Michelin starry-eyed in new Japan guide for Kyoto, Osaka

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The Independent Online

After publishing a Tokyo dining guide, Michelin unveiled Tuesday a book focusing on Japan's western cities of Kyoto and Osaka, awarding stars to its entire selection of 150 restaurants.

The guide, due to hit Japanese bookstore shelves on Friday in both Japanese and English, lavished the ancient capital of Kyoto with six three-star ratings among the city's 85 chosen restaurants.

Kyoto and Osaka are both famed for their historically rich, although divergent, culinary expertise.

Kyoto is famed for the quiet sanctuary of its temples, shrines and Zen gardens, while its more boisterous working-class neighbour Osaka, Japan's third largest city, has been nicknamed "Japan's kitchen."

Between them, the two cities were awarded 118 single stars, 25 double-stars and seven triple-stars.

Tokyo remains Michelin's culinary world capital, winning stars for 227 restaurants, among them nine three-star ratings.

In addition to its usual selection of restaurants and hotels, Michelin in the Kyoto and Osaka book for the first time featured traditional "ryokan" hotels, awarding stars to three establishments out of 22 listed.

"Kyoto is a city that deserves a guide, because there is a tradition there, a culture of gastronomy. Our selection highlights this respect for tradition," Michelin guide director Jean-Luc Naret told AFP.

"Some chefs wholly deserve to be acknowledged by three-star ratings, as do younger ones who have already worked with the best and who show that the new generation will continue this tradition."

Nearly 97 percent of the guide's listed Kyoto restaurants offer Japanese traditional cuisine, as do 82 percent of those selected in Osaka. The other featured restaurants offered French, Chinese or fusion cuisine.

The Michelin staff, made up entirely of Japanese inspectors, visited more than 1,000 restaurants, hotels and ryokans from late 2007 before telling 203 establishments that they had been selected.

Under Michelin's rules, one star signifies a "very good" cooking quality, two stars mean "excellent," and three stars mean "exceptional."

Michelin will run 150,000 copies in Japanese and 30,000 in English. The guide will be available in Europe in February.