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HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Michelin, the arbiter of the world's finest cuisine, awarded its coveted stars to several humble Hong Kong eateries which it said offer some of the world's best-value cuisine, although deluxe restaurants remained on top.
At Thursday's launch of Michelin's 2010 Hong Kong and Macau guide, three restaurants -- two in Hong Kong and one in Macau -- were awarded the top-ranked three Michelin stars.
These were French restaurant Caprice and Lung King Heen, a Cantonese eatery in the luxury Four Seasons Hotel, whose innovative head chef Chan Yan-tak was the first Chinese chef to grab three rosettes last year.
Macau's Robuchon a Galera, run by celebrated French chef Joel Robuchon, maintained its three stars from last year.
Besides fine dining establishments, Michelin's second guide for Hong Kong and Macau included 86 new restaurants and eateries, some of which were described as "the most affordable starred restaurants in the world" by Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin guide.
Among the 51 starred restaurants were Hong Kong's Loaf On, a seafood restaurant in the former fishing village of Sai Kung, known for its ultra-fresh fish which got one star, as was Hung's Delicacies, a small family-run restaurant known for its Chiu Chow dishes, trumping many established Chinese and Western restaurants cramming the city's luxury hotels.
A scattering of noodle shops, congee shacks and roast goose eateries were also included in the Bib Gourmand section of the guide offering tasty yet "recession-proof dining solutions."
"Let me tell you I've been to quite a few of those in the selection and I was very surprised. Where else in the world can you eat a star meal for HK$100 ($12.90)," Naret told reporters.
Some food critics welcomed the more diversified selection, which was criticized last year as elitist and skewed toward the Western palate given the dominance of Western inspectors.
"If you really want to find good food or specialized eateries, you don't just have to go to hotels," said Lau Kin-wai, a local chef and food writer.
"I think this is a big improvement that very local eateries have been included ... and this brings the guide closer to Hong Kong people's choices and tastes," he added.
This year, half of the four inspectors were Chinese, while one was French and the other British. Last year, of the 12 inspectors, only two were Chinese.
Michelin denied that its choice of more down-to-earth street establishments in Hong Kong had devalued its culinary stature.
"It doesn't mean we are lowering our standard to please anyone. We're not doing that because then we would lose our credibility worldwide," said Naret.
First published in 1900, Michelin's "little red guides" now cover 23 countries including China and Japan in Asia. Sixty percent of the 2010 Hong Kong and Macau guide's entries serve Chinese cuisine including Shanghainese, Pekinese and Sichuan.
Hong Kong and Macau still lag Tokyo however as a gourmet hub, where 11 restaurants were awarded three-stars by Michelin in its 2010 guide.
Editing by Miral Fahmy