Though there was a lot of action in the one- and two-star ranks of the recently announced New York City Michelin Guide for 2020, the three-star echelon was quiet this year. As with last year there wasn’t a single restaurant that either ascended to, or dropped from, the old French tire manufacturer’s highest culinary honor.
In fact, no restaurants have graduated to three stars in the city since Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and Eleven Madison Park both received the honor in the 2012 guide. And in the last few years, New York legends Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud have dropped down to two stars. It has made the top of the New York dining scene feel a bit static, especially in comparison to the Bay Area, which now has seven three-star restaurants compared to New York’s five. In the last year alone, Atelier Crenn and SingleThread have moved up to three stars, while Coi and Saison both dropped down to two in the wake of executive chef changes.
Yet, there could finally be movement at the top next year in the New York guide now that Michelin has expanded to Westchester. This year Blue Hill at Stone Barns debuted at two stars and could be joining these five restaurants on this list 12 months from now.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
The name is a bit of a misnomer, as chef César Ramirez has moved his fine-dining restaurant from Downtown Brooklyn to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. But the format has endured. Diners sit arrayed around a counter, the chefs in full view preparing them a multi-course tasting menu of French-Japanese fusion cuisine. When Brooklyn Fare earned its third star a Michelin inspector told the New York Times “I don’t believe there is anything quite like it in the world, though you might see the closest parallels in Tokyo or Kyoto. If you took the cuisine out of the setting it would compare favorably with other three stars.”
Eleven Madison Park
It has been an eventful year for the restaurant helmed by chef Daniel Humm. Rule changes at the World’s 50 Best meant that the restaurant that topped the rankings in 2017 could no longer appear on the list, as former No. 1s were all relegated to a “Hall of Fame” status. Then came the news that the dynamic duo of Humm and Will Guidara, who turned EMP into a fine dining powerhosue after they bought it from hall-of-fame restaurateur Danny Meyer in 2010, decided to go their separate ways. Humm remained at the restaurant, continuing to serve food with a restrained simplicity that’s rooted in his French training. Despite the changes, the restaurant retains the third star it first earned in 2012.
Eric Ripert helms one of the finest seafood restaurants in America. Le Bernardin originally opened in 1986, an import from Paris, and was a hit immediately upon arriving on our shores. Ripert took over the kitchen in 1994, continuing the approach of exceptional seafood, simply prepared. The menu is divided into those preparations of “Almost Raw” where geoduck sashimi is dressed with ginger-ponzu. Then there’s “Barely Touched” where yellowfin tuna and langoustines get the lightest sear. And there’s the “Lightly Cooked,” where you may find pan roasted monkfish with squid ink fideos and a chorizo emulsion. When we named the “30 Most Influential Restaurants of the Last 30 Years” Le Bernadin was among the honorees, with chef Adrienne Cheatham summing up its legacy by saying, “This restaurant dedicated itself to exploring the bounty of the sea and to challenge and change the way diners were used to not only cooking and consuming, but also purchasing seafood.”
One of the most expensive tasting menus in America, chef Masa Takayama serves up an omakase sushi experience at his eponymous restaurant in New York’s Time Warner Center on the corner of Central Park. The Japanese-born chef moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s and eventually opened Ginza Sushi-ko, which helped establish the city’s love for sushi. In 2004, with encouragement from Thomas Keller, he moved to New York to create Masa. Fish from Japan is flown in directly to him from Tsujiki Fish Market to ensure the highest-quality product for his customers. In the 2009 guide, it became the first Japanese restaurant in America to earn three stars.
As Thomas Keller prepared to bring his Francophile cooking to New York after much success with the French Laundry out in Napa, he was asked how his new restaurant would compare to the one that had established him as an iconic American chef. He’d respond, “It’s not the French Laundry, per se.” The name stuck. Like the French Laundry, Per Se serves a nine-course menu, replete with his take on modern French.