food & drink

Michelin rules in Japan

The famous little red guide appears to have ambitions about laying the law down across the board. Its last venture out of the original restaurant guidebook semblance was to give awards for restaurants that were eco-friendly, with a heavy accent (French of course) on sustainability. Chefs working at starred establishments were telephoned to ask how they ensured that foodstuffs used were produced according to bio standards, and what they did with the packaging and the leftovers. Hardly the business of a restaurant guide, many complained. Now the Michelin has intruded into another area that is outside its remit.

Tokyo's Sukiyabashi Jiro has had a 3-star rating since 2007. Its owner and master chef is 90-year-old Jiro Ono, and he is obsessive about who he cooks for. Barack Obama dined there with the country's prime minister in 2014 and other customers include Hugh Jackman, David Beckham, and chef Joël Robuchon.

The trouble is that the restaurant does not accept reservations except from established customers, luxury hotel clients, and the well-connected. Those who manage to get a table will spend around €400 for the chef's selection.

The guide has ruled that this makes the restaurant inaccessible to the general public and has therefore cancelled its stars. A mealy-mouthed statement says, "It is not true the restaurant lost stars, but it is no longer covered in our guide. Michelin's policy is to introduce restaurants open to anybody."

So those who believed the little red book to be an independent guide of outstanding restaurants will have to review their ideas.