While Canada’s long-awaited inclusion in the Michelin Guide was a legitimate cause for celebration last fall, the country’s culinary stature is becoming more modest with each new edition of the venerable culinary guidebook.
Stature is relative, after all. Since the launches of Michelin Guides to Toronto and Vancouver, which feature 13 and seven starred selections, respectively, countries and regions including South Korea, Southern California, Extremadura in Spain, and Switzerland’s St. Gallen have all welcomed their first three-star eateries. Canada, meanwhile, is still waiting for its inaugural chart-topper, with Toronto’s Sushi Masaki Saito leading the way with two stars as it stands.
Of course, earning the guide’s highest honour is no small feat. Of the 16,000-plus restaurants it rates around the world, considerably less than one in a hundred boasts three stars. The good news for aspiring Canadian restaurateurs is that there are now more three-starred eateries than ever before — 137 at last count — with the venues that follow being the newest to lure globetrotting gourmets. Indeed, epicurean exploration has always been at the heart of Michelin’s rating system, with one star denoting “high-quality cooking” that’s “worth a stop,” two identifying “excellent cooking” that’s “worth a detour,” and three stars afforded only to restaurants that offer “exceptional cuisine” that’s “worth a special journey.”
Mosu — Seoul, South Korea
Five years after moving his acclaimed Mosu restaurant from San Francisco to the South Korean Capital, chef Sung Anh has earned his homeland’s first three-star rating for what Michelin’s inspectors call “consistent quality improvement.”
“Anh continues to do what he does best, highlighting the subtle nuances of seasonal produce on a plate. Burdock bark, the signature dish, features a single burdock chip prepared by coating a thinly shaved sheet of burdock root with syrup, dehydrating it, and repeating the process several times to render it supremely crisp.”
Atrio — Cáceres, Spain
The Medieval cobblestoned streets of Extremadura’s first World Heritage Site give way to this restaurant-hotel combo, which “exudes elegance, enthusiasm and sincerity, matched by impeccable service to enhance the experience to the full,” Michelin’s inspectors report. The tasting menu is “inspired by the Iberian pig and the natural bounty of Extremadura,” they continue, with local chef Toño Pérez “paying full respect to the DNA of local traditions by showcasing the myriad nuances of his native land.”
Atrio’s “spectacular” wine cellar, meanwhile, “features labels and historic vintages that are almost impossible to come across anywhere else.”
Villa Crespi — Orta San Giulio, Italy
Another hotel dining room, this time in an ornate Moorish-style residence, Villa Crespi serves unique Mediterranean cuisine in elegant dining rooms and on a panoramic veranda overlooking Piedmont’s scenic Lake Orta.
Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo “has poured heart and soul into this restaurant,” Michelin’s inspectors note, with the Campano chef using “all his technical skill and precision to create dishes full of clean and distinct flavours” that take diners on a journey across Italy “with all the confidence that only truly great chefs can muster.”
This confidence comes across in dishes like Gragnano linguine with squid and rye bread sauce, bean tagliatelle with lemon and tuna bottarga, and a dish of Sicilian scampi with octopus broth.
Addison — San Diego, California
The Golden State’s seventh three-star eatery sure is easy on the eyes, set as it is amid the bucolic grounds of the luxurious Fairmont Grand Del Mar hotel.
According to Michelin’s inspectors, chef William Bradley’s “playful yet polished” approach is best exemplified by a dish of sesame-seasoned Koshihikari rice finished with applewood-smoked sabayon, and crowned with Regiis Ova reserve caviar. Opening bites such as Iberian ham folded over a golden potato, meanwhile, display “finely-tuned flavours.”
Cocina Hermanos Torres — Barcelona, Spain
At every turn, the Torres twins’ namesake restaurant is a study in contracts. Its cabin-shaped exterior stands out amid the apartment blocks of Barcelona’s Les Courts district, while the striking interior is like more like an ultra-modern theatre than a dining room.
“Three cooking stations dominate the centre of the room,” Michelin’s inspectors report, “around which tables are arranged beneath romantic ‘clouds’ of light.”
The superb tasting menu, they continue is “a gourmet journey that extols the very best seasonal and local ingredients, using them in such a way as to extract maximum impact and flavour with a minimum of intervention.”
La Marine — Noirmoutier, France
Chef Alexandre Couillon earned his first three-star rating in the 2023 edition of the Michelin Guide France for his exceptional work in this cottage kitchen on the northern tip of the beach-ringed island of Noirmoutier. “The quality of fish, seafood and vegetables is exceptional,” the guidebook’s incognito inspectors report, in part because Couillon “rises at dawn to go to the Noirmoutier fish auction, which sells the best Atlantic fish, before stopping by his own vegetable garden, just a few minutes from the restaurant.”
The “mackerel cooked over hot embers and accompanied by confit beetroot” are of special note, as is an “incredible lettuce grilled over a flame,” and a “dessert of buckwheat, caramel mousse, confit citrus fruits, and sea lettuce sorbet.”
Memories — Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
The St. Gallen region’s first-ever three-star selection is helmed by Sven Wassmer, the former head chef at the two-starred 7132 Silver restaurant in the similarly scenic Swiss village of Vals. At Memories, one of six restaurants in the opulent Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, the ambiance is described by Michelin’s inspectors as “chic and casually elegant,” with a “relaxed and charming” front-of-house team that “provides professional service, ensuring your experience here ticks all the boxes.”
Wassmer, meanwhile, “steers clear of gimmicks and technical trickery…what seems so pleasingly spare and straightforward on the plate is actually rife with elaborate details that make for deep and well-balanced flavours. Bold and full of contrasts, honest and accessible – this is the kind of food you wish you came across more often!”