The new Michelin Guide for 2010 just came out, and it added 65 new restaurants to its listings, which now includes the 420 “best restaurants” in Paris. Thankfully, Michelin corrected some serious omissions from its prior guide by (finally) including some of my favorite restaurants that clearly merit attention, including Veramente and La Chaumette.
Of course, being listed in Michelin does not guarantee that the restaurant deserves praise, any more than an omission means that a restaurant is not worth a visit. Indeed, Michelin is a useful guide, but over-inclusive in some respects and under-inclusive in others. Consequently, many Parisians look to other guides, such as Le Bey, which tends to identify more top-quality bistros, many of which Michelin overlooks, for reasons that only Michelin knows.While the guidebooks tend to overlap, each has their own drawbacks, in part due to the fact that they only include the most essential of information. Le Best of Paris is different in that we provide a personal review and only mention restaurants we believe truly are truly worthy. We won’t get to 400+ restaurants, as in Michelin, and I doubt we will hit the number of places referenced in Le Bey. This does not mean that the aforementioned guides are not selective, only that we strive to be more selective in order to provide you with a less overwhelming, and more realistic, list.
So we have broken down restaurants to finite categories, and right now have just under 50 restaurants listed. (We have gone to many more, but only list those we recommend.) Additionally, we want to help you find the restaurant that suits you. Some restaurants are posh (white glove), while others are more casual, but still serve outstanding fare (nouvelle and traditional). And if you want nostalgia, there is another set of restaurants and cafés that give you that experience, though we suggest lowering expectations when it comes to food quality.
Michelin also remains controversial because of the rigid checklist used for determining ratings. Some chefs say to heck with aspirations for trois étoiles (there are only nine such restaurants in Paris), as great food and dining is not forever linked to Michelin stars. There is some truth to this, as we have a difficult time discerning major differences between some one star, two star and three star restaurants, save, perhaps, the gilded dining rooms in establishments such as Le Meurice. But let’s not under-rate the star system either. The three star restaurants and many of the two stars represent the finest restaurants in France, and the world, and chefs awarded these stars are equivalent to rock stars.
By the same token, some restaurants have no stars and are superb – take Chez Georges and Josephine (Chez Dumonet) – while other restaurants with a Michelin star have survived more on reputation and the glamour of their dining rooms. Indeed, a whole new revolution of bistronomy was created by the likes of Yves Cambelorde, Christian Constant, and other great chefs, who such grand restaurants with an inspiration to serve innovative cuisine without clinging to the rigid Michelin caste system. This “revolution” has democratized food, allowing Parisians and tourists alike to enjoy a fine meal without spending a month’s mortgage.
Having just bought the new Michelin 2010 guide, I expect to use it, along with Le Bey, and general word of mouth, which is the best way to find the new or unknown restaurants. And when I do, I will share that secret with you.