The Michelin guide is kind of like the illuminati of the restaurant review world. Founded in 1900, it’s an ancient (well, compared to Yelp), highly secretive organization, with seemingly limitless budgets, and a star rating system that is considered among the highest decorations a restaurant can receive — especially in Europe, where the guide originated. Stateside, Michelin hasn’t quite gained the same foothold — it’s only been producing guides here since 2005, and faces a lot of competition from Zagat and other user generated review tools. Still, the annual Michelin announcements are enough to send the entire foodie internet into a frenzy for several days, which is what happened when this year’s star ratings were announced two days ago.
Normally, when the Michelin stars come out I don’t really care — but this year was different because Mexican eatery Casa Enrique made the cut. The only Latin American restaurant to make the list, Casa Enrique’s distinction serves as further confirmation that NYC is in the midst of a Mexican cuisine moment. It was also one of only three Queens restaurants to receive stars.
Located in Long Island City, Casa Enrique is helmed by brothers Cosme and Luis Aguilar (Cosme is its Executive Chef). The brothers hail from San Luis Potosí, and the restaurant is an homage to the flavors of Chiapas and the home-cooked meals of their late mother. Classic tacos like the El Pastor share space on the menu with more elaborate main dishes, like a Lamb shank braised in chili pulla, huajes, and epazote, served with rice and beans. Although Chef Cosme spent much of his professional career cooking French food, his menu stays true to Chiapas, a region that is underrepresented in the NYC Mexican food scene.
But while it’s awesome that Casa Enrique is now the only Mexican restaurant in NYC to get a Michelin star — and one of the more affordable ones, too!– we can’t help but balk at the idea that this is the only Latin American restaurant in NYC worthy of the Michelin designation.
Then again, Michelin’s limitations are no secret and we’re not the first ones to point them out. The famously secretive organization keeps the identities of its reviewers completely anonymous (even top executives within the company itself are said not to know who they are, and inspectors are discouraged from revealing their professions to their own parents and spouses!). With this level of secrecy, it’s difficult to evaluate what the credentials, training and selection process used by the inspectors are. On top of that, Michelin has also been accused of under-staffing. A former Michelin Inspector named Pascal Rémy has claimed that all of the US has only seven inspectors, in which, if true, would make this list laughable.
Still, that doesn’t stop us from feeling super excited for Casa Enrique. Here’s hoping the star doesn’t bump up the prices on their menu!