Why This Country Has the Most Number of Michelin-Starred Restaurants
Since the Michelin Guide began ranking restaurants around the world with its now-esteemed star scale, the number of Michelin stars accumulated by countries has become a source of national pride in gourmand circles. The rankings, after all, double as travel recommendations, with the highest rating—three stars—given only to “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” When a restaurant is touted to be one of the main reasons to visit a country, it can be quite the tourist attraction.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the top-ranked country, as of 2019, is Japan. It has the most number of three-star restaurants: 34. It also has the most Michelin-starred restaurants—230—and the highest overall number of stars in a single country—over 300.
Japanese cuisine has an almost-spiritual connection to the land and the sea, as dishes are often prepared with reverence for each ingredient’s natural flavors. Often mellow, sometimes surprisingly intense, the food served at Japan’s finest restaurants is an embodiment of the season’s and surroundings’ best. The awarded establishments are worth a trip precisely because their dishes are a tour unto themselves.
Japan’s keen and passionate adherence to nature, art, and culinary discipline is perhaps most evident at a kaiseki meal. Kaiseki is a multi-course meal consisting of seasonal ingredients—often sourced locally—revolving around the different textures, flavors, and colors available. Prepared by a master chef, the meal brings out different flavors in complete harmony, with the courses in complete balance with each other.
When Yakumi at Solaire Resort & Casino flew in Chef Jun Yukimura, founder of the three-star Azabu Yukimura in Tokyo, to prepare a bespoke kaiseki experience for guests, Yukimura was eager to share with Filipinos what he calls the “Kyoto mild-taste experience.”
“I want the flavors of the ingredients to be tasted. I like it mild and with harmony,” he added.
The meal Yukimura created from June 6 to 8 had eight courses, each with a star ingredient punctuated at times with a freshly made sauce, and each complemented with a glass of sake.
The sakizuke course—traditionally an appetizer similar to the French amuse-bouche—was an eye-catching steamed Hokkaido sea urchin and lobster jelly served in a split urchin shell. Yukimura followed it up with the sakinokae, cold soba noodles tossed in briny bottarga powder and paired with crisp sake from Hakushika Ginjo Namachozo.
The mushimono, or steamed dish course, featured ground duck enlivened by dashi and freshly ground wasabi. The subtle fruitiness and savory finish of the Kinryo Junmai Ginjo Koiai sake provided the perfect accent to the dish.
After the hassun, a platter of seasonal appetizers and sushi, Yukimura moved on to the main courses, starting with the yakimono—grilled Spanish mackerel with Kyoto-style miso paste, paired with the first of three smooth Shinomine Junmai Daiginjo variants. The shiizakana, traditionally a stronger-flavored course, was shabu-shabu with sliced Japanese Omi beef sliced and sansho pepper blossoms, cooked in front of the diners. Next, the shokuji, was Yukimura’s signature rice with endo beans.
The meal was capped off with kanmi, or dessert: an irresistibly silky green tea blancmange, served with bracken starch mocha and paired with a fruity Choya Umeshu Classic.
Each kaiseki chef prepares the multi-course meal differently. Dishes can then range from complicated and unique, to simple yet dignified. There’s much to highlight in a single ingredient, as taste and size vary with the seasons, and texture changes with the style of cooking. Add to that the chef’s own philosophy after years of training and practice, as well as his own personality. And yet in the end, every kaiseki chef has the same respect for nature and makes sure each ingredient reserves every accolade it deserves.
Solaire Resort & Casino’s Culinary Masters series began with Chef Jun Yukimura to highlight Japanese cuisine. It will soon explore a different cuisine with another internationally renowned chef serving a residency at the resort. For updates and reservations, follow Solaire Resort & Casino on Facebook.