More Abu Dhabi restaurants will be awarded Michelin stars, says top official

International director of guide says diversity of cuisines earned winning restaurants brownie points


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 11 Nov 2022, 6:06 PM

The culinary landscape in Abu Dhabi has been fast rising with diverse offerings and more restaurants will surely bag Michelin stars in future, said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide.

Three restaurants from the capital received a Michelin star each and 42 outlets made it to the inaugural selection of the Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi, which was launched during a glittering ceremony at Emirates Palace.

“Even today, we are considering a lot of, let’s say, culinary hotspots, to add into the Michelin Guide selection. And the approach is always the same as in the case for Abu Dhabi.

"We published a Michelin Guide based on the potential of the local culinary scene. So that’s the reason why we have been monitoring the evolution of the culinary landscape for several years here in Abu Dhabi before taking the decision to move forward because the culinary scene was mature enough. It's already vibrant. It’s a fast-rising culinary scene and no doubt there will be much more in the years to come,” Poullennec said during an interview.

Poullennec underlined that it was the diversity of cuisine that earned restaurants brownie points.

“It’s very diverse. Among the 42 restaurants that are part of the very first selection, we have more than 16 different types of cuisine being represented. So that shows the diversity of, let’s say, international, European flavours but most of all Middle Eastern, Indian, Lebanese or Emirati cuisine.”

While Hakkasan (Chinese), Talea by Antonio Guida (Italian) and 99 Sushi Bar (Japanese) have been recognised with one star for their high-quality cooking, four establishments: Almayass, Beirut Sur Mer (both Lebanese), Otoro (Japanese) and Tazal (Mediterranean) were awarded a Bib Gourmand, i.e., best value for money restaurants offering a three-course meal at a reasonable price.

Award process

Poullennec noted the process to award a star is a long one, which has to be compliant with the unique Michelin Guide methodology. Restaurants may receive up to three stars for the quality of their food based on five criteria: quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavour and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money and consistency between visits to ensure it can be safely recommended.

“We want to ensure an experience consistent with our recommendation. So, it requires several visits. And the same inspector is never coming back twice to the same place. So, we will involve different inspectors in the same restaurants and come as often as necessary to align on a common team decision to award the famous Michelin star.”

How to win a Michelin star?

Asked how restaurants can win a star, Poullennec said that there was no single path to glory.

“For example, there are 16 different cooking styles being recognised. Around the world we have 138 restaurants at three-star level and none of them is offering the same experience, they do not have the same techniques. So, what is important for us, again, is the quality of the food. It’s the case for all restaurants listed in the Guide. And again, at star level, you are part of the very best. It's the creme de la creme of gastronomy world.”

Poullennec underlined that restaurants must treat all customers with equal seriousness and importance as there might be a Michelin inspector among them dining like a normal guest.

“All inspectors are anonymous. They behave like any regular guest. They pay their bill in full. They are all full-time employees working for Michelin. An inspector is eating out lunch and dinner on an average 350 times a year. And that’s the reason why you know they are able to have a real benchmark, from the luxury to the more casual eateries. We involve different profiles and nationalities of inspectors to ensure that we align on a common decision and that we are open-minded enough and experienced enough to award or place distinctions in the place that are really worth it.”

Poullennec added that the Guide selection is just the beginning of much more to come.

“The Michelin Guide will contribute to ignite positive emulation that will encourage and push the chef and their teams to constantly raise the bar. And every year, there will be a new full update of the Michelin Guide selection. We’ll have more restaurants to recognise and award. With the Michelin approach we ensure that one star in Abu Dhabi is worth one star in Dubai, Paris, Tokyo, London. And that’s uniqueness.”


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