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HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Michelin on Tuesday awarded its top three-star accolade to a Chinese chef for the first time in the celebrated gourmet guide's 108-year history, as it released its maiden directory to fine dining in China.
The Michelin guide for Hong Kong and Macau awarded 28 restaurants in the two cities star ratings, including top billing for one restaurant in each city.
Eight restaurants got two stars and 18 establishments received one star each.
Hong Kong's three-star restaurant was Lung King Heen, a Cantonese eatery in the luxury Four Seasons Hotel, whose innovative head chef Chan Yan-tak is the first Chinese granted this prestigious culinary award.
"We're very impressed by his cuisine ... in order to give him three stars he's been visited 12 times which means that he has very, very high consistent level and quality level," Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin guide, told a news conference.
Only 72 restaurants worldwide hold three Michelin stars.
In Macau, the three-stars restaurant was Robuchon a Galera, run by renowned French chef Joel Robuchon, situated in the former Portuguese enclave's Hotel Lisboa.
The bilingual Chinese and English edition's other rated restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau span over 30 different types of cuisine, with over half the selection serving various types of Chinese food.
Michelin described Hong Kong as a culinary paradise with a diverse mix of food, particularly its exceptional Chinese food.
Of the 12 food inspectors who rated the restaurants, only two of these were Chinese, but Michelin played down any suggestions of the ratings being skewed by predominantly Western palates.
"You don't have to be French to appraise French cuisine and you don't have to be Chinese to appraise Chinese cuisine," said Naret, who added efforts would be made to incorporate more local appraisers in future guides for the two cities.
The Hong Kong/Macau guide is the second launched by Michelin in Asia, after the Tokyo guide's release in November 2007.
Tokyo's 2008 guide had 9 three-stars restaurants, 36 two-stars and 128 one-star establishments.
A total of 202 Hong Kong and 49 Macau establishments are included in the guide, including 49 hotels.
Editing by Miral Fahmy