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The 5 Cities With the Most Michelin-Starred Restaurants

by | Dec 22, 2019

When it comes to industry recognition, trophies like “Best Taco Spot in NYC” don’t approach the shine and stature of a Michelin star. Don’t get us wrong: awards from local magazines can definitely boost your traffic and revenues. However, if your restaurant is one of approximately 3,000 Michelin-starred restaurants, the world understands that you’ve achieved an exceptionally high level of culinary excellence.

That said, have you ever wondered which cities host the most Michelin-starred restaurants?

Understanding Michelin Stars

“With one Michelin star, you get about 20 percent more business. Two stars, you do about 40 percent more business, and with three stars, you’ll do about 100 percent more business.” — Joël Robuchon, holder of the most Michelin starred restaurants, Interview with Food & Wine.

The Michelin Guide is Europe’s oldest and most prestigious restaurant and hotel guide. Created by the French tire company, this guide serves as the de facto authority on restaurants across the globe. Each year, Michelin awards “stars” to restaurants that meet its stringent criteria of excellence.

A single Michelin star can exponentially increase traffic to your restaurant. Having three cements you as the talk-of-the-town. Of course, losing a star (insert howls of indignation) can have the reverse effect. So, for restaurants that gain a star, keeping it is as important as winning one.

The star ratings comprise the following:

  • One star is a “very good” restaurant that’s worth a stop
  • Two stars is a restaurant with “excellent cooking worth detouring for”
  • Three stars is a restaurant with “exceptional cuisine that’s worth a special journey”

The rarity of Michelin stars is a critical component of their ability to drive traffic. You can’t buy a star, and Michelin is famously tight-fisted about handing them out. In the United States alone, there are over one million restaurants. Globally, there are only 137 restaurants with 3 Michelin stars. In America, there are a grand total of 14. This means that 0.0001% of restaurants in the United States have three Michelin stars. Yes, 3-star designations are certainly rare!

*A quick note: Michelin doesn’t review every restaurant in the world. In the United States, it has only reviewed restaurants in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. There are certainly restaurants that don’t get reviewed due to their locations.

Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Tokyo, Japan = 226

When it comes to Michelin stars, Japan is in a class by itself. In fact, three Japanese cities lead the way in Michelin-starred restaurants in the country: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. To start, let’s check out the most prominent restaurants in Tokyo.

1) L’Osier

This year, L’Osier — a chic French restaurant with decades of experience in the Giza district of Tokyo — finally earned its 3-star status. Operated by Shiseido (a Japanese cosmetics conglomerate), L’Osier serves decadent, authentic French food under the banner of its highly-decorated head chef Olivier Chaignon. From duck foie gras with cream of trompette mushroom to a special white truffle menu, L’Osier offers French fine dining at its best.

2) Tsuta Tokyo

There’s a common misconception among restaurateurs and diners that Michelin-starred restaurants serve only expensive meals. That’s not necessarily true. Ideally, Michelin star designations should indicate an outstanding dining experience. Certainly, Tsuta delivers here, and — without breaking your monthly budget to boot.

For around 1,000 yen (or about $10), you can grab a bowl of ramen at this Michelin star ramen shop. Tsuta only serves a little over a hundred bowls each day, but it’s recently opened a new location in San Francisco, serving up a further 300. You can choose from multiple types of broths and pair your ramen meal with tasty sides like tori karaage (Japanese fried chicken). For a fantastic meal, try the Teriyaki Chicken Spicy Soba, which comes with teriyaki chicken, pan-seared mushrooms, hot sauce, diced onions, and fried garlic chips.

3) Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten

You can’t create a “top Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo” list without mentioning Jiro’s sushi hotspot. Featured in the now-famous documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Sukiyabashi Jiro is the de facto sushi restaurant in Tokyo. It walks away with Michelin stars each year and has an unparalleled reputation in Japan’s sushi scene. For around $300, you can get a 20-course omakase tasting with a variety of sashimi and sushi dishes.

It’s important to note that while the price is certainly high, the greater challenge lies in reserving a spot for dinner. Reservations are booked out at least a year in advance, so finding a seat will take some patience. Sadly, word has it that Sukiyabashi Jiro WON’T be included in the 2020 Michelin Guide, due to its inaccessibility to members of the general public.

Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Paris, France = 141

France is synonymous with fine dining. The cheese, wine, and fancy pastries are so intrinsically French that we aren’t particularly surprised Paris is #2 on our list of “most Michelin-starred restaurants.” From the modern demi-portioned plates of micro-appetizers to large slabs of perfectly seared steak, Paris has plenty to offer in culinary excellence. Below, we explore two of the most prominent Michelin restaurants in the city.

1) Le Cinq

Located in the heart of Paris, Le Cinq typifies the high quality of French cuisine. Baked in opulent glory, every bite of the delectable appetizers at Le Cinq is playful, delicious, and decadent. Throughout the years, Le Cinq has famously maintained its Michelin status. And, despite some less-than-enthusiastic reviews of the restaurant (see the Guardian’s infamous one here), this gastro eatery has solidified its stance as a staple of the high-class French scene. Many of the negative reviews highlight the aura of over-decadence surrounding its dishes. However, that isn’t necessarily a disadvantage in terms of reputation. After all, when you dine at Le Cinq, you expect indulgent decadence and nothing less. Plus, you expect to pay a pretty penny for the privilege, as well.

2) Septime

The words “affordable” and “French cuisine” are (at the very least) antonyms at the best of times. French food typically focuses on high-quality ingredients prepared in visually stimulating ways. So, when it comes time to pay the bill, a second mortgage may be in order. Septime, however, isn’t one of those restaurants. Don’t get us wrong: it won’t be cheap to dine there. At around €200 per couple, it’s still a suit-and-tie affair. But, to put the whole French fine dining scene into perspective, this is technically affordable for a Michelin star French restaurant.

In the past, raw venison, marinated olives, and black truffles have been featured on the menu. But, like many Michelin restaurants, Septime also changes its meal offerings by season, year, and (sometimes) day. So, you won’t be able to predict the exact contents of the menu, given the added challenge of reserving spots in Michelin restaurants (you may be waiting a while to get in). Either way, Septime has a reputation for great food and you don’t have to trade your car in to enjoy the appetizers.

Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Kyoto, Japan = 140

Back to Japan! Again, Japan is a hotbed of Michelin excellence. Of course, Kyoto may not have the prestige of Tokyo, but it certainly has the cooking chops to give it a run for its money. At a little under 15% of the population of Tokyo, Kyoto has just under half as many Michelin stars — giving it a denser makeup of fine dining options. Here are some of the most prominent Michelin restaurants in the city.

1) Kikunoi

To call Kikunoi Honten one of Japan’s Michelin star restaurants is an understatement. It has held on to its three-star designation for an absurd +10 years. Here, you’ll find sashimi, sushi, and noodles prepared in the authentic kaiseki style. Kaiseki dishes comprise intricately prepared dishes based on seasonal produce. That means an insane amount of prep work goes into each dish, with flavors so overwhelming complex that your tongue will struggle to process the deluge of gustatory brilliance. Overall, Kikunoi is both conscientious and consistent — and that’s an accomplishment in itself.

2) Kichisen

They say humans eat with their eyes. Well, get ready to feast. Kichisen is another Michelin star staple in Kyoto that serves up Cha-Kaiseki (tea-time foods). These small, decorative portions are delicious and lovely to behold. From sashimi in a flower boat set atop a fish carcass (looks better than it sounds) to sushi plated next to live plants and decorative bamboo, Kichisen has taken the aesthetics of fine dining to new heights.

Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Osaka, Japan = 99

Here we go for the third time in a row. Japan takes the prize for fine dining again. We’re going to be brutally honest about these restaurants: they’re absolutely top-notch. Here are some of the most prominent Michelin star restaurants in Osaka.

1) Koryu

Not only has Koryu earned 3 stars, but it also boasts magical dishes based on seasonal ingredients that taste amazingly authentic. There are no menus in the small, 10-person Koryu restaurant. Diners can expect to get dishes based on availability at the local markets that day, and each day may bring new, wonderful surprises. Plus, many of the beef dishes feature Miyazaki beef from 100% purebred wagyu cattle. The flavors are balanced, unique, and delicious. What more can a foodie ask for?

2) Harijyu

If you crave red meat dishes, Harijyu is the place for you. It boasts three locations. At the Dotombori main branch, customers dine upstairs, where they can select their cut of Kobe and ask for it to be seared just enough to leave a crust on the outside. Of course, if you prefer to prepare your own meats, stop by the on-site butcher shop and get your chosen cuts to-go. That said, we really recommend dining here — unless you have one insanely hot stovetop to duplicate Harijyu’s culinary sleight-of-hand.

Michelin-Starred Restaurants in New York City, New York = 76

Home sweet home! The 5th place on our list is New York City. Obviously, we may be a little biased, but we’re still pretty sure the Big Apple has the best restaurants on the planet. After all, it’s a metropolis of kosher hot dogs, “dollar-a-slice” pizzas, and chewy pretzels. What more could a foodie want? And, while it may be 5th on our Michelin star list, it’s first in our hearts. Here are the New York City restaurants that have earned Michelin stars.

1) Tim Ho Wan

We know! It’s strange to include Tim Ho Wan on a list that could’ve easily included Masa and Per Se — two absolutely spectacular NYC restaurants that are drenched in Michelin stars, positive reviews, and public adulation. However, Tim Ho Wan offers something remarkably unique in the Michelin world: it’s cheap. And we’re not talking “sort of” cheap. We mean cheap. You can order every single item on the Tim Ho Wan menu (and it’s a very large menu) for under $150. You read that right: That’s the WHOLE menu for $150.

A single person can walk in with a $20 bill and feast like a king. Tim Ho Wan also happens to be a one-star Michelin restaurant. This dim-sum hotspot has been called the “cheapest Michelin restaurant” for good reason. That said, the food is good and the service, prompt. That’s New York City in a nutshell.

2) Le Bernardin

Are you craving French wines, cheeses, and consommes but don’t want to hop on a plane to get them? If so, you’ll want to head to Le Bernardin. Let’s put it this way. Le Bernardin has been a 3-star Michelin restaurant since 2006 (which also happens to be the year Michelin started giving stars to New York restaurants). Founded by two Paris siblings, Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze, this restaurant is a beacon in NYC. For over two decades, it has served authentic French cuisine to Big Apple residents and visitors. After Gilbert’s untimely passing, Maguy teamed up with renowned chef Eric Ripert (a close former friend of Chef Anthony Bourdain) to take Le Bernardin to the next level of excellence.

In December 2019, Le Bernardin was named the top restaurant in the world by La Liste, a global restaurant guide.

Get Your Restaurant on the Map With Online Ordering

In all, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the Michelin experience on our list. There are dozens of other cities, thousands of other restaurants, and many other chefs we could have included. What we recommend is for you to get out there and experience Michelin-level dining for yourself. Dining at these restaurants can help you discover new flavors, managing methods, and workflows.

Speaking of bolstering your restaurant, did you know that over 60% of people order food online at least once a week? You may not be able to buy a Michelin star, but you can definitely buy a fully-functioning online ordering portal that helps you avoid costly third-party delivery charges while tapping into the massive diner base in your city. Are you ready to build your digital restaurant? Contact us to learn more today.

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