Culinary awards season is at its peak, with the Gault & Millau food guide publicizing its list of outstanding restaurants and chefs a few weeks ago, preceded by the vaunted Michelin announcing the winners of its coveted stars. And now, this last weekend, the Paris-based La Liste has come out with its annual roster of the top 1,000 restaurants in the world. The good news? Thirteen Israeli eateries are on it and two of them are newcomers. The less good news? Many of the 13 chalked up lower ratings this time around.
Last year, La Liste rated 12 local restaurants, up from four in 2015 when it was launched. As in 2018, this year the Israeli culinary pack is again being led, and for the third time, by chef Meir Adoni. This time it's Lumina, a kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv, which was in second place last year and was now awarded a weighted score of 94.5 points out of 100 (the same rating given to chef Alain Ducasse’s Le Meurice in Paris and four others). Lumina also outdid two other internationally famous restaurants that each have three Michelin stars: Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, and Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant The Fat Duck in England.
Second on La Liste for Israel, and making its debut there, is chef Tomer Tal's George & John restaurant in the Drisco Hotel, in south Tel Aviv, with 93 points. Tal was named the country's most promising chef by Gault & Millau last month. Coming in third was the former local winner for two years in a row: Blue Sky – another kosher Adoni eatery in Tel Aviv; it dropped to 91.5 points from 96.25 in 2018.
Further down, with a weighted score of 89.5 points (the same as that of the famed Atelier Restaurant of Joël Robuchon in Paris), is chef Raz Rahav's OCD in Tel Aviv; Rahav was dubbed chef of the year by Gault & Millau last year. Manta Ray, which is on the beach in Tel Aviv and has made the La Liste grade since its inception, also got 89.5 points. Chef David Biton's La Régence restaurant, in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, received 86 points; Biton was named 2019 chef of the year by Gault & Millau. Incidentally, the &moshik restaurant of Israeli-born chef Moshik Roth, in Amsterdam – which has two Michelin stars – was also awarded 86 points by La Liste.
Mashya, in the Mendeli Street Hotel in Tel Aviv – which until recently was run by chef Yossi Shitrit – dropped to a score of 85, from 91 last year.
The other newcomer on the list is Eyal Shani's HaSalon, also in Tel Aviv, which racked up 82 points.
Following them are a few other Tel Aviv eateries: Claro, chef Ran Shmueli's Sarona restaurant, with a score of 79.5; Kobi Bachar's Pastel, at the Tel AvivMuseum with 79; and Orel Kimche’s Popina with 78 points. Chakra of Jerusalem garnered 77.5 points, and last but not least was Alena at Tel Aviv's Norman Hotel, with a score of 76.5. Alena was recently named Israel's restaurant of the year by Gault & Millau.
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The other well-known restaurant at the Norman, Dinings, dropped off La Liste this year, as did Herbert Samuel, the kosher restaurant at the Ritz Hotel in Herzliya.
Israel has indeed shown progress, but things should be put in perspective: On the very top of La Liste for 2019, as for 2018, is the eponymous Parisian chef restaurant Guy Savoy and New York's Le Bernadin – both with scores of 99.75 points
The country with the highest number of restaurants among La Liste's 1,000 this year is Japan, with 130 – down five from last year (although Tokyo was just named the city with the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants). France maintained its status with 116 restaurants and the United States jumped from 89 on last year's La Liste to 113 this year. Spain came in fifth with 68 restaurants; Britain was next with a jump to 60 from 40 last year; Italy had 55 restaurants, just like last year; and Mexico's restaurant stock went from 22 to 49 on La Liste this year.
Russia was at the bottom of La Liste last year but leaped from one worthy eatery to 26 this year. Belgium and Australia had 25 each; the Netherlands and Austria, 20 each; Canada, 17; South Korea, 16; Denmark, South Africa and Morocco, 15 apiece; then came Israel with its 13; India and Sweden, with 12; Thailand and Portugal, 10; Slovenia, 8; Peru and Brazil, 7; Croatia and Turkey, 6; the UAE, Qatar and Colombia, 4; and then Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia, each with two entries. Altogether there are 179 countries listed.
In per capita terms, however, the winner this year is Switzerland: With a population of just 8 million, 36 of its restaurants made the La Liste grade.
La Liste was born in December 2015 when the French Foreign Ministry decided to create a new global restaurant-ranking system that would supply a more reliable, comprehensive picture than that offered by the prestigious Michelin guide or the San Pellegrino “march” of restaurants, which the French claimed were tainted by vested interests and corruption. The new system is based on an algorithm that factors in ratings from about some 625 guides, including Michelin and Zagat, and hundreds of thousands of restaurant reviews in big-name papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with online zines. The criteria set by a panel of experts include quality of service, value for money and taste.
As of this year, restaurants promising “from farm to plate” and those maintaining their own vegetable gardens are awarded bonus points by La Liste.