Stars in Tokyo’s eyes once more

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iol travel dec 28 tokyo REUTERS Even a tiny double room in a hotel with limited service can set you back 30,000 yen ($240) a night in central Tokyo these days.

Tokyo has retained the title of the world’s gourmet capital with the Michelin guide awarding it more stars than any other city for the fifth year in a row.

Tokyo restaurants also won more top awards than last year with 16 given three stars for “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. That is two more than last year and compares with 10 for Paris.

Fourteen of Tokyo’s top spots serve Japanese cuisine and two French.

In the 2012 edition of the Michelin restaurant guide for Japan’s capital, Yokohama and the adjacent coastal area of Shonan, Tokyo sushi restaurant Yoshitake shot to the top ranking in its first listing.

Koan in the Shonan area, covered for the first time, received three stars, bringing the three-star haul of the Tokyo-Yokohama-Shonan area to 17.

Tokyo’s Ryugin was promoted from two to three stars. A Korean restaurant in the city, Moranbong, joined the list with two stars, becoming the highest-ranked Korean restaurant in the world.

“In Japan most people think of barbecued beef as the main dish for Korean cuisine but it is not. That’s something Koreans living in Japan started after World War II,” said Jon Pyong Ryol, president of Moranbong.

“We serve traditional court dishes. And for us winning the Michelin stars is a recognition that authentic Korean food has been recognised in Japan.”

Among 247 starred Tokyo restaurants, 52 received two stars and 179 received one star. Paris has only 70 starred restaurants in the guide.

The selection features a range of styles of Japanese dining from fugu – puffer fish that can be lethal if improperly prepared – sushi and tempura, to “salaryman” favourites such as soba buckwheat noodles and yakitori grilled chicken skewers.

The awards are highly respected in Japan, one of the world’s most food-obsessed nations, and the guide’s latest edition marks continued expansion of Japan’s coverage.

“Eventually we want to cover all Japan,” said Tetsu Morita, director of Nihon Michelin Tire.

Tokyo’s three-star Japanese restaurants are Araki, Azabu Yukimura, Esaki, Hamadaya, Ishikawa, Kanda, Koju, Ryugin, 7chome Kyoboshi, Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Sushi Mizutani, Sushi Saito, Sushi Yoshitake and Usukifugu Yamadaya.

The French restaurants are Joel Robuchon and Quintessence.

Koju’s chef Tooru Okuda became the only chef in Japan with five stars after his new restaurant, Ginza Okuda which opened in August, won two stars.

Okuda lost his relatives in Sendai city when the huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s north-east on March 11 and said sourcing ingredients from there was one way of helping the disaster-struck area.

“I want to support the areas that were affected by the earthquake and I want to use ingredients from the region.”

He added that even though ingredients were coming from the region that hosts the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant it was not a concern if it was tested for radiation levels and “as long as those foods meet government standards”. – Reuters

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