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Tokyo has overtaken Paris as the city with the most Michelin three-star restaurants, cementing its status as the “world capital of gastronomy”.

The latest edition of the Michelin guide to the Japanese capital awarded 11 eateries the coveted three stars, against 10 in Paris.

Tokyo Michelin Guide 2009

Tokyo Michelin Guide 2009

“Tokyo remains by far the world capital of gastronomy and also has the most three-star restaurants,” Michelin guide director Jean-Luc Naret told a news conference.

With 11 three-star, 42 two-star and 144 one-star eateries, Tokyo now boasts triple the number of awards that the French capital has.

“Tokyo has become the world culinary capital, ahead of Paris. We give stars where we find them and in Tokyo, the culinary richness is extraordinary,” said Naret.

Tokyo’s status as the world’s largest metropolis was also a factor given that it has four times as many restaurants as Paris, he noted.

But France kept its place as the country with the most Michelin triple-star restaurants – 25, compared with 18 in Japan, including those awarded to eateries in a separate edition for the western Kyoto-Osaka region.

Two-thirds of the 197 restaurants that Michelin selected from the 160,000 eateries in Tokyo serve Japanese cuisine, while the others offer French, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, or fusion food.

The Tokyo edition only includes restaurants that have been awarded stars.

In the Michelin guides for other cities, it is common for a restaurant to be listed without being awarded stars.

The first Tokyo guide in 2007 provoked criticism and sarcasm among Japanese restaurant owners and food critics, who mocked the ability of French inspectors to judge Japanese cuisine.

For the latest edition, the inspectors were all Japanese.

The updated guide, which will go on sale in Japanese and English on November 20 in Japan and in early February in Europe, covers 15 districts of Tokyo.

Sushi at Saito, taken from restaurant review site, www.caramelcorn.wordpress.com

Sushi at Saito, taken from restaurant review site, www.caramelcorn.wordpress.com

It also introduces for the first time Japanese-style “izakaya” pubs, “kushiage” and “yakitori” restaurants that feature deep-fried and grilled food, as well as “shojin ryori” – a vegetarian food favoured by Buddhist monks.

Three restaurants offering Japanese cuisine joined the prestigious triple-star club this year – Esaki, Sushi Saito, and Yukimura.

Three French restaurants also kept the full three stars – Joel Robuchon, L’Osier and Quintessence.

Under Michelin’s rules, one star signifies a “very good” cooking quality, two stars mean “excellent” and three stars mean “exceptional”.

Michelin will run 150,000 copies in Japanese and 30,000 in English of the new 2010 edition. The first Tokyo 2008 guide sold about 300,000 copies while the 2009 version sold 180,000.


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