Japanese restaurants bubbled up through the French dominated ranks of New York's top kitchens listed Monday in the new 2009 Michelin guide to the city.
Masa, a sushi specialist famous for dinners that can easily top 800 dollars for two, joined the elite three star category, announced Michelin guides chief Jean Luc Naret.
Two of the other three establishments making the creme de la creme of New York cooking Jean Georges and Le Bernardin feature French cuisine.
Winning two stars in this year's list was Japanese inspired eaterie Momofuku Ko. Also among the seven restaurants sharing that honor was French chef Alain Ducasse's Adour, which only opened recently.
France's Michelin guide is the Bible for food lovers in Europe and is making inroads in the United States, although still no match for New York's Zagat guide and New York Times restaurant reviews.
Masa, located in the Time Warner building in central Manhattan, has long been one of New York's priciest and highly regarded spots. Momofuku Ko has also won other awards, but the Michelin is a boost for its rising chef David Chang, an American with South Korean roots.
"He couldn't believe his ears when I phoned him this morning," Naret told journalists.
According to the specialist eater.com website, Masa and Momofuku Ko are among the big winners in Michelin's latest rankings.
Naret said the red-bound guide would next turn its reviewers, who work anonymously, on the restaurants and hotels of Hong Kong and Macao.
Last year Michelin launched its first guide to Tokyo. Sales exceeded our expectations. Everything vanished in 24 hours and we had to do a reprint,Naret said.
This is the fourth year that the guide covers New York.
Michelin's discreet reviewers wrote up 617 establishments, but only 42 earned stars one signifying very good cooking, two food worth a detour.
The highest rating is reserved for exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey."
However when it comes to a star system for the guide books themselves, Michelin is still struggling here to achieve the kind of supremacy enjoyed in Europe, where chefs' reputations live on die on the annual judgement.
Zagat, whose ratings are based on the more democratic system of diners' reviews, sells 650,000 copies a year in New York. Michelin sells fewer than 150,000.