Gone are the days when greens on a plate are there to play mere supporting roles to rich seafood starters and meaty mains. These days, vegetables are emerging as the rightful star of many a fine-dining table.
Driven by increasing awareness of health and environmental concerns, and a growing appreciation among chefs for heirloom vegetables and artisanal produce, more fine-dining establishments are offering thoughtful vegetarian tasting menus that give centrestage roles to innovative preparations of fruit, vegetables and fungi.
In November 2019, lauded French chef Dominique Crenn of three-MICHELIN-starred Atelier Crenn announced that her San Francisco-based restaurant group, Crenn Dining Group, will officially commit to a meat-free policy and remove all land-based meats from its menus. This trend has not gone unnoticed by Michelin’s inspectors and around the world. In the inaugural 2020 edition of the MICHELIN Guide Beijing, our MICHELIN inspectors gave a coveted two-star rating to vegetarian restaurant King's Joy, praising it for its use of organic vegetables from local farms and wild mushrooms from Yunnan.
From refined Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine in Japan and China to raucous, hearty plant-based fare in New York city, we’ve rounded up seven MICHELIN-starred establishments around the world offering delicious vegetarian cooking.
King’s Joy, Beijing
Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Beijing
King’s Joy was one of two restaurants to debut with two MICHELIN stars in the inaugural 2020 selection of the MICHELIN Guide Beijing, and it was promoted to the highly coveted three MICHELIN star ranks just a year later. This Beijing favourite is widely known as the gold standard of vegetarian dining and serves up colourful fare full of textures and flavours with organic vegetables from local farms and wild mushrooms from Yunnan.
What our inspectors say: “Just a stone’s throw from Yonghe Temple, this upmarket restaurant is remodelled from a courtyard house and features a glass-roofed dining room. The Taiwanese chef honed his skills at his grandparents’ restaurant of the same name. Try his tasting menu for culinary highlights, such as honeylocust, fox nuts and peas, as well as rice with assorted mushrooms and peach resin, both delivering a nice contrast of textures.”
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Tokyo
Established in 1950 near the Seisho-ji temple at the foot of Mount Atago, Daigo serves shojin ryori, or Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. The restaurant was recognised with two MICHELIN stars in 2009 and has retained it for 10 consecutive years since.
What our inspectors say: "Shojin ryori is meat-free and based on the concept of eschewing delicacies, appreciating simple food, and enjoying the world of flavours that exists in vegetarian food, such as root crops and beans. At this restaurant, the dishes use seasonal ingredients and are served as set menus. Among the dishes of particular fame are the soba with grated yam flavoured with Japanese mustard and the zosui with nameko mushrooms."
Vege Wonder, Beijing
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Beijing
What our inspectors say: "If you crave taro fish or chicken nuggets made with soy, you’re in the wrong place. Championing the ideals of natural, eco-conscious and artistic culinary creations, this destination strives to mix and match authentic tastes and textures of various ingredients, while refusing to imitate any meat dish. Produce is sourced from all over China and the presentations are exquisite. Meticulous service completes the experience. Pre-book the private rooms."
Fu He Hui, Shanghai
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Shanghai
A meal in one of Fu He Hui’s tranquil private dining rooms takes you on a journey to discover China’s diverse range of exotic produce and fungi finessed into delicate morsels that showcase the true flavours and textures of these ingredients.
What our inspectors say: “This restaurant encompasses a serene Zen-inspired atmosphere that truly reflects the idea that veganism isn't just about the food, but is a way of life. Only set menus are served, with masterfully created and artfully presented dishes, including some old-fashioned labour-intensive recipes. Tea culture is also closely related to Zen, which is why the restaurant offers tea pairings where four different Chinese teas are served to complement the dishes.”
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide France
ONA, which stands for "Origine Non Animale" in Arès, France, serves only animal-free dishes and is the first-ever vegan restaurant in France to be awarded a MICHELIN Star. Owner Clare Vallée turned to crowd-funding to raise the capital needed to start her restaurant, which serves meals on a green terrace and has a garden with over 140 plants. Along with its debut in the star-studded ranks, ONA also won a MICHELIN Green Star, a new award introduced in 2020 to recognised establishments with a strong record for ethical practices.
What our inspectors say: "More than a restaurant, it’s a way of life! Self-taught chef, Claire Vallée, proposes 100% vegan, organic gastronomy – hence the name, which stands for "non-animal origin" in French. The beautifully dressed plates feature a splendid array of fruit and vegetables. Greatly deserving of the attention it is garnering."
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Austria
Situated between the Stadtpark and the Stephansplatz right in the heart of Vienna’s city centre, Austrian restaurateur Christian Halper's flagship fine-dining restaurant Tian offers elegant all-vegetarian tasting menus created with regionally sourced produce, including from the restaurant's own garden. The organic juices and wines on the beverage menu are carefully chosen to pair with both the cuisine and the philosophy behind it.
What our inspectors say: “The depth of flavour that you'll find in the exclusively vegan and vegetarian dishes on offer here is remarkable! And how about a bottle from the ever-growing selection of organic wines - or perhaps one of the restaurant's home-made alcohol-free drinks - to wash down the sophisticated, flavoursome fare? Friendly, professional front-of-house team.”
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Germany
What our inspectors say: "Even though this restaurant focuses exclusively on vegetarian and vegan cuisine, the resulting dishes are still full of flavour. Guests can look forward to creative plates demonstrating finesse and intensity from either the shorter lunch menu or the evening menu and it is possible to select dishes from either menu at lunchtime. Add to all this trendy design, an attractive bar, a stylish inner courtyard terrace and a prime location on the Viktualienmarkt."
Cookies Cream, Berlin
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Germany
What our inspectors say: "Finding your way here through a maze of backyards to ring the bell at the unassuming door is an adventure in itself! Up on the first floor you’ll find a vibrant restaurant decorated in an "industrial" style (it was once a fashionable night club). The vegetarian cuisine, artful and sophisticated, is served to a soundtrack of electronic music."
Seven Swans, Frankfurt
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Germany
“Seven Swans” in Frankfurt is a Michelin-star vegetarian restaurant. All ingredients used in their gourmet cuisine come from their own permaculture garden.
What our inspectors say: "If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, SEVEN SWANS is it. Sit back and take in the cool, hip vibe, with floor-to-ceiling windows affording a great view of the River Main in Frankfurt’s narrowest building (seven storeys high! ). Enjoy vegan cuisine made from organic produce (many of the ingredients come from the restaurant’s own farm not far away) in the relaxed dining room."
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Italy
Pietro Leemann has come to be known as one of the great innovators of vegetarian cuisine. He opened Joia in 1989 with the vision of bringing vegetables to haute cuisine level, and the venue became the first vegetarian restaurant in Italy to be recognised with a MICHELIN star in 1996. His dishes are evocatively named — The Navel Of The World is a Sicilian risotto with artichokes and homemade miso in a carrot ring, while The Source Of Life is pumpkin and porcini mushroom in a golden “egg” of almond and corn fondue.
What our inspectors say: “The pupil of a great master, the chef here became a vegetarian after a gradual philosophical and spiritual transformation in Asia. After many years, his focus is now on natural food, which is avant garde, experimental, skilfully prepared and beautifully presented. Full of flavour, the menu here is 80% vegan and gluten free.”
Le Comptoir, Los Angeles
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide California
What our inspectors say: "Find this tiny sparkler tucked inside the historic Hotel Normandie and helmed by Chef Gary Menes along with his talented team. The name, French for “counter,” is a literal description of the space, which seats no more than ten guests before the stainless-steel kitchen, and features little more than a wine alcove to adorn the room. Such intimate seating means that the ambience depends primarily on the patrons, who are either uniformly quiet and contemplative or lively and interactive.
Dining here is a personal experience, emphasized by the fact that the chef is cooking and plating everything right before your eyes. Dishes turned out of this kitchen are innovative and handled with great care, with the chef focused almost entirely on vegetables—protein plays a subsidiary role. Keeping that in mind, anticipate the likes of a savory carrot velouté or morsel of cured squash, both of which are as monumental as the supplemental grass-fed beef. Much of the produce arrives fresh from the chef’s Long Beach garden.
An amazing accompaniment to this meal is the skillet-toasted sourdough bread—it's made from a starter that may be older than some of the diners in the room."
Kajitsu, New York City
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide New York
What our inspectors say: "It’s the way of the modern world that we think of the changing of the seasons more in terms of our wardrobe rather than our food—but a meal at Kajitsu could change that. This Japanese vegan restaurant serves shojin cuisine based on the precepts of Buddhism—if you’re in search of an antidote to the plethora of steakhouses in the city, this is it. The traditionally decorated space on the second floor is a sanctuary of peace and tranquility and offers table or counter seating and service that is as charming as it is earnest.
Such is the skill of the kitchen you’ll forget in no time about the absence of fish or meat. It’s all about balance, harmony and simplicity—and allowing the ingredients’ natural flavors to shine, whether it’s the delicate onion soup with mizuna and potato, or the visually arresting hassun which could include everything from mountain yam to burdock root.
Your period of contemplation and newfound respect for your fellow man may come to a juddering halt when you find yourself back on Lexington but, for a few moments at least, you’ll feel you connected with nature."