A Fundamental Flaw With the Michelin Guide

We've had the announcement, the interview and the Vegas soiree, but before we turn the page on Michelin '09, we'd like to voice a complaint heard over the past two weeks that we think is pretty valid: there's no way to tell why a restaurant loses a star, and perhaps more importantly, Michelin won't say either.

Now, even though Michelin insists that the overriding factor in its ratings is "what's on the plate," we're not talking specific issues—overdone steak, bland soup, etc.—here, but rather, the ambiguity surrounding restaurants that either have moved or are moving venues. The two glaring local examples are, of course, Quince and La Toque. We've spoken to various reps at both restaurants, and it's probably safe to say that both are a bit flummoxed (important note: our words, not theirs), not because they lost a star, but because even though there's a strong possibility that a move was the reason, no one—not the restaurants, not the diners—knows for sure why a star was lost.

Here's what we do know: inspectors obviously visit restaurants long before publication, meaning that both restaurants were visited when they were in full swing. For Quince, we know that inspectors visited at least twice, and then called to ask when exactly the Myth move was due. Quince responded truthfully, saying that January '09 is the current estimate. For La Toque, after a three-week vacation, the restaurant moved to its new location in September, around press time, so it's safe to assume that inspectors visited the original location several times as well.

Both restaurants are still listed in the '09 guide, alongside the likes of PlumpJack Cafe, La Taquiza, and other "recommended" restaurants.

Michelin's official statement:

The reasons for changing a restaurant's classification are as closely protected as our inspectors' identities. We treat each restaurant separately but do not specifically comment on reasons for star ratings.

So we ask you: if indeed Quince and La Toque lost their respective star due to a move, shouldn't that be disclosed, at the very least to the restaurants? On the other hand, if the loss was due to a slip, isn't that something to which all parties should be privy as well? Either way, we can't imagine it's that complicated to enact.
· Eater Interview: Michelin's Jean-Luc Naret [~ESF~]
· Michelin '09 Released: Patterson, Village Pub Among Big Winners [~ESF~]For more stories from Eater SF, go to sf.eater.com.

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