Tokyo Michelin's gourmet capital

Last updated 05:00 01/12/2011

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Tokyo retained the title of the world's gourmet capital, when the Michelin guide awarded it more stars than any other city for the fifth year in a row.

Tokyo restaurants also won more top awards than last year with 16 given the three-star rating, which Michelin defines as "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey". That is two more than last year and compares with 10 for Paris.

Fourteen of Tokyo's top spots serve Japanese cuisine and two French.

In the 2012 edition of the Michelin restaurant guide for Japan's capital, Yokohama and the adjacent coastal area of Shonan launched on Tuesday, Tokyo sushi restaurant "Yoshitake" shot to the top ranking in its first listing.

Restaurant "Koan" in the Shonan area covered for the first time also joined the ranking with three stars, bringing the total three-star haul of the Tokyo-Yokohama-Shonan area to 17.

Tokyo's "Ryugin" was promoted from two to three stars. A Korean restaurant in Tokyo, "Moranbong" joined the list with two stars, becoming the highest-ranked Korean restaurant in the world.

"In Japan most people think of barbecued beef as the main dish for Korean cuisine but it is not. That's something Koreans living in Japan started after the World War Two," said Jon Pyong Ryol, president of Moranbong, also a maker of popular Korean barbecue sauce sold in supermarkets.

"We serve traditional court dishes. And for us winning the Michelin stars is a recognition that authentic Korean food has been recognized in Japan."

Among 247 starred Tokyo restaurants, 52 received two stars and 179 received one star. By comparison, Paris has only 70 starred restaurants in the guide published by the French tyre maker.

The selection features a range of styles of Japanese dining from fugu -- puffer fish that can be lethal if improperly prepared -- sushi and tempura to "salaryman" favourites such as soba buckwheat noodles and yakitori grilled chicken skewers.

The awards are highly respected in Japan, one of the world's most food-obsessed nations and the guide's latest edition marks continued expansion of Japan's coverage.

"Eventually we want to cover all Japan," said Tetsu Morita, director of Nihon Michelin Tire.

Tokyo's three-star Japanese restaurants are Araki, Azabu Yukimura, Esaki, Hamadaya, Ishikawa, Kanda, Koju, Ryugin, 7chome Kyoboshi, Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Sushi Mizutani, Sushi Saito, Sushi Yoshitake and Usukifugu Yamadaya. The French restaurants are Joel Robuchon and Quintessence.

Koju's chef Tooru Okuda became the only chef in Japan with five stars after his new restaurant "Ginza Okuda" opened in August won two stars.

Okuda lost his relatives in Sendai city when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan's northeast on March 11 and said sourcing ingredients from there was one way of helping the disaster-struck area.

"I want to support the areas that were affected by the earthquake and I want to use ingredients from the region," he said. Okuda added that even though ingredients were coming from the region that hosts the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant it was not a concern if it was tested for radiation levels.

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"As long as those foods meet government standards I will use them for my cooking."

In Yokohama, Japanese restaurants Chiso Kimura, Masagosaryo and Sugai earned two stars, and 14 earned one. Two restaurants in Shonan earned two stars and 26 one star.

In a separate edition for Japan's Kansai region published last month, centred on Osaka and the ancient capital of Kyoto, 15 restaurants garnered three-star ratings.

The first Michelin restaurant guide, aimed at drivers in the early days of motoring, was published by the tyre company in 1900, and the star rating system was introduced in the 1920s.

- Reuters

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