First things first. Michelin handed out its stars this morning – 24 hours early - following a supposed leak of the list on Yelp. As it turns out, the leak was on the mark.
3 stars: Alinea, L2O
2 stars: Avenues, Charlie Trotter’s, Ria
1 star: Blackbird, Boka, Bonsoirée, Crofton on Wells, Everest, graham elliot, Longman & Eagle, NAHA, NoMI, Schwa, Seasons, Sepia, Sixteen, Spiaggia, Takashi, Topolobampo, Tru, Vie.
Congratulations to the above restaurants. You folks have a lot to be proud of, and we’ll all be talking about this for a long time.
Though this won’t put a blemish on the celebrations happening in kitchens around town, it must be said: Michelin blew this announcement from beginning to end. Somehow the outfit known for its secrecy and standards allowed the information get out early, putting both the restaurants and patrons in an awkward position. We didn’t want to believe it, because frankly, the list looked a little skimpy (23 restaurants? San Francisco had 39!).
More than that, we didn’t want to believe it because it was on Yelp. The idea that we could be getting the big news in the most blasé fashion on message boards from some anonymous dude known as David “Primo” R seems to say something about both Yelp and Michelin, though I’m not sure what. I’ve been pretty critical of Yelp in the past and I admit I underestimated its power. It basically spent a day stealing the spotlight from the most hallowed name in restaurant criticism in the world. That must count for something.
The spotlight now belongs not on Michelin or Yelp, but on the restaurants themselves.
The biggest surprises have to be a star for Longman & Eagle and Bonsoirée. I can only imagine Jean Joho, scratching his head and wondering how Everest got lumped with the scruffy porkapalooza and the shoestring BYO in one-star-land. But the staff at Les Nomades, North Pond, and Arun’s would happily trade places with Everest. Ria, a newcomer whose potential I was the first to recognize is a bit of a shocker at two stars—but a pleasant one. The place has a bright future.
Perhaps the strangest case though is L2O, which received the ultimate honor just a week after its chef, Laurent Gras, announced his departure, which may or may not be permanent. I’m guessing it’s not. Three stars from Michelin have a way of changing people’s minds.
In other news, I did not win the Michelin Guide Betting Pool between the city’s major dining critics. David Tamarkin of Time Out Chicago did. Tamarkin, who foresaw Michelin’s general stinginess with stars better than his counterparts at the Trib, Sun-Times, Chicago magazine, Reader, NewCity, Chicago Social, and LTHforum.com, wins the Michelin Man Bobber Tire collectible. It ain’t a Michelin star, but for us critics, it’ll have to do.