No More Michelin-Starred Ramen Restaurants in the World

Michelin Strips Tokyo’s Last Three Starred Ramen Shops of Their Stars in 2024 Guide

In a move that has left ramen lovers around the world stunned, the prestigious Michelin Guide has stripped the last three remaining Michelin-starred ramen restaurants of their coveted stars in its 2024 Tokyo dining guide.

The restaurants – Ginza Hachigou, Konjiki Hototogisu, and Nakiryu – had been the only ramen shops in the entire world to hold Michelin star ratings, a remarkable achievement in an industry often overlooked by food critics and reviewers.

The decision means that for the first time since 2015, when Tokyo’s Tsuta became the inaugural Michelin-starred ramen restaurant, there are now zero ramen establishments around the globe holding the highly-prized Michelin distinctions.

It marks the end of an era and a major shake-up in how the world’s most famous dining guide evaluates and recognizes culinary excellence in the realm of ramen.

Ramen’s Long Struggle for Michelin Recognition

Ramen’s path to Michelin stardom has been a long and winding one. Despite its immense popularity in Japan and ever-growing global fanbase, the comforting yet decidedly casual noodle soup dish had long been shunned by reviewers from major dining guides like Michelin.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Tsuta in Tokyo’s Sugamo neighborhood was awarded a single Michelin star, shattering assumptions that ramen was too lowbrow to merit such an honor.

In the years that followed, three more Tokyo ramen-yas – Ginza Hachigou, Konjiki Hototogisu, and Nakiryu – managed to join the elite ranks of Michelin-starred establishments.

However, this recognition remained incredibly rare. Aside from the four pioneering Tokyo shops, no other ramen restaurants around the world had received Michelin stardom – until now, when that distinction has been completely wiped out.

Reasons Behind the Downgrade Remain Unclear

Michelin’s weighing and judging criteria have long been shrouded in secrecy, leaving restaurants and food critics to merely speculate about the specific reasons behind adding or removing starred rankings each year.

In this case, the downgrading of the last three Michelin ramen restaurants comes as a surprise given their consistently high praise.

According to insider reports, the quality and innovation of the ramen at these acclaimed shops has not faltered. Some theorize that Michelin may be undergoing a strategic pivot to focus more on fine dining establishments, moving away from more casual cuisines like ramen.

Others wonder if consistency or portions may have been a factor, or if overtourism and long lines dampened the overall dining experience.

Whatever the reasons, the impact is clear: ramen has once again lost its foothold in the upper echelons of the culinary world according to Michelin’s judges.

The Ramen Stars Live On as “Bib Gourmands”

In a small consolation, Michelin has opted to keep the three downgraded Tokyo ramen shops in its 2024 guide under the “Bib Gourmand” distinction. This separate category highlights restaurants that offer high quality food at reasonable prices, conceptually making them more accessible than the ritzier Michelin-starred cohort.

So while they may no longer hold the rarefied Michelin star status, Ginza Hachigou, Konjiki Hototogisu, and Nakiryu will continue to be championed by the famous dining guide, ensuring their reputations and global fame remain intact for the legions of ramen devotees.

Whether ramen will be able to recapture Michelin’s interest and once again achieve star billing remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – the humble noodle soup’s epic journey through the culinary elite has hit a speed bump. Ramen’s quest for stars is officially back at square one.

Ramen Still Recognized by Michelin, Just Not With Stars

While ramen may have lost its entire cohort of Michelin-starred restaurants, the 2024 Tokyo guide makes it clear that the noodle soup dish is still being celebrated, just within different categories.

In addition to the three former starred ramen shops being downgraded to Bib Gourmand status, the guide newly recognizes 52 ramen eateries as official “Bib Gourmand” selections.

What is a Bib Gourmand?

Michelin’s Bib Gourmand distinction honors restaurants that serve high-quality food at reasonable prices, typically defined as a high-quality two-course meal for around $40 or less.

For ramen shops, being named a Bib Gourmand signifies that the restaurant serves outstanding noodle soups at prices very affordable for the average diner.

This fits the very essence of ramen’s Working-class, unpretentious roots. So while losing the ramen Michelin stars is certainly a blow for the noodle soup’s aspirations, having over 50 Bib Gourmand ramen eateries recognized provides a new source of affordable culinary stardom.

The Michelin “Selected Restaurants”

Beyond the Bib Gourmands, the 2024 Tokyo guide also features 9 ramen restaurants within its “Selected Restaurants” category. While not full Michelin star or Bib Gourmand recipients, being a Michelin Selected Restaurant signifies that the inspectors found the dining experience to be worth recommending to readers.

For the ramen spots included, it serves as a credential that they are producing high-quality, memorable bowls of noodle soup worthy of international recognition from Michelin’s discerning palates. It’s a distinction that will likely drive hungry ramen fans through their doors.

While certainly lacking the cachet of a Michelin star, having over 60 ramen shops graced by Michelin’s various recommendations and Bib Gourmand honors demonstrates that the iconic French dining guide has not completely lost its appetite for this beloved Japanese cuisine. Ramen may have been knocked down a peg in 2024, but it hasn’t been kicked off Michelin’s radar just yet.

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