French Stars

The Michelin Guide is the most famous of restaurant guides. Till recently, however, Michelin stars weren't available to American chefs; not having never set up an office across the pond, the Michelin guide kept its opinions of American eateries to itself. That changed yesterday, when Michelin announced its ratings for New York - the first American city to be so listed. 507 restaurants made it to the list while 39 recevied at least one star, catapulting New York to the top of the list of food cities - nearly. Paris still beat it handily with 70 starred restaurants, but what do the French know of food anyway? Michelin is not the lone star in the world. Gault-Millau (thats Go-Me-oh to you illiterates) - has its own 20-point rating system, and is considered influential enough to that a downgrade supposedly led to the suicide of superchef Bernard Loiseau. However, Gault-Millau does not deign to step out of continental Europe (even London isn't considered worth it). New York has long been full of guides. NY Times, Zagat, TONY, NY Metro, The Village Voice all publish reasonably influential ratings and reviews of restaurants in New York. Outside the city, however, the choices are far more limited - usually websites of local magazines and Internet city guides. After having suffered much at the hands of local newspapers that wax ecstatic at the slighest excuse, or Citysearch, AOL City Guide which provide a lot of information but unevenly reliable reviews, I've settled down with Gayot as possibly the most consistent. André Gayot, who once worked closely with Gault and Millau and was one of the earliest critics of the Michelin Guide, has a 20-point scale similar to Gault-Millau. The occassional lemon still surfaces but you're more likely than not to have a good meal when Gayot awards a 14 or higher. The website is hardly the model of usability, but Gayot has served me well in many cities - specially Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco and Austin.

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