Michelin's latest western Japan guide lists 60-dollar meals

Michelin unveiled Tuesday its new guide to Japan's western cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, with a novelty: a selection of 106 top restaurants that offer courses under 5,000 yen (60 dollars).

The guide, due to hit Japanese bookstores on October 22 in both Japanese and English, lavished the ancient capital of Kyoto with seven three-star ratings, all for Japanese cuisine, 22 two-star and 71 one-star ratings.

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

Tokyo remains Michelin's globally top ranked three-star restaurant city, with 11 restaurants against 10 in Paris.

The three cities of the western Kansai region were awarded a total of 183 single stars, 44 double-stars and twelve triple-stars.

In addition to the usual lineup of restaurants and hotels, Michelin has also featured traditional "ryokan" hotels, awarding stars to four establishments out of 31 listed.

New in the 2011 guide Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe is a pictogram of two coins indicating "a starred restaurant offering a menu under 5,000 yen".

Out of 239 restaurants, 106 have been selected, among them two three-star - in Kyoto and Kobe - and eleven two-star eateries.

"We wanted to signal starred restaurants where you can have very good cuisine but at a very reasonable price," guide director Jean-Luc Naret told AFP. "It represents almost half of the selection, which is exceptional."

Naret said the publishers would do the same for the 2011 edition of the Michelin Guide Tokyo, which will add Yokohama and Kamakura, both south of the capital, to be released next month.

Japanese cuisine, with its many different styles, dominates the latest guide with over 80 percent of the selected restaurants, with the remainder a mix of French, Chinese, fusion, Italian and steak houses.

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