. Which we don’t doubt is largely true, but the fact is not one of them would turn their nose up at the industry’s biggest honor; a Michelin star.
Ordered from one star (denoted “a very good restaurant in its category,”) to two (for excellent cooking, worth a detour,”) to three (exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey,”) stars are awarded each year. And though previous recipients are rarely taken off the list, it’s exceedingly tough for established, non-starred restaurants to propel their way into the elite club. That’s why this year’s Michelin New York lineup is positively glutted with newcomers, from Brooklyn’s Scandinavian stunner, Aska, to John Fraser’s vegetable haven, Nix. Here’s a few highlights…
Aska: The year’s biggest winner was Fredrik Berselius’ months-old Williamsburg revamp of his high end Scandinavian tasting room, Aska, which vaulted to the rarified two-star list for its 15-course progressions of Chamomile-Smoked Shrimp and Blood and Rosehip Pancakes.
Agern: The Nords score again. Claus Meyer (co-founder of Noma) garnered a star for his fanciest project — out of many — this year; a Grand Central-situated, seasonally-inspired restaurant serving “Land & Sea” (think Arctic Char with pumpkin) and “Field & Forest” (Salt and Ash-Baked Beet Root) menus.
Contra: Their second venture, Wildair, may have nabbed a James Beard nomination, but it’s Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske’s inaugural eatery, that wowed Michelin with set menus like Carrot with uni and walnuts, Pork with husk cherry and fennel, and Concord grapes and coconut.
Faro: After being seemingly banished to the Bib Gourmand list, Faro broke free of the “excellent value” booby prize to win an actual star this year (don’t worry, Honey Nut Agnolotti, Chicken Confit Bucatini, and Burgundy Truffle Carpinocc are as affordably priced as ever).
Gunter Seeger: The critics may have been divided on the star Atlanta chef’s NYC debut, but Michelin fell head over heels for Gunter Seeger’s high end, four to ten-course prix fixes; comprised of items like Dungeness Crab drizzled with yuzu honey, and Venison Noisette paired with brussels sprouts.
Kanoyama: This low-key East Village sushi spot is somewhat of a surprise addition, considering it’s a best kept secret; plying in-the-know raw fish lovers with Sea Eel, fresh Scallop, and Golden Eye Snapper, flown in from Tokyo.
L’Appart: The sprawling, waterside French food mecca, Le District, made the cut this year for their exclusive, 30-seat chefs counter, serving dishes sourced from the surrounding markets such as Salmon with caviar and purple potatoes, Veal over artichokes and salsify, and cheese plates including Comté Symphonie and Persille de Rambouillet.
La Sirena: Granted, Batali and Bastianich didn’t reinvent the wheel with their Chelsea-based juggernaut, rather, they reaffirmed why they’re the undisputable kings of NYC’s Italian food scene, offering refined trattoria classics, like Quail with mostarda, Crispy Orata Piccata, and hand-rolled Pici with chanterelles and thyme, in a marble and quartz-clad, flashy and brassy space.
Nix: From the debut of his popular Meatless Mondays menu at Dovetail, chef John Fraser has been steadily moving in a vegetable-dominant direction. And he fully pledged his allegiance to produce at Nix in the West Village, known for flesh-free (but not necessarily virtuous) items like Butternut Potato Fry Bread, Cauliflower Tempura, and Shitake “Cacio e Pepe.”
Sushi Ginza Onodera: Michelin’s French obsession is only equaled by its soft spot for sushi, as evidenced by the next quadrant of starred newcomers. And that starts with this outpost of Tokyo’s all-omakase restaurant, specializing in chef-selected tidbits of pristine fish.
Sushi Inoue: Even Harlem has a strong sushi game; this raw fish temple is helmed by master chef Shinichi Inoue, offering unusual tidbits like Rosy Seabass, Spear Head Shrimp, Fresh Water Eel and Cherry Shrimp.
Sushi Zo: This L.A. favorite touched down in the Big Apple last winter, featuring chef Masashi Ito serving scrupulously curated neta; the seafood partner to sushi rice.
Ushiwakamaru: The Chelsea establishment cuts through the sushi noise with unique starters, like Simmered Fish Head and Cooked Turban Shell Clams, and slightly kooky rolls; such as Fermented Soybean, Soft Shell Crab and Pickled Takuan Radish.