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
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Beijing 2020
King’s Joy was one of two restaurants to enter the inaugural selection of the MICHELIN Guide Beijing at two stars when it launched on November 28. 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.”
READ MORE: MICHELIN Guide Beijing 2020 Selection
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Wujie (Huangpu), Shanghai
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Shanghai 2020
At this upscale establishment, expect modern vegetarian spins on classic Asian flavours such as Thai yellow curry and 18-spice tofu with ingredients including organic strawberries from Shanghai's Chongming island and wild truffles from Yunnan.
What our inspectors say: “Nestled in a century-old European-style building on the Bund, Wujie draws decorative inspiration from Jiangnan Gardens, punctuated by modern art for a union of new and old. Only set menus are offered, featuring creative vegetarian dishes that make use of seasonal ingredients and complement the Chinese philosophy of nourishment. Vegans who don't eat allium vegetables can ask for their garlic- and leek-free menu.”
Fu He Hui, Shanghai
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Shanghai 2020
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 Austria 2019
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.”
Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Tokyo 2020
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."
NIX, New York City
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide New York City 2020
This bright and buzzy restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village is the only vegetarian restaurant in the US with a MICHELIN star. It serves bold global flavours and thoughtful cocktails that are both health-conscious and unabashedly pleasure-driven.
What our inspectors say: “The words “fun,” “sensual” and “vegetarian” aren’t always found in the same sentence, but this vegetable-centric restaurant shows what can happen if preconceptions and piousness are left at the front door. This isn’t about abstaining from anything—it’s about savoring. The first clue is the cocktails—not many such restaurants put this sort of thought and effort into their list. At lunch, there are even “modestly alcoholic” choices like the very perky plum with Lillet Blanc. At this point you should be nibbling on something from their “first order” part of the menu, such as polenta fries or tandoor bread. The main section is divided between “lighter” and “bolder” dishes, complete with an asterisk highlighting those preparations that can be made vegan. Chef owner John Fraser uses influences from around the world to bring out the individual flavors of his market produce—like sweet hoisin sauce and spicy Thai chili to liven up the shiitake mushrooms, or nori breadcrumbs for the seaweed Caesar. Bright, healthy, fresh, perky and clean are just some of the words that apply here—to the look of the room, the food and indeed most of the customers.”
One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Italy 2020
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.”