To understand why the coveted Michelin Star refuses to surface on India’s restaurant scene, we must delve into the history of the Michelin. In 1900, the 11-year-old French tyre company, in an attempt to increase the demand for car tyres, began publishing a guidebook for motorists in France that listed useful information such as maps, car mechanics, gas stations and restaurants.
As years went by, they made several changes to the guidebook and started listing restaurants and hotels in it. By 1922, these guides became increasingly popular and the owners began hiring inspectors to go and anonymously review restaurants. Four years later, it started awarding stars to fine-dining establishments and by 1931 a scale of one to three stars was brought in. Since then, the Michelin Star has become the ultimate goal for restaurants globally.
Coming back to why no Indian restaurant worth its salt has been able to earn the Michelin star, that’s maybe because of Michelin’s near negligible presence in the Indian tyre market. But you don’t have to wait for eternity for the Michelin star. We recommend the best restaurants in India that may not have the Star but serve even better:
INDIAN ACCENT, THE LODHI, NEW DELHI
Rated as the No.1 restaurant in India by TripAdvisor for four consecutive years, Indian Accent is India’s equivalent to a Michelin Star restaurant. All about innovative Indian food, its menu designed by Chef Manish Mehrotra is a blend of international cooking techniques and seasonal produce that lend each dish a contemporary character. From panko-crusted bharwan mirch, goat cheese mousse, chilli aam papad chutney to tandoori bacon prawns with wasabi malai – Mehrotra never fails to amaze guests with his culinary creations.
WASABI BY MORIMOTO, TAJ MAHAL PALACE HOTEL, MUMBAI
It has been 13 years since Wasabi by Morimoto, one of India’s first contemporary Japanese restaurants, opened its doors in Mumbai. The traditional Japanese woodwork panels and the lovely sakura installation add an authentic touch to the award-winning restaurant run by the legendary chef, Masaharu Morimoto. He might not be a Michelin Star chef but he found a well-deserved place for himself in the 2012 Culinary Hall of Fame. With ingredients flown in from Japan every week and a menu that incorporates traditional Japanese techniques, each dish consists of the Morimoto magic. Even though its menu keeps changing, dishes like white fish carpaccio, black cod miso and wasabi crème Brulee are a must try!
MEGU, THE LEELA PALACE, NEW DELHI
The Indian outpost of New York’s well-known Michelin Star recipient, Megu Delhi is one of the most glamorous Asian restaurants in the country. It offers a more traditional Japanese menu unlike most other Japanese restaurants in India that follow the footsteps of Nobu Matsuhisa who pioneered Japanese fusion cuisine blending Japanese recipes with South-American influences. The menu features an array of fresh seafood prepared with ingredients flown in from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji market, and known for its silken handmade tofu and flavoursome sushi. Traditional grilling techniques like sumibi aburiyaki is used to cook food on a purifying charcoal from Kyoto called binchotan. At Megu, one must savour kanzuri shrimp, wagyu croquettes, hamachi carpaccio and salmon tartare.
BUKHARA, ITC MAURYA, NEW DELHI
Ever since its inception 40 years ago, Bukhara has been on the itinerary of every knowledgeable foodie who visits Delhi. Its menu, inspired by the traditional tandoor boasts dishes that evoke the rugged rhapsody of the North West Frontier province. The hearty, rousing flavours of the food at Bukhara have won numerous awards and accolades over the years. Patrons of this legendary restaurant include the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister David Cameron and the late artist M.F Hussain who was inspired to create a painting after his dinner at Bukhara. This also proves that whether the restaurant gets a Michelin Star or not, it continues to serve epic food that doesn’t require a rating. Dal bukhara, sikandari raan, burrah kebab, tandoori jhinga and murgh malai kebab are its popular dishes.
VILLA MAYA, TRIVANDRUM
Owing to its geographical location, Thiruvananthapuram has been at the crossroads of the fabled Spice Route for millennia. It has changed hands from one colonial ruler to another, seen traders from around the world visit its shores – all of whom brought with them culinary influences to the region. Drawing from this rich cultural heritage, Villa Maya blends traditional recipes with a modern twist. It is one of the few restaurants in South India that offer an experience close to a Michelin Star eatery. Nestled in a charming 18th century Dutch manor, the restaurant is like a time machine that takes you on a gastronomic journey from Kerala to Morocco and Italy. The seafood platter with jumbo prawns, seer fish and squid, will leave you wanting for more!