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The Hong Kong/ Macau 2009 Michelin Guide was released to great anticipation and excitement in that region. Without any delay here are the starred restaurants.

Hong Kong ~ Starred Restaurants:

*** Lung King Heen

** Amber
** BO Innovations
** Caprice
** L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
** Shang Palace
** Summer Palace
** T’ang Court

* Fook Lam Moon Wanchai branch
* Forum
* Hutong
* Lei Garden IFC branch
* Lei Garden Tsim Sha Tsui branch
* Ming Court
* Petrus
* Pierre
* Regal Palace
* Shanghai Garden
* The Golden Leaf
* The Square
* Tim’s Kitchen
* Yung Kee

I have only listed the Michelin starred restaurants in Hong Kong – the ones in bold (Hutong, Pierre, Yung Kee) are restaurants I visited during my 4 day trip to Hong Kong. You can find the reviews of those restaurants on this blog. While I find the 1* rating given to Hutong and Pierre to be about right based on my experience back in September, I think Yung Kee deserves special mention.

Michelin has often been criticized for favouring expensive restaurants (particular of the French variety). Yung Kee is probably on the list to silence naysayers – during my last visit, you could purchase a takeaway lunch for less than £8.  Yung Kee began life as a humble stall selling for Roast Goose. Today, their menu has expanded somewhat to include more refined cuisine such as the sublime ‘Deep Fried Prawns with Mini Crab Roe’ which I enjoyed (the dish was awarded a Gold Medal by the HK tourism board in their annual cooking competition) although most people still come for their excellent Roast Goose. Despite the food being very good it does raise the question of whether a restaurant such as Yung Kee is deserving of a Michelin star as they do use MSG in their cooking.

Speaking of value for money – the much admired Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel is probably the cheapest 3* restaurant in the world. While it might soon change, just before the announcement of stars a full 8-course business lunch costs HK$430 (about £40). Michelin has often been criticised for having a bias towards French cooking. While, on the surface, it would only be right that a Chinese restaurant should receive a 3* rating, especially in a city with some of the top Chinese restaurants, I feel the award of 3*s to LKH does not capture the true essence of traditional Chinese cooking. Ingredients more commonly associated with European cooking such as foie gras and truffles are found alongside typical luxury Chinese ingredients such as shark’s fin and abalone. It seems Michelin is showing favouritism towards European-influenced Chinese cooking as opposed to classical Chinese cooking.

Surprisingly the revered Gaddi’s at the Peninsula did not receive a single star. This is thought to be one of the best, if not THE best, French restaurant in Hong Kong so its omission does raise an eyebrow or two. One of the reason may be the fact that their head chef, Philip Sedgewick has now moved to Peninsula, Bangkok. Other omissions include SPOON by Alain Ducasse although from the reviews have read this place seems to place style over substance.

Of course there was much controversy with this list. Eye-brows were raised when Michelin reviealed that 12 of the 14 inspectors for this guide were Europeans, with 2 locals included to ‘shed-light into the cuisine here’. The nationality and ethnicity of the inspectors is subject to debate – I am of the personal opinion that you do not need to be Chinese to experience good Chinese food, as long as you have good insight of the cuisine to begin with. From my perspective, even though I am ethnically Chinese, I feel I am a better judge of French and in general European cuisine compared to Chinese cooking.

I think a lot of the fuss is derived from the fact that people do not understand the purpose of the Michelin guide. This is not about getting the best street food possible at an affordable price. No – the Michelin guide is to highlight the pinnacle of cooking in that genre, assuming money is not an issue of course. What many Chinese people fail to grasp is the importance of service to the dining experience. While it may be acceptable dining culture for the locals to have long queues, rude service, questionable hygiene and occasionally other customers hawking over your table waiting for you to finish your dinner and leave, this may come as a major shock to most Europeans.

Anyways whether people agree or disagree with the Michelin guide, one thing is for sure – its popularity means that it is here to stay for the foreseeable future.