November 25, 2010 / 2:40 AM / in 7 years

Tokyo burnishes luster as most-starred Michelin city

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Tokyo on Wednesday held onto its crown as the global center of gourmet dining, when the Michelin guide awarded it more stars than any other city for the fourth year in a row.

<p>Mount Fuji is seen to the southwest of Tokyo December 20, 2009. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>

Tokyo restaurants also gained more top awards than last year with 14 given the coveted three-star rating, which Michelin defines as “exceptional cuisine, worth a journey.” Twelve serve Japanese cuisine and two serve French.

In the newest edition of the Michelin restaurant guide for Japan’s capital, launched on Wednesday, sushi restaurant “Araki” leapt to the top of the awards in its first listing.

Three restaurants were promoted from two to three stars, among them Usukifugu Yamadaya, whose specialty is fugu -- puffer fish that can be lethal if improperly prepared.

Among 240 starred Tokyo restaurants, 52 received two stars and 174 received one star. By contrast, Paris -- where ten restaurants received three-star ratings, second to Tokyo -- had only 64 starred restaurants.

The award is especially respected in Japan, one of the world’s most food-obsessed nations, where diners are willing to wait in long lines and pay high prices.

“Restaurants here really focus on what they can do well, they really specialize. It takes time and it takes precision as well,” Jean-Luc Naret, global director of the Michelin guides, told Reuters, noting the wide range of Japanese food.

Included this year were references to Japanese beef cuisine and even more down-to-earth food such as tonkatsu, fried pork cutlets Japanese-style.

“I think Japan is one country where you see the chef trying every day to do better than the day before with the same materials and methods. They definitely try to excel,” Naret said.

Tokyo’s three-star Japanese restaurants are Araki, Esaki, Hamadaya, Ishikawa, Kanda, Koju, 7chome Kyoboshi, Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Sushi Mizutani, Sushi Saito, Usukifugu Yamadaya and Yukimura. The French restaurants are Joel Robuchon and Quintessence.

New this year are listings for the neighboring cities of Yokohama and Kamakura, a beachside city popular with tourists.

Two Japanese restaurants in Yokohama, Chiso Kimura and Masagosaryo, earned two stars, and 14 earned one. Ten restaurants in Kamakura earned one-star ratings.

In a separate edition for Japan’s Kansai region published last month, centered on Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, and the ancient capital of Kyoto, 12 restaurants garnered three-star ratings.

The first Michelin restaurant guide, aimed at chauffeurs in the early days of motoring, was published by the tyre company in 1900, and the star rating system was introduced in the 1920s.

The company only ventured out of Europe for the first time in 2005, with its guide to New York. Its Tokyo guide, launched late in 2007, was its first in Asia, though it has since added Hong Kong and plans more, Naret said.

“From Singapore to Taipei to Sydney and all the way to New Delhi, there’s so much potential in the region,” he added.

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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