Thai Foodies Await Launch of First Ever Michelin Bangkok Eating Out Guide

Serving progressive Indian cuisine, Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, has been named the best restaurant in Asia for three years running by the World’s Top 50 Restaurants. How will it be ranked in the Michelin Guide Bangkok?

Amazing Thailand

The long-awaited Michelin Guide Bangkok will be launched in early December 2017 at an afternoon press conference at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel followed by a gala dinner that evening at the Siam Kempinski Hotel. What kind of reception will the guide get?

Bangkok, Thailand, will join the growing list of Asian cities to get a Michelin Guide on 6 December 2017. Following an afternoon press conference, which will undoubtedly turn into a media circus, a gala dinner will follow, with celebrity chefs from  around the world joining local talents to prepare what will surely be a sumptuous six-course dinner.

The winning chefs will receive their Michelin star jackets at the prestigious event.

The only question in BKK foodies’ minds is surely, “What took you so long?”

Tokyo was the first Asian city to be recognized by Michelin. The Michelin Guide Tokyo 2007 edition was launched in late 2006. The Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau was launched three years later, and I remember what a stir it caused.

Four Seasons Hong Kong

The press conference to announce the winners was held at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, a five -star hotel that played host to the only two restaurants in Hong Kong to receive three Michelin stars: Caprice, a fine-dining French restaurant, and Lung King Heen, an upscale Cantonese eatery.

Only one other restaurant received three stars in the first Hong Kong and Macau guide. But Robuchon a Galera was located in Macau, a neighboring special administrative region, a one hour’s jetfoil ride from Hong Kong.

When a journalist from a Chinese language newspaper asked if it was a coincidence that the press conference was being held in the very hotel whose two signature eateries had received three Michelin stars, the response bordered on fury.

I can’t remember the exact words uttered by the spokesman for Michelin, but he was obviously insulted that anyone would question the prestigious eating out guide’s integrity, and he made no attempt to hide his anger.

A French journalist jumped to the Chinese journalist’s defense, saying that her question had been both obvious and fair. She, too, had wondered the same thing, and she thought every other journalist in the room was wondering the same thing, too.

Best Chinese Restaurant in Hong Kong?

And speaking of coincidences, I had been invited to have dinner the night before at Lung King Heen, the only Chinese restaurant making the list. It was good. I enjoyed my meal. But was it worthy of three Michelin stars?

After the press conference, I called the friend that had invited me and asked if he thought it was the best Chinese restaurant in town.

“I don’t know if it is the best Chinese restaurant in town, but it is certainly one of the most expensive Chinese restaruants in town,” my friend said.

“Do you know how much that dinner cost me?”

Media Response

Overall, the response in the local media was tepid, with local food critics calling the guide “elitist” and questioning the ability of European inspectors to pass judgment on Chinese cuisine. Still, the first edition sold 50,000 copies, exceeding expectations.

The next year’s edition of the guide was equally controversial, but for a different reason. A significant number of inexpensive eateries had been added to the guide, which caused one reporter to ask if this had been in response to criticism that the first year’s guide had been too “elitist”.

“We don’t lower our standards because of criticism,” said Jean-Luc Naret, director of Michelin Guides.

“We would lose our credibility if we did.”

Food Blogger Weighs In

Andy Hayler is a food critic and blogger that claims to have eaten at almost every restaurant with three Michelin stars in the world.  Overall, he has high praise for Michelin guides, saying that their inspection process “is probably about the best you could possibly design”.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, however, he said the Hong Kong guide was an exception. Unlike the guides in Europe, the United States, and Japan, the Hong Kong guide was “wildly unpredictable”.

“The Hong Kong and Macau guide is so unpredictable I do not find it trustworthy, at least not in the way that I would trust Michelin’s judgments in Europe,” Andy said.

It is against this backdrop that I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the first-ever Michelin Guide Bangkok.

And I can’t wait to see what kind of  reception the will guide get!

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