On Wednesday this week, the 22nd of February, Michelin will announce their new picks for the Michelin Guide Nordic Countries 2017. The press conference will take place at Vasateatern in Stockholm at 10 AM. You can follow the event live in the video below. I was present at the launch of the first Michelin Guide Nordic Cities in 2015, which was a huge disappointment. Although Malmö and Aarhus were added as new cities that year, there were very few new stars handed out, and no entries outside of the largest cities. However, the next year Michelin had a big comeback in Scandinavia with their Michelin Nordic Guide 2016, where they awarded Scandinavia’s first three stars to both Maaemo in Oslo and Geranium in Copenhagen.
- The first Michelin Guide was launched in the year 1900 by the French tire manufacturer Michelin.
- The goal of the guide was to increase people’s interest in cars and get them to drive long distances and wear out their tires.
- The system with stars was not introduced until the 1930s.
- If the food is exceptional, the guide can award one, two or three stars to a restaurant.
- 1 Michelin star reflects “A very good restaurant in its category.”
- 2 Michelin stars reflects “Excellent cooking, worth a detour.”
- 3 Michelin stars reflects “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
- Tokyo in Japan has the most Michelin stars in the world (304)
- Paris has the most Michelin stars in Europe (134)
- The mascot of the company is called Bibendum or the Michelin Man
Additionally, Fäviken Magasinet, which is located in the middle of f*cking nowhere, was correctly rewarded with two stars. The guide also awarded one star to Re-naa in Stavanger as the first restaurant outside of Oslo in Norway, one to Daniel Berlin in Skåne, and one to Hotel Frederiksminde in Prestø to name a few of the highlights. Finally, it seemed the guide was catching up with the revolution that had taken place in the Nordic dining scene! If they hadn’t made this move, they would have risked being considered insignificant and outdated yet another year, and lose even more ground to the White Guide.
What We Don’t Know
The big question is: what will the Michelin Guide do this year? Will they return to their conservative and restrained ways with few changes and additions, or have they acquired an even deeper knowledge of the Nordic restaurants and are ready to surprise us again? Furthermore, do the inspectors actually visit all the star restaurants each year to assess the level? Most likely not. Just as for everyone else in the publishing business, it can’t be easy for the Michelin Guide either to fund all these expensive meals. Thus, they probably have to make careful selections based on information they gather from various sources: local experts, newspaper reviews, food and travel writers and bloggers, and other food guides.
Some restaurants probably keep their stars without ever having been revisited or reviewed for an upgrade that year, while other hopeful candidates never get a visit because the inspectors prioritized differently. These are all unconfirmed rumors, but from what I hear it takes at least three visits for a restaurant to be a candidate for one star, and a three-star rating may require as many as ten or twelve inspections. As far as I’ve gathered, all inspectors must agree on the ranking, and the same applies to a demotion.
What We Do Know
The Michelin Guide Nordic Countries is based on reviews submitted from mostly British inspectors. Lotta Wrangle is the Nordic press spokesperson, but to my knowledge, she’s not an inspector. However, both the International Director of the Michelin Guides, Michael Ellis, and the UK editor-in-chief, Rebecca Burr, have been known to show up as dining guests sometimes (even together). Naturally, all inspectors book under a fake name to remain anonymous. It’s most commonly a booking for one, but it can be two inspectors in certain cases if one of them is in training. Generally, the reviewers won’t reveal their identity even after the visit, but sometimes they do identify themselves to ask the head chef a few questions and maybe inspect the kitchen – especially if the restaurant is considered for its first star.
“Restaurants with a Bib Gourmand award produce good quality, carefully prepared meals which are moderately priced and offer particularly good value for money”
– The Michelin Guide
Michelin stars are supposed to be a reflection of the food quality alone, including 1) produce quality, 2) expertise in different cooking methods, 3) flavors, 4) whether the chef has a personal expression reflected in his cooking style, and 5) consistency. However, the inspectors also take both the setting and ambiance into consideration. Besides, value for money is always considered and even has a separate award. According to Michelin, Bib Gourmand ratings “are awarded to restaurants where a fixed price menu of about 395 NOK for three courses is offered, or an à la carte menu that has an average price for a 3-course meal at around 395 NOK or below. […] Restaurants with a Bib Gourmand award produce good quality, carefully prepared meals which are moderately priced and offer particularly good value for money.”
Predictions: Michelin Guide Nordic 2017
First, let me be clear on one thing: I, like everyone else, don’t know. Also, I haven’t personally visited all restaurants that may get a star this year. However, I have eaten at more Scandinavian restaurants than most people, and I’ve talked with many chefs and gathered information about possible Michelin inspections. These are a mix of my opinions and guesses about which restaurants get stars in the Michelin Guide Nordic Countries 2017.
I just published my guide to the best restaurants in Stavanger, so what’s more natural than to begin there? Besides, Sabi Omakase is maybe the hottest star candidate in Norway. The Michelin Guide has even revealed on Twitter that they have visited and were impressed by the quality of the produce (one of the star criteria). Will they get one or two stars, though? In my opinion, this is a two-star candidate (it’s unique, and certainly worth a detour), but so far Maaemo and Fäviken are the only restaurants in the Nordic region ever to enter the guide with two stars directly. I also think restaurant Re-naa is much closer to two stars than one, but Sven Erik Renaa does not believe he has had a revisit this year. Both Tango, Renaa Matbaren, Casa Gio, and Fisketorget serve excellent food, but the style, service, and environment may be too casual for the Michelin Guide to award them a star. Certainly, they all deserve to be mentioned in the guide with a rating between one and five cutleries (which is the Michelin Guide’s ranking of everything else than the food).
We also did a tour of Trondheim in December last year, and I will publish my guide and maps of the town very soon. If the inspectors have visited Credo, I think it will finally get its long-awaited star. My personal favorite in the city, however, was Røst Teaterbistro. The food was at a one-star level, but the style is possibly too New Nordic for the British inspectors. Also, the service is quite casual, and the restaurant environment is not as traditional as other star restaurants. Have the Michelin Guide even been to the city, though?
Last year, the guide tricked its readers by having a picture from Bergen on the front page, which many interpreted as a sign that Lysverket would get a star. I still have not been there, so it’s impossible for me to say whether they deserve one. Rumor has it, though, that the inspectors who did visit them last year asked if they always played such loud music. Perhaps the casual and rough style of chef Christopher Haatuft and his eatery didn’t suit the inspectors too well.
My number one pick for a new star in Oslo would be restaurant Bokbacka, but I’ve not heard about any visits from inspectors. I really hope they get it, though, as they certainly deserve one. I said that already after my first visit in 2015. I think Statholdergaarden and Kontrast will keep their one star, and Maaemo should indeed hold on to its three stars (the quality is better than ever).
Pjoltergeist is still my favorite restaurant in Oslo, but I would be very surprised if they got a star in that dark and crowded basement with their loud hip hop music. Unless the guide wants to make a point like they did in Singapore, where they awarded one Michelin star to a hawker stall that served chicken and rice. Both Arakataka and Le Benjamin could be new candidates for a Bib Gourmand rating – which signals particularly good value for money. Smalhans should keep theirs for sure.
Oslo is experiencing a bistro boom at the moment, but very few new fine dining restaurants are opening. Bagatelle, Ylajali and Fauna have all closed in recent years. Affordable and available are the keywords at the moment. Some notable exceptions are restaurant À L’aise who just opened at Majorstua, where chef Ulrik Jepsen aims to offer old school French elegance, as well as Sabi Omakase who is moving into Oslo as well. They might be star candidates next year.
I think Gastrologik deserves two stars, as they are much closer to that level than any one-starred restaurants I ever visited. I haven’t personally eaten at Esperanto, but from what I see and hear they also seem much more like a two-star candidate, while restaurant Aloë might get its first star.
I’m still quite fresh to the Malmö and Gothenburg dining scene, and won’t make many guesses there, but Hoze is an obvious candidate for a star. In Skåne, I hope Daniel Berlin get their well-deserved second star!
Copenhagen has so many great restaurants that it’s difficult to navigate the city. I’ve tried to eat my way through the best ones, but admittedly, I still have many to go. Noma should have gotten three stars ages ago, but they keep closing down for periods of time, moving to Japan or Australia, and now Mexico is up next in April this year. That might be the reason why Michelin has not given them the honor they deserve yet. This month, Noma is scheduled to shut down permanently at their old location and reopened closer to Amass (which, by the way, is a candidate for one star in my opinion). Noma’s sister restaurant 108 is talked about as a possible star candidate. Even though it’s currently my favorite restaurant in the city, I don’t feel their style is that of a Michelin starred establishment. I hope they get a Bib Gourmand instead, as that would be more fitting to their casual bistro image.
Especially Kadeau (both in Copenhagen and on Bornholm), but also Studio and Søllerød Kro deserves a second star. New one-starred restaurants should be Taller and Alchemist, I think, although the latter may be too controversial for the guide with its theatrical presentations and servings of dishes like live woodlice and a bleeding lamb heart. I also hope Marchal will keep its star with the new head chef Andreas Bagh – it’s better now than ever before! Lastly, Mielcke & Hurtigkarl’s star expectations are long overdue, and I wouldn’t disagree if they got one.
My foodie friends Rasmus Palsgård, aka Feinschmeckeren, has also placed his bets on this year’s guide. Check them out! Some of his guesses are outside of Copenhagen. I second his opinion for at least one star to Falsled Kro. Moreover, I would easily have given two stars to Hotel Frederiksminde and a Bib Gourmand to Rønnede Kro.
Who do you think deserves a new star this year? Please leave a comment below.