Michelin Meals in Japan

Most of us have heard of Michelin stars. That system of rating restaurants according to the results of reviews on consistency and presentation of food, quality and mastery of technique.

But Michelin stars can be a fickle thing. They come and go, as a famous French restaurant, formerly run by Paul Bocuse, found out recently when they were downgraded to two stars by Michelin, after holding the rating without interuption since 1965. Even celebrity chef Marc Veyrat, recently sued the Michelin guide over a lost third Michelin star.

To me, it is mostly irrelevant and might mean an expensive price tag. I wouldn’t refer to Michelin stars, or lack thereof when choosing a location to eat.

So imagine my surprise at the following events:-

Miss Teen, almost Adult, and I were on our final night of a 2 week trip to Japan. We had arranged to stay in a cozy and very traditional Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), in the Kyoto district before flying back to Australia.

In case you have not heard the term before, staying at a Ryokan means sleeping in traditional accommodation, on Tatami mats on the floor, bathing in a traditional Japanese tub and eating traditional Japanese food.

Dining room at a Ryokan in Kyoto

Staying at a Japanese Traditional Inn – Ryokan in Narita – 2008

Back in 2008, I stayed at an amazing Ryokan in Narita, which had been a former Shogun’s palace some 400 years before. Our accommodation included three emormous rooms plus a small toilet. The dining area was replete with Japanese style recessed dining table with comfy floor cushion and the sitting area overlooked a Carp fish pond and Japanese style garden courtyard set amongst topiary trees and bonsai. Idyllic. It was magical.

Japanese gardens

But no Michelin rated food was served at that ryokan. You see I’d ordered a Western Style breakfast which consisted of a lettuce leaf, (Japanese seem to be obsessed with the lettuce), a mandarin segment or two and a piece of onion. It was rather strange, but we dutifully ate it anyway, well one of the kids gnawed on the 1 slice of white bread that accompanied the salad breakfast of sorts, and the other reported that she wasn’t hungry… But it was still a great experience.

Japanese Ryokan – Kyoto

For this Japanese vacation, I wanted our last night in Japan to be rather special, so we booked a night at a traditional Ryokan, in Kyoto.

The location and decor really lived up to expectations. Shoes off and stored at the door, was a must. Upon check-in, there were lengthy instructions about how our night would go from the gentlemen dressed in a Yukata – a specific kimono worn in Ryokan, even when and, if, I should wear the Yukata.

I had, at this point, completely forgotten the accommodation booking included dinner.

Dinner will be served at 8pm,” I was then informed.

“Where shall I go for dinner?” I tentatively asked.

“That will be explained,” the Yukata, clad attendant, stoicly advised.

It wasn’t explained, at all.

The room at the Kyoto Ryokan

After showing us to our room, we decided to wait until 8pm and see what transpired. There seemed to be so many rules that I didn’t want to ask again! At precisely 8pm, there was a soft knock at the door.

Our meal was served in our room by a gorgeous Japanese lady, dressed Geisha-style, at the Japanese style dining table provided.

No recesses for your legs at this dining table

Let me tell you sitting cross legged at a low dining table was less challenging for my knees, in 2008, than it was for the now age 50+ knees!

The presentation of the meal was glamorous. I was very impressed. This was our first course, and I was excited to taste it.

I didn’t know what it was and tasted it anyway. Miss Teen Now Adult simply played with the food. The second course was a delight for me, but the daughter was again unimpressed.

Again it was largely seafood. Prawn and Sea cucumber

Miss Teen Now Adult does not eat seafood – at all.

Incredible presentation

I had only given the menu a cursory glance, as it was delivered with the first course and I was simply too much in awe of the presentation, to read much of what was written there.

Dutifully, I ate Miss Teen Now Adult’s portion, as well as mine, for both the first, second course and the third courses. I wanted to show my appreciation for the care taken with the meal.

After the third course, I was tad concerned about what was to come and thus checked the menu again to see six of the 10 courses contained seafood. I suddenly realized I couldn’t eat all her serves, as well as mine. But I also didn’t want to be rude and refuse the food either.

With a rising sense of horror, I then read the information compendium in the room, wherein it mentioned that Chef Harada, was a celebrated Michelin 1 Star chef. Eeek!

Miss Teen Now Adult was refusing to eat a Michelin star meal!

So what did I do, then? I shall have to tell you that another time.

I can say though, that Miss Teen Now Adult, was happy with the breakfast served the following morning, and hungrily gobbled it all.

Even the lettuce!

Thank goodness breakfast was something for Miss Teen Now Adult to Ponder More About.

More Japanese food stories at Cook, Eat, Repeat, by

52 thoughts on “Michelin Meals in Japan”

  1. Great story. I’m impressed you sat on the floor to eat. Sorry that your companion wasn’t into the cuisine, but at least she had the dining experience itself. And a story to tell for the rest of her seafood-less life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are impressed, Ally? I can tell you my knees weren’t. The girl used to eat tuna, but throws up on salmon, although I did sneak it into a meal once and without knowing she was eating it, consumed it without incident. Perhaps seafood is either a love or hate it kind of thing?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, eating cross-legged on the floor was one of the most challenging aspects of eating in South Korea. That and pondering over the identity of various totally unidentifiable and crunchy crustaceans. I had the same experience as you. ‘Im Indoors doesn’t do seafood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! Another one that dislikes seafood. Gosh he would also find it hard to eat in Japan. I suppose meat is quite expensive in both of those countries. So seafood is the primary source of protein?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m afraid both of us are a little picky when it comes to seafood, Amanda, but in Japan you could expect a few surprises. From what I could see of the menu I’d have managed to eat some, and I’d have been lavish with my praise for presentation. 🙂 🙂 And the little missy didn’t starve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am surprised that so many dislike certain types of seafood. I was under the impression that it was a pretty universal food category. My daughter the up after eating salmon twice and after that only had tuna until she was about 16. And not even that since then. That is okay though, as it leaves all the more for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amanda, an unforgettable experience for you both! 😀 It must be amazing to stay in such a place and even though I don’t eat seafood I would be in awe at the surroundings. A wonderful travel post!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t been yet, but I probably mentioned I want to travel there with my son … a country that fascinates us both! I love hearing about your trip – hopefully we will get there sometime! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Quite! A friend had to cancel a holiday they had booked in Vietnam for last week – they were sad but a wise decision. The world is in a state of flux … I’m hoping to just be able to get away to Sweden for Easter as usual.


            1. I am unsure if I would cancel a holiday but it would be a worry. My son just got back grim Japan and Sth Korea before they escalated the travel warning for Japan. He wrote a face mask outdoors, refused to catch the subway and everywhere android were wearing face masks – some shops at certain destinations were also quarantined. Thet us a bit of hysteria around the virus in Asia. I am glad I am not travelling.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Also meant to mentio that if you are going to regional Sweden, I think you should be okay. It is the mode of getting there that might be concerning? How do you normally travel there?

              Liked by 1 person

  5. There are some simply wonderful restaurants in Japan without having recourse to those with a Michelin star. However, hands up, I have eaten in some with those twinkling stars and they were beyond fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ha! I can imagine how happy she was of the non-sea food breakfast! 😀 And I hope that you saved her remaining sea food courses for your snack. 😉 I love sea food and would not wish any of the starred food go to waste. I can imagine how small the portions were. No Michelin stars in Slovenia yet but plenty of top restaurants. We went to one for my parents’ anniversary and the portions were really tiny, but they kept coming…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You will have to wait for the second part of the post to find out what happened to the seafood. Another thing we have in common, Manja. Loving seafood. I really find it hard to fathom why people could blanketly state they don’t eat it – including my daughter!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I would have starved. Not because I don’t like seafood but because I am highly allergic to shellfish and I am very wary particularly of haute cuisine because they like to put a tiny piece of lobster or shrimp in an otherwise shellfish free fish dish (which I eat and actually like very much). Thanks for sharing, it’s a great story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You definitely would have been able to eat the rice! And Miss Teen now Adult was also looking forward to the rice course. She starved too, but only just a little. It is often part of the travel experience, and a good education, even if you can’t eat it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent post Amanda. It’s the type of travel post that I enjoy 🙂

    I love the expression on your Miss Teen-now-Adult face. Although I love the pageantry of a traditional Japanese meal, I can sympathize with her not wanting to taste. Kids are a lot more honest about what they’re willing to eat.

    When we were in Kyoto, we opted for a traditional kaiseki dinner show with entertainment by two maiko ladies. It was very nice & memorable but not necessarily because of the tastiness of the food. Yes, raw seafood was involved but we don’t have a problem with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess a city that is close to the sea, will also have a lot of seafood in its cuisine. Raw seafood is okay for me, too, for the most part. The dinner show sounds interesting. Have you written about it at all?


  9. Funny story, it sounds like something that would happen to me. Lettuce and onion slices for breakfast??? I’d have to bring my granola along and eat it in the hotel room. Weird breakfasts are one of my main problems when traveling. There’s something about facing the day with unusual food that doesn’t work for me, although I’m pretty adventurous at other meals. Anyway, thanks for sharing, It sounds like quite an adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The set up was so artistic, it surpassed the flavours of the foods, A. I suppose to the Japanese, that was the more important part. The rice, I have to say was just served plainly, in a bowl with no decoration. I guess there is not much they can do to pretty up rice?


  10. Back in 2012, I went to New York City with one of my college friends. She created the itinerary and it was mostly trying out a lot of restaurants — pastries, famous pizzerias, gastropubs, and two very high-end restaurants. To be honest, I felt the most memorable meal Lombardi’s Pizza — it’s the first pizza place in New York City. Le Bernandin was one of the high-end restaurants we went to. The food was beautiful but the atmosphere was starchy. The second high-end restaurant we dined at was Eleven Madison Park. I felt the food was a little more memorable because their presentation was more creative and fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your description of the atmosphere as starchy! I get a real impression of it from you using just that one word! I am not familiar with either of those places, but Lombardi’s pizza is definitely one that I would try. Who doesn’t like a good Italian Pizza?


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