May 23rd, 2018
Hear this well: Miami still does not have a Michelin Guide. A restaurant cannot have a Michelin star, or two, or three without a guide to award them.
Some of you might know this, but based on the incredible amount of search queries my blog receives on this topic on a daily basis and conversations I’ve had with diners, I can say the majority do not. While I’m at it, do you know how many Miami restaurants are listed on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list? Zero. That’s OK, only six restaurants from our country made it to that one.
Do we need a guide? Of course not. We dance to the beat of our own drum. However, like it or not, having our own guide and/or placing on this list would put an official and prestigious stamp on what we already know: we rock. Only New York City, San Francisco/Wine Country, Chicago, and Washington D.C. currently have published guides. Despite repeated misguided claims by some local restaurants loosely using ‘Michelin’ in their advertising, only restaurants in these four areas can authentically claim to have a starred restaurant in the United States.
I can’t think of a more deserving city to be chosen as the fifth location by the inspectors of the Michelin Guide than our beautiful melting pot.
I first wrote about South Florida’s guide potential in 2014: Miami Michelin Guide Selections. In the early 2010s, coinciding with the burst of online reviews, smartphones, and the Instagram #foodporn phenomena, diners (local and beyond) began to take an active interest in our culinary scene. Miami’s popularity as a travel destination continued to soar, and restaurants started to think outside the box. Simultaneously, a steady influx of restaurateurs began trying their luck here. Newsflash, we aren’t easily impressed. Even now, new spots continue to open and close at alarming rates. The phrases ‘long-term’ and ‘Miami restaurant’ do not go hand in hand. But by 2016, I marveled at the changes we’d had in just a couple of years and wrote a second article: Miami Michelin Guide: Are we there yet? analyzing our options once again. I felt overjoyed at the progress made in such a short period. Now, I do feel we finally have enough outstanding restaurants that can receive solid nominations in the 1 and 2-star category (like D.C.).
With sharp knives, kitchen skills, creative chops, and our very own Miami swagger, the local talent is ready to take on this challenge. “I think Miami is ready,” says chef Diego Oka of La Mar (the Lima, Perú location is listed at #15 on the 2017 Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant list). “The Michelin Guide not only gives stars to restaurants, it’s more than that, it’s about putting an entire city on the world’s culinary map. It means more eyes, more guides, more events. It will help to grow the culinary industry here.” Chef Kilgore of Alter (another Michelin shoo-in if I ever saw one) agrees, “It will drive all of us Chefs to push the envelope on techniques and flavors. People from all over the world will be able to see that we take ourselves seriously on the culinary side and so does Michelin.”
The Michelin Guide states, “Restaurants may receive zero to 3 stars for the quality of their food based on five criteria: quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavour and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits.”
One star: A very good restaurant in its category.
Two stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour.
Three stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
“Restaurant inspectors do not look at interior decor, table setting, or service quality in awarding stars – these are instead indicated by the number of ‘covers’ it receives, represented by the fork and spoon symbol.”
That may be the case (and better for Miami, given service is not our strength), but every single 3-star restaurant I’ve visited offered exceptional service- to the point of ironing tablecloths on the spot and obsessively measuring inches between stemware placement- within its beautiful and avant-garde decor. Food for thought.
1- Quite comfortable
3- Very comfortable
4- Top class comfort
5- Luxury in the traditional style
Since the Michelin Guide seems to be snoozing on this topic, I’ve carefully curated the following starter list of South Florida restaurants I feel could easily place, based on MY dining experience. Michelin, if you are reading this…you are welcome. For comparison purposes, note that Washington D.C., the newest added city, has been awarded only eleven 1-stars and three 2-stars to date. This is only the beginning:
In alphabetical order
I have never met anyone who wasn’t moved by a three-starred dining experience. That aha moment, for me, happened at The French Laundry almost a decade ago. As a diner, I couldn’t wrap my head around the impeccable service, the plating details and what it must have taken to conceive them. Sure, I’d dined well before, but those life-changing bites captured me and I became forever changed. Chef Kilgore remembers, “When I worked at 3* Michelin L2o in Chicago under Chef Laurent Gras I had a chance to sit with my family and enjoy the full dinner experience. It really showed me the full circle of execution from the service to the wine and what it is like to enjoy the cuisine as a guest. I took more from that job than many others mostly from the highest level of execution.” For chef Oka, Eleven Madison Park was the one. ” … everything was spectacular, not only the food, the service, the ambiance, the details, the staff, the story, the tableware, the game, the uniforms, the staff body language, everything was perfect!” Chef Tadashi Shiraishi of Hiden, felt EMP and Alinea stood out as simply remarkable. “…food is also about connecting. Growing up in Brazil becomes decisive when it comes to that. I still remember every single meal I had at D.O.M., Tuju, Lasai, and Epice. These restaurants always present a unique and original way of serving Brazilian ingredients with both elegance and respect to its original taste. But the one restaurant that changed me drastically was Jimbocho DEN and chef Zaiyu Hasegawa. For me, he is the most creative and talented Japanese chef I ever met. Dining at DEN was the most life changing experience I ever had.”
This can be us, Miami. Further proof our temperature is out-of-control hot? Some of the country’s most star-studded chefs have projects in the works for South Florida. For the Miami Design District, Joël Robuchon (the most starred chef in the world) is expected to open L’Atelier this year and chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten‘s plans to bring New York City’s ABC Kitchen by year’s end. Our very own chef super-couple, Brad (who I also mentioned in my 2014 and 2016 Michelin posts) and Soraya Kilgore of Alter, plans to open new spots Ember and Kaido. Additionally, chef Thomas Keller (of multi-starred French Laundry and Per Se) is adding to his portfolio with the upcoming The Surf Club Restaurant in the Town of Surfside. Moon over Miami? More like star shower upon Miami. C’mon down, Michelin. We are ready.