Is the Michelin Guide Hong Kong still relevant?

Updated on November 23 2015

Another year, another anti-climax. The 8th Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau has just been announced, and we can’t help but feel that the industry standard is increasingly losing touch with the increasingly vibrant Hong Kong dining scene. Here’s some food for thought:

Winners

  • The Langham’s T’ang Court becomes the only new three-starred dining room, joining last year’s carryover three-star holders Bo Innovation, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Ling King Heen, 8 1/2 Otto e mezzo Bombana and Sushi Shikon.
  • Causeway Bay’s Forum gains a second star in two years, and Langham Cordis’ Ming Court also picks up a second.
  • Philippe Orrico’s ON Dining has picked up its first star — a terrific result for one of the hardest working chefs in town.
  • Likewise for Wan Chai institution Serge et le phoque. The boys were unlucky to miss out on a star last year but we’re glad to see them being rewarded in this year’s edition.
  • Also picking up its first star is Ta Vie. Chef Hideaki Sato made a brave choice to cross the harbour to head an innovative contemporary kitchen a couple of months ago, and he’s been rewarded justly.
  • Street food has been included in this year’s Guide for the first time, with cult favourites LKK North Point’s superior egg waffles, Sham Shui Po institution Kung Wo Tofu and Yuen Long dessert stall Kai Kee among those being recognised.
The Langham’s T’ang Court is the only new three-star restaurant.

Shockers

  • No ÉPURE or Mott 32. Astounding. Inexplicably, InterContinental’s sublime Steak House also lost its star.
  • Usually two stars would be cause for celebration — but we think Richard Ekkebus was unlucky to miss out on a third. After a stellar year which saw his Amber once again being ranked the best restaurant in Hong Kong (and the fourth best in the region) at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, as well as the personal accolade of being named Chefs’ Choice at the same ceremony, he’s not getting the same love from Michelin.
  • Lei Garden — again. The Kwun Tong branch becomes the fifth branch of the Cantonese chain to pick up a star. We’re not so convinced. At least the vastly overrated Din Tai Fung finally lost theirs, so maybe the judges got something right?
  • While it was good news for ON, we’re pretty surprised Philippe Orrico’s Upper Modern Bistro lost its star.
  • Nurdin Topham’s exceptional NUR was relegated from the stars. We definitely feel the judges have a case to answer on this one — Topham’s is by far one of the most innovative kitchens in the city, and his confidence as a chef only seems to have grown this year.
  • Bo Innovation was once at the forefront of our dining scene. We’re fans of Alvin “Demon Chef” Leung, but surely the time of fawning over molecular cuisine has passed?
  • L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon — is the name alone what’s swaying the judges here?
  • The Pawn goes without as well — surely Tom Aiken’s first Hong Kong kitchen is among the best of the internationals, and deserves at least a mention?
You win some, you lose some – Philippe Orrico’s ON Dining picks up its first star in this year’s Guide, but Upper Modern Bistro lost its star from last year.

What it all means

We shouldn’t be too surprised with this year’s list. The Michelin Guide showed last year that it’s increasingly losing touch with Hong Kong’s dining scene, and this year the judges seem to have stubbornly persisted down this path.

Our restaurant scene is so much more vibrant than it was even just a year ago, with a slate of new openings heralding a long overdue shift towards more casual, less formal arrangements. None of the restaurants that have paved the way for this style seem to have been recognised, even in the Bib Gourmand section (which is just one step down from the stars) — Mott 32 and NUR are two deserving dining rooms that come to mind.

The Michelin cupboards of the prolific Yenn Wong and Malcolm Wood also remain frustratingly bare, with only the former’s Duddell’s retaining its two-star status. If anyone has spearheaded the aforementioned change in our dining scene more than these two, we’d like to know about it. In a similar vein, Black Sheep Restaurants goes empty-handed too – Carbone and Ho Lee Fook remain not only some of the hottest tables in town, but also among the best.

What the Guide succeeds in doing once again though is celebrating local institutions, and the addition of a dedicated street food list is a wonderful way to recognise a part of our city’s eating culture that is so beautifully engrained. That said, a more cynical perspective could be that this new addition is merely a pitch for a conversation starter or, worse, a ploy to show that they actually are in touch with how Hong Kong eats.

It’s no wonder that the industry is ultimately looking more to San Pellegrino’s list of the 50 Best as a better form guide. Until the judges show a bit more mettle and allow themselves to branch out, the differences between the two will become even more pronounced.

Michelin Guide Hong Kong 2016: The full list

3 stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

  • 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA
  • Bo Innovation
  • L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
  • Lung King Heen
  • Sushi Shikon
  • T’ang Court (new)

2 stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour

  • Amber
  • Caprice
  • Celebrity Cuisine
  • Duddell’s
  • Forum (new)
  • Ming Court (new)
  • Pierre
  • Shang Palace
  • Summer Palace
  • Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine
  • Tenku Ryu Gin
  • Tin Lung Heen
  • Wagyu Takumi
  • Yan Toh Heen

1 star: High quality cooking, worth a stop

  • Ah Yat Harbour View Restaurant
  • Akrame
  • CIAK – In The Kitchen
  • Fook Lam Moon
  • Fu Ho Restaurant
  • Golden Leaf
  • Golden Valley
  • Guo Fu Lou
  • Ho Hung Kee
  • Jardin de Jade
  • Kam’s Roast Goose
  • Kazuo Okada
  • Lei Garden (Central, Kowloon Bay, Mong Kok, North Point, Sha Tin, Wan Chai)
  • Loaf On
  • Man Wah
  • Mandarin Grill + Bar
  • MIC Kitchen
  • ON Dining (new)
  • Pang’s Kitchen
  • Peking Garden (new)
  • Seasons by Olivier E.
  • Serge et le phoque (new)
  • Sing Kee Seafood Restaurant
  • Spoon by Alain Ducasse
  • Ta Vie (new)
  • Tate Dining Room & Bar
  • The Boss
  • Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists (North Point, Sham Shui Po)
  • Tosca
  • Yat Lok Restaurant
  • Yu Lei
  • YUE
  • Yè Shanghai (Tsim Sha Tsui)
  • Wagyu Kaiseki Den
  • Zhejiang Heen

Greek-Cypriot by way of Melbourne, Nik is a lover of sneakers, country and western music, Jeff Probst, oversized scarves and three-quarter lattes. He occasionally tweets, badly, @nik_iforos, and lives in a state of constant FOMO on Instagram @nik.iforos.