New York’s Michelin mania continues for at least one more day with Josh Ozersky’s tear down of the guide today in Time. “It’s not that I don’t agree with the Michelin ratings, they’re O.K.,” he writes. “But I don’t understand them, and that’s not O.K.” Ozersky has spoken out against Michelin’s shortcomings before (he wrote on Grub Street that “the three-star system has become unmoored from its original purpose” back in 2007), but this time his problem isn’t so much the stars themselves as it is how they’re justified; the mini-reviews are so vague, he says, that the red book is “just another crappily written restaurant guide.”
I don’t know a single eater in New York City who thinks that Corton (two stars) is a much better restaurant than Eleven Madison Park (one star) … Both do the same sort of tweezer food; it’s merely a question of taste and emphasis. But you certainly can’t discern much from their Michelin entries. One has “breathtaking” food and the other “irresistible” food. One has a “perfectly poached” lobster tail, while the other has a “soft, butter-poached” lobster. That’s not good enough. Likewise, why does Del Posto (one star), with its “heavenly” pork loin and “perfectly al dente tangle of spaghetti” not rise to the same level as its uptown rival, Alto (two stars)? These questions are on Michelin to answer — and it doesn’t.
Lest you think this is a new development for Michelin, an overgeneralized voice brought on perhaps by the distractions of too much media attention plus a healthy case of post-foie-gras lethargy, our own Adam Platt had an awfully similar criticism in his 2006 invective against the guide, pointing out that “even non-starred joints receive glowing (and generic) reviews … ‘Columbia students in search of southern-style cooking count on Miss Mamie’s for finger licking good vittles’ begins the gripping write-up of that culinary hotbed, Miss Mamie’s Spoon Bread Too.”