October 6, 2008 / 5:55 PM / in 9 years

NY Japanese eatery earns Michelin three-star rank

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Japanese restaurant joins three French eateries in New York City awarded a coveted three-star Michelin rating as the respected guide warned chefs to focus on value for money amid a deepening financial crisis.

Masa, dubbed "arguably the most expensive restaurant" by The New York Times, received three stars, joining Jean-Georges, Le Bernardin and Per Se, who retained the top rank they were first given four years ago when Michelin launched in New York.

Jean-Luc Naret, global director of the Michelin Guide, said luxury high-end restaurants -- where diners can pay several hundred dollars for a meal -- were likely to remain successful amid the world's growing financial crisis.

"The luxury high-end will continue to be successful," Naret said. "The average will have some difficulties -- the ones who are not good value for money, they ones focusing too much on price because of the location or the name of the chef."

"People are definitely looking for good value for money, they are going to look at the expense of restaurants they are not going to do any stupid things they may have done in another period," he said.

The four three-star restaurants in New York City are among 69 restaurants worldwide with the top ranking, which means "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." Two stars means "excellent cuisine" and one star denotes "very good cuisine."

The guide also names 58 restaurants in the Bib Gourmand -- or good value -- category for a menu of two dishes and a glass of wine or dessert for under $40, while another 74 restaurants were noted for the same menu but under $25.

Naret said 10 inspectors visit restaurants several times throughout the year incognito to decide the rankings, in which consistency plays a big part.

"We're not giving a long time recognition we're just saying 'hey, this year we came to your restaurants and our inspectors believe you have proved you are one star, two star or three stars' and we have been doing that for 110 years," he said.

Seven restaurants received two stars, including newcomers Adour, Gilt and Momofuku Ko, and 31 restaurants were given one star, with Allen & Delancey, Alto, eighty one, Fiamma, Insieme, Kyo Ya and Public among those joining the ranks.

"From two to three stars is a long process," Naret said. "You really need to be really on top of everything and you need to have an incredible consistency and provide exceptional cuisine every lunch and dinner."

Editing by David Wiessler

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