Sunday, January 04, 2009

Fast Food Nation Japan and other Michelin Thoughts

Ikuhiro Fukuda, a professor at Waseda University, also had some interesting things to say with regard to Michelin in the Yomiuri a couple of weeks ago. He notes that the Michelin restaurant guides for France also list (relatively) inexpensive unrated restaurants but the Tokyo version is limited to rated restaurants. Further on, he points out that in choosing Japanese restaurants, Michelin has essentially turned a blind eye to decor and service, something unthinkable in France. Specifically, he points out that the three-star sushi place is basically a twelve-seat bar that shares a toilet with the other establishments in the building. More important, in his own words:
This owes its origins to the distinct history that does not see the like in Europe, namely that sushi and other Japanese cuisine featured in Michelin such as soba and eel had their origins in the food stalls of the Edo Era, that is, fast food in contemporary terms. “Fast and tasty”, something that is quite normal for us Japanese, are concepts that hard to reconcile in Europe.
Note that I had merely noticed the fast-food origins of Japanese cuisine, where Fukuda traces them to the Edo Era. More broadly, hasn’t much of Japanese culture has historically been driven by the urban middle class, culinary culture being no exception?

Speaking of Michelin, I mentioned the other day that there were no Chinese restaurants in New York Times top ten list of new restaurants in New York. I also noted previously that Michelin Tokyo 2008 had one two-star Chinese restaurant and four one-star Chinese restaurants. Yesterday, NYT profiled the first Chinese restaurant to earn three stars. It’s in the first Michelin Hong Kong edition, launched on 2008 December 2 (my birthday; and for those of you who didn’t know, it’s never too late…).

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