Michelin honours cheap eats in new HK-Macau guide

Michelin has added a cheap restaurant category to its new Hong Kong and Macau guide unveiled Thursday, after critics accused the culinary bible of ignoring the cities' food-stall culture.

Twenty-nine "simple shop" restaurants received star ratings in the guide's second edition, with its highest three-star rating awarded to a pair of French restaurants and one Chinese in Hong Kong and another in nearby Macau.

In all, 298 establishments - including restaurants and hotels - made the 2010 guide, Michelin said.

Michelin's inaugural Hong Kong-Macau edition came under fire last year over claims it focused on high-end eateries, and cared little about giving readers an authentic Chinese dining experience.

Critics questioned whether the 12 part-time inspectors, of whom only two were Chinese, had enough exposure to local cuisine to judge its quality.

Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin guides, told a press conference in Hong Kong Thursday that the latest edition was compiled by four full-time inspectors - two Chinese, one French and one Briton.

But he rejected suggestions the larger percentage of Chinese inspectors or the new cheap restaurant category were a response to last year's criticism.

"It's not because of any criticism - we don't listen to that," he said.

"But the selection in this second year guide is better. We realised some local shops were missing last year because it was our first year."

Some restaurants in the new guide charge as little as 50 Hong Kong dollars (6.50 US) for a meal, he said.

"These are the most affordable starred restaurants in the world... But it doesn't mean we're lowering our standards to please anyone," Naret added.

For the second year Michelin gave three stars to Lung King Heen, a Cantonese restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel run by chef Chan Yan-tak and to French gastronome Joel Robuchon's Robuchon a Galera in Macau's Grand Lisboa casino.

Chan was the first Chinese chef to receive Michelin's top rating in the guide's inaugural edition last year, sparking two dozen job offers, Naret said.

Caprice, a French restaurant also in Hong Kong's Four Seasons, is the only new restaurant to pick up Michelin's top rating this year.

Chef Vincent Thierry, 38, told AFP: "I have always looked up to the three-star chefs as if they were God. But today, I am on the same level as them."

The new guide includes 205 Hong Kong restaurants and 38 in neighbouring Macau. Among the entries are 86 new restaurants. Nine received the two-star rating while 39 received one star, Michelin said.

Three stars indicate "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" while two stars mean "excellent cooking, worth a detour". One star promises a "very good restaurant in its category".

Almost 40 different styles of cuisine, from dim sum to Italian, are featured in the guide, which was founded in 1900 as a drivers' companion to restaurants in France.