Stars remind us of the lyrical possibilities of existence; and obviously, shooting stars are a melancholic reminder of life’s ephemeral aspect. The stars that brought tears to Gordon Ramsay, however, had no cosmic connections whatsoever: the celebrity chef’s restaurant lost two stars because Michelin analysts thought the food was “erratic.”
But to lose Michelin stars, one must have them first. So the gourmand question is, when can we get to see The Michelin Guide-Muscat? No one has a clue, as of today.
The possibilities are constrained to just three stars. Three Michelin stars certify that the restaurant is worth a special journey as the cuisine is rated as exceptional. Two stars are for restaurants that are worth a detour, for food is excellent; while a single Michelin star brands the restaurant as very good in its category.
Oman has had a few culinary encounters with Michelin star chefs. Recently, one of the world’s most creative chefs Mads Refslund, co-founder of the two-Michelin-starred Noma Restaurant, treated guests at the Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa, Muscat, to the gastronomic romance of the Michelin stars.
But why none of Oman’s celebrity chefs and restaurants have as yet succeeded in cracking the Michelin star code?
Because, as Jonas Luster noted, in order to receive a star, you have to be, most importantly, in an area that is covered by Michelin. The restaurant’s journey to the stars starts with favourable reviews by local bloggers and food writers. The more the blogs talk about a restaurant, the more are the chances of being noticed by Michelin.
As a consolation, we can always say that neither Dubai has a Michelin starred restaurant. But that in fact complicates the whole affair.
Obviously, restaurants across the world crave the Michelin stars, and also consider it a special privilege and pride to be featured in the Michelin Guide, basically because only a lucky few get them.
However, Michelin star or not, the rich and unparalleled culinary legacy of the Sultanate, and the Arab world in general, is always featured in the hearts of those who love good food.
With the number of international tourists “discovering” Oman on the increase, its exquisite cuisine is also getting global patronage. Lying along the centuries-old spice routes, Oman’s cuisine reflects a subtle mix of Persian, North African, Indian, and Arabian influences.
As such, Omani dishes exceed the usual Middle Eastern platter in style and content. Food connoisseurs highly appreciate the subtle tinge of ingredients such as wheat berries, nutmegs and coconuts, along with the usual Arab ingredients such as saffron, rose water, and dried lemons in the Omani menu.
Oman has fantastic eateries renowned for superior taste and authenticity, and amazingly talented celebrity chefs such as Issa al Lamki and Salim al Kalbani, who have successfully established thriving culinary brands that do full justice to the authentic and mouthwatering Omani traditional dishes that are topped up with contemporary global flavours and styles. Their restaurants, Hitam and Al Loomie respectively, have already generated significant fan following among locals and tourists from across the world who appreciate the famed Omani cuisine and its myriad expressions.
Some of the top-of-the-line international travel guides regularly write about the upmarket restaurants in Oman that serve genuine Omani food along with an international menu. In Oman, food is incomplete if it’s not served in an atmosphere that is defined by the age-old parameters of true Omani hospitality. But Michelin doesn’t care about this; its only concern is quality and consistency of food.
Michelin stars may or may not be a distant dream for Oman’s restaurants, but a good number of them certainly deserve to be featured in the Michelin Guide in the Rising Stars (an indication that a restaurant has the potential to qualify for a star) or the Bib Gourmand (restaurants offering exceptionally good food at moderate prices) sections.
So, isn’t high time that the Michelin Guide entered Oman? If Michelin continues to overlook this great Omani (and Arabian) gastronomic segment, the next option is to have an Omani version of Michelin Guide. We do deserve a few stars, anyway!
T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR