Seeing Stars

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The Michelin Guide rolls into town bringing with it that delicious mix of choice restaurant cuts and heady gossip about who should have grabbed a star. By Kannan Chandran

At 71, Joel Robuchon is proof that your best years can come at any time in your life, and you do not have to be confined to a particular geographic area to excel.

Robuchon illuminated his already shining career by another five stars at the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore awards ceremony — for the only establishment to get three stars, Joel Robuchon Restaurant, and two stars for L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

The ‘Chef of the Century’ has found fame in Asia with restaurants in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore. Similarly, the Michelin Guide hopes to remain relevant by looking East.

Given the interest shown to the Guide — from hurrahs to bahhs! — it is likely the ageing concept may have worked up a shine for its book of lists. Asia is rich in cuisines and restaurants and its growing middle class aspires for the best. With that rich base to work with, there are choices aplenty.

There are many lists and guides in competition, but not many have the wide reach that the Michelin Guide has. Singapore, small though it may be, offers an ecosystem of cuisines rich to affordable. From the hawker stalls to the likes of inheritance-emptying meals at Marina Bay Sands, local to international, rough-and-tumble to pretentious, every flavour finds favour in this cosmopolitan city. The insatiable hunger for more is probably what drew the Guide to the Republic.

The Price Of Stardom

And it has cleverly worked in a first or two to gain traction. Song Of India is the first Indian restaurant in Asia to get a star. Paul Joseph, a director of the restaurant, is decidedly delighted but also aware that the restaurant now has to maintain its standards and do better, a burden that comes with such stardom.

The Stagg Inn, a pub in Titley, England, got a Michelin Star in 2001, so why not a hawker stall, or two, in Singapore? A couple of local eateries — Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles in Crawford Lane and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown Food Complex — will probably see long lines forming after getting a star each.

While many on the list were expected to see stars, there’s the issue of those who didn’t make the list. Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen didn’t get a star and neither did Iggy’s.

There are many others who would feel aggrieved the light didn’t shine down on them.

But such star wars will keep the interest in the Guide twinkling.

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