Where is the Bib Gourmand?

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Last month, the second Michelin Guide to Tokyo was published with stacks of their books, as thick and blood red as Kobe beefsteaks, piled high in every bookstore. 

But where is the Bib Gourmand? The chubby little icon smiling next to a listing serving good food at reasonable prices? 

Why are only starred restaurants listed?  Why the full-page color photos both interior and exterior?  Why the long, dull, lifeless prose? Why the typos?

Consider this description of Yebisu, a one-starred teppanyaki restaurant in Ebisu: “At each counter, chefs skilfully [sic] grill Japanese and Western ingredients right in front of diners.” Wow, right in front of diners. Isn’t that what teppanyaki means?

Or more: “The head chef pays particular attention to colour, composing dishes in tempting colours.” Maybe the writer ought to pay particular attention to redundancy. 

Or more: “After dinner, guests can move from the teppanyaki counter to sofas for dessert.” A sofa for dessert? Make mine lightly upholstered, please.

With an estimated 200,000 eateries in this fine city, why focus on a place like Arakawa, a steak joint, where lunch is listed at ¥52,500. That doesn’t include the service charge, by the way.

Why only three Italian restaurants? Why no Korean restaurants?  Why no Indian restaurants?  Or any other from the vast panoply of world cuisines that Tokyo offers?  Why no ramen shops? 

When Michelin really starts to get serious about eating in Tokyo; when it replaces dull ad-copy-like prose with terse descriptions of food, specialties, and ambiance; when it gets rid of colorful photos of food and interiors; when it includes restaurants that offer good food at reasonable prices; when it lists not only 218 “starred” restaurants but perhaps 518 restaurants of all types and price ranges; then their little red book will become a real guide to eating in Tokyo—as it is in Paris and many other cities—and not merely a collection of glossy promotional brochures for each starred restaurant.