New Food Capital: Kansai, Japan

We’ll be suspicious once you get a wheel alignment with an order of sushi: The renowned Michelin dining guide is taking heat for lavishing three-star reviews, its highest honor, on 12 restaurants in the Kansai region of Japan–more than any other place on earth, including Tokyo (11), Paris (10) and New York (5). Western chefs have balked at the new ratings, claiming Michelin is merely currying favor in Japan in an attempt to sell more tires. “Is that good marketing for the guide, or what?” asks Daniel Boulud, chef at one of Manhattan’s three-star restaurants. Some Japanese chefs in the Kansai region are questioning the ratings too, saying they never wanted the attention. “It is, of course, a great honor to be included in the Michelin guide. But we asked them not to include us,” said Minoru Harada, chef at a small restaurant honored with one star in the Michelin guide. “If many new customers come, it is difficult,” he said.