Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicago Michelin Stars: The Unfinished Business

While the preamble looked rather promising, the Chicago Michelin stars seem to have been awarded in a hurry (in fact: the results were already out yesterday, a day before expected) and the upshot is at best sloppy... Do not get me wrong, many places on this list were expected to be there. If you look at my forecast in the earlier blogpost, I actually predicted correctly 10 of the 23 places eventually awarded stars, while nominating only 5 eateries that eventually failed to get at least one Michelin star. Moreover, among the places I foresaw as "obvious" choices, I had only one that was not rewarded with at least one star. And therein lies precisely the biggest problem with the selection of the Michelin undercover inspectors (who, no doubt, work hard, but my feeling is they worked less hard than their NYC counterparts-- 9th bullet point).

But to the point: I fail to understand how a place like Moto did not get at least one star. While my in depth review of that place (with inter alia, photos of most of my 20 grand course tasting dinner menu) will follow at some point, it should suffice to say that in my view that place ought to be higher ranked than (the otherwise impressive) Michael Mina's in San Francisco, which is a 2-star Michelin, or so it was when I checked it out, as now it appears to have been kicked out of the San Francisco Michelin starred list.... And while the variance in quality among the dishes in that 20 grand course was indeed higher than at Noma's (but then again, I leave it up to you to name a place where that assessment would not be true today, when Rene Redzepi simply rules above all: the fact that Noma still has only 2 Michelin stars might be the very proof of Michelin continuing with... well, slightly different standards), quality was still superior to that of most places I have tried earlier, plus the food was extremely-- I do actually mean extremely-- daring and creative. But I guess these are features that American-trained Michelin inspectors failed to notice? Anyhow, to add to potential mishaps, L2O (disclaimer: did not try it yet, some of my sources loved it, but others did not find anything special to it despite several trials) managed to collect the 3 stars grand prix (I thought of them more of a potential 1 star candidate), and that despite their top chef recently leaving them, action which is normally associated in the Michelin world with losing one or even more stars. Mais enfin, obviously I have now placed L2O very high on my priority list, so that I check it out for myself: I'll report then back to you on this :-).

The other huge problem, already anticipated in the earlier post on the Michelin-in-Chicago, is that places like Avec and Sweets and Savories failed to be recognized even in the Bib Gourmand category (with particularly Avec a no-nonsense candidate even for 1 star). Avec is by all means one of the best eateries in this city, while Sweets and Savories is in my view the best quality-price ratio I have tried as yet (better than The Girl and The Goat, or Hopleaf, or the other Chicago Bib Gourmands I have tried to date, as to that particular dimension). While I did not necessarily think these two places should be within the starred Michelin category, failing to recognize them even in the Bib Gourmand (while, truth be told, adding some places among the 46 in that category that some of my gourmand sources find at least odd...) raises big question marks.

All in all, too many 3- and 2- Michelin stars among the recognized eateries, missing at least one potential 1- or 2- star place, and further ignoring at least two noteworthy Bib Gourmand restaurants. That is bad enough, even for a very first assessment of the Chicago culinary scene.

Update: Jean-Luc Naret on the Chicago Michelin stars. Some things above find an explanation (the ranking was finalized already in September; Avec has been closed for a great while; Laurent Gras might return?) but I am not satisfied.


Ritwik Banerjee said...

appreciate your very fine and measured response to the numerous food stops of Chicago, very much akin to a connoisseur...would suggest you however to try some fantastic Indian and Pakistani eateries on Devon Street. The spice might seem a little to much at the beginning but am sure you will love the smell of Biriyani in Sabri Nihari :) Admire your blog!

Sebi Buhai said...

Thanks for the tip, will place Sabri Nihari on my list. Obviously still many places to try out, wish I had the time to actually review all those tried properly. Some day, some day..., meanwhile I'll have to settle for brief snapshots whenever I manage the time