Michelin-Star Restaurants That Are Overrated

The elusive and coveted Michelin star is a culinary achievement that few chefs have had the chance to experience. Given to a select few restaurants (and declined by some chefs), this award has developed a substantial amount of controversy. From the high standards that chefs stress over to the dreaded fear of losing status, the Michelin star is perhaps more a source of aggravation and woe than motivation and success. 

Moreover, these stars are almost always correlated with a drastic increase in price and egotism. Michelin-starred restaurants draw foodies and upscale guests from across the globe who hope to experience a one-of-a-kind restaurant experience. Whether this comes through gastronomy-based meals, tiny and pretentious portion sizes, or ridiculously rare ingredients, Michelin-starred restaurants have a steady following. However, earning a star is a questionable process and leads chefs (in some cases) to hang their very life on the line to hold on to it.

It seems also that many of the awarded restaurants are not quite worth their salt. According to diners and guests at many of these fine dining establishments, some of these Michelin star-holding businesses are significantly overrated.

1. Noma - Copenhagen

Since its opening in 2003, Noma has served as Copenhagen's star in the restaurant scene. The high-end restaurant maintains a focus on locally-foraged ingredients and creative cuisine. Noma was one of the first Danish restaurants to provide such a high level of cuisine and grew its grasp from two Michelin stars in 2019 to three in 2021.

Guests would often arrive at Noma on bicycles to find beautiful gardens and canals surrounding the restaurant. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic led to a decrease in customers from abroad. The decrease in traffic led to a shift in business that has not rebounded as of 2023. Tyler Cohen at The Washington Post theorizes that the prestigious venue has lost its sparkle due to the post-pandemic world's focus on staying home. He suggests that people are prioritizing quick, affordable meals, versus splurging on tiny and expensive portions of foraged foods. 

Additionally, Noma gained a cloudy reputation for not following through on promises to pay interns, while also enforcing making stuffy rules that forbade fun or laughter in the kitchen. All of this and more led to the January 2023 announcement that Noma plans to close its doors for good in 2024.

2. Bros' - Lecce, Italy

Bros' in Leece, Italy recently found itself the source of immense criticism for its weird service and bizarre dishes. Previously, Bros' was known for a high-quality service experience that took diners through 27 courses of unique culinary creations. Its chef, Isabella Poti, is one of the youngest chefs to receive a Michelin star while working with lead chef Floriano Pellegrino. Such accolades led writer and foodie Geraldine DeRuiter to visit and experience the multiple courses for herself. Unfortunately, her review was not as positive as the chefs would have liked.

DeRuiter colorfully shared that the experience was comparable to an ill-bred nightmare that put her and her guests through a comical four hours of service. Even after the arduous journey, she and her party remained hungry when all was said and done, likely due to the tiny portion sizes of items like briny green olive ice cream, consumable paper, and ricotta that was intentionally served rancid. Perhaps the most bizarre dish came in a plaster cast of the chef's mouth, out of which diners were expected to slurp rabies-reminiscent foam. Add to that the stifling heat of the place and diners' fear of being reprimanded for leaving the table at any time, and DeRuiter's review solidified the newly negative reputation of Bros'.

3. Alchemist - Copenhagen

Another Copenhagen restaurant, Alchemist, holds two Michelin stars and is overseen by chef Rasmus Munk. While many reviews of the restaurant are positive, Alchemist has unfortunately become well-known for one of its more uncomfortable dishes, known as "the tongue kiss." Within a 50-course dinner, there are several dishes that diners have regarded as extreme, but this one seems to have everyone in a tizzy. After all, it's not often that a full tongue makeout session happens during dinner, yet that is the experience that Alchemist presents. The tongue kiss is served as a popsicle molded into a lifelike tongue, frozen onto a spoon, and covered in toppings that diners are encouraged to lick off. How romantic.

Other questionable offerings here include a slice of lamb brain covered with bright red cherry juice and a mold of a human head that contains foie gras. Apparently, this is the place to visit if you want to get a taste of what it's like to eat props from a gory horror movie. Some reviews have also laid criticism upon the Alchemist for serving flat Champagne, levying high price tags, and subjecting diners to redundant speeches about sustainable, holistic ingredients, presented by an aggressive server.

4. Le Cinq - Paris

Le Cinq is associated with its three Michelin stars and an opulent design that leaves nothing to subtlety. The Paris restaurant is filled with fresh flowers, ornate moldings, and old-fashioned carpets that may hold the secrets, discarded crumbs, and smells of meals long past. According to The Guardian's restaurant critic Jay Rayner, he and a guest visited Le Cinq and were progressively disturbed as their meal unfolded. They started with a menu that lacked prices. After asking for a different copy, they learned why the restaurant would choose to hide this detail. Meals reportedly averaged an astronomical and unappealing 70-140 euros for a single plate of food.

According to Rayner, nearly every dish contained odd, trauma-inducing spheres that he suggests might prompt some to seek out a therapist. His companion compared the array to a certain rubbery form of birth control that was left sitting out to collect dust. Appetizing, no? 

It seemed that every dish at Le Cinq centered around a variety of spheres, all of which popped, burst, or deflated in an equally unappetizing manner. While this type of feature works well in treats like bubble tea, it's odd for multiple dinner courses at a three-star restaurant. Other diners have reviewed Le Cinq to point out other sources of disappointment, including poor service and lackluster food. It seems that Rayner is not the only one who hopes to put the experience behind him and out of memory.

5. Robuchon au Dome - Macau

Robuchon au Dome in Macau, China has held onto its three Michelin stars since 2009, as well as one of the largest wine collections in eastern Asia. It provides dishes based on gastronomy and French cuisine, curated by chef Joël Robuchon. Unfortunately, among the restaurant's numerous positive reviews, there are also many negative opinions that center on its questionable atmosphere, which some argue borders on pretentious and tacky. Some patrons also wrote that they were served bloody chicken and overcooked lobster and that they experienced horrible customer service.

One diner claimed that the Michelin guide turned into a laughingstock for them after they visited Robuchon au Dome. They reported seeing waitstaff on their phones, hair in the breadbasket, a sniffling server, overcooked Wagyu beef, and lint in the wine glasses. Apparently, this is also not a good environment for children, as the restaurant tried to prevent a guest's child from entering the restaurant at all. It seems that, among the naysayers, Robuchon au Dome does not live up to hype or price point and is simply a waste of time.

6. Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle - Singapore

In a slight deviation from the normally expensive venues, we have Liao Fong Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle — known more concisely as Liao Fan Hawker Chan — in Singapore. From a mouthful of a name comes a mouthful of allegedly average street food, according to several guests. While it is a humble restaurant, to begin with, it was granted one Michelin star in 2016 and has held on tight since then. It's currently the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant in the world, with dishes going for as little as $1.42.

Chef Chan Hong Meng occasionally stops by and dives in to help his staff appease the lengthy queues of people, who are mainly tourists. However, it seems that the journey to the stall is not quite worthwhile. Reviews mention meals that disappoint previously eager travelers. Others reported shock at the Michelin star, claiming that the time spent waiting for mediocre food was a serious let-down. In fact, a visit to Liao Fan led some to completely lose faith in Michelin and its system. It sounds like many patrons found a taste of disdain and disappointment during their visit to this Singapore stand. 

7. Schloss Schauenstein - Fürstenau, Switzerland

Switzerland is home to Schloss Shauenstein, known as one of the most expensive Michelin-starred restaurants to date. With an average three-course meal, diners can expect a bill of over $200minimum to accompany the "pinch of wanderlust" that the restaurant claims to provide. While it maintains good ratings overall, this spot still faces some significant criticism.

Guests have noted that Schloss Schauenstein is a great location with a missed opportunity. Instead of focusing on local cuisine inspired by its mountainous setting, the restaurant has taken an odd detour into Asian-inspired dishes. Visitors have commented that they arrived expecting local fare that complimented their surroundings, but instead found that the menu was out of place. According to some, their meal was unbalanced with too heavy a focus on tasting menus that postponed the entrees, while the massive build-up took away from the real food. Reviewers also noted the servers' lack of knowledge and the wine waiters' inability to get the wine right. While it remains loved by many, it seems that Schloss Schauenstein is bordering on overrated.

8. Le Pré Catelan - Paris

Typically, patrons of Michelin-star restaurants expect to be wowed throughout the entirety of their experience. That is not necessarily the case with Le Pré Catelan, in Paris. Chef Frederic Anton is known for his seafood-focused menu that's well-known for its balance and harmony, not to mention the fancy wine and high-level service. Currently, the restaurant has three Michelin stars.

Dave Beaty of Accounting for Taste provided an in-depth analysis of the multiple courses that he sampled while visiting and came to the conclusion that it was fine, but didn't make him fall in love or crave another visit. While there were a few dishes that stood out, Beaty reviewed the overall theme as worn-out and not up to current style standards. Other guests shared this opinion, reviewing Le Pré Catelan with dissatisfaction and sometimes even harsh criticism for expensive price tags, mediocre food, and hype that left guests feeling let down and deflated.

9. North Pond - Chicago

North Pond in Chicago is the home base of chef Cesar Murillo, who focuses on seasonal food and global tasting menus. The arts and crafts building-turned-restaurant has earned one Michelin star and a prestigious reputation. Unfortunately, recent reviews have put its star status into question.

Some patrons have mentioned that the servers seemed stiff and unfriendly, while the food arrived at the wrong temperature. The plates would be hot, but the food oddly cold — what gives? Another group ranted about the horrible treatment they experienced when the restaurant canceled their reservation a mere 12 minutes before their arrival. Granted, these individuals admitted to running late but were nevertheless appalled at the restaurant staff's rigidity and unwillingness to work with them. It seems that the restaurant's policy and its defensive attempt to run a tight ship resulted in throwing a few potential customers overboard. Furthermore, other customers reported the experience as awkward and even disastrous, with a dining room so quiet you could hear a pin drop — as well as every word that was spoken in the kitchen.

10. Per Se - New York

Per Se, or "per sucker?" This was the hint at re-naming presented by a displeased guest of this Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. Their distaste for the restaurant stemmed from the costly price tag of nearly $300 per person and the minuscule portion sizes of the chef's tasting menu. Upon asking for a salad, this guest received an unknown and tiny vegetable that the restaurant called a vegetable salad. Another guest wrote a lengthy review that compared the esteemed Michelin-star restaurant to the chain restaurant Applebee's. For her, one of the biggest misses was the lack of a dress code, as she reported sightings of sweatpants, crop tops, flip-flops, and sneakers, clothes that are not what one would expect in an expensive three-star venue.

The New York restaurant became a source of infamy after Pete Wells's wretched review of the spot was published in The New York Times. Wells made several harsh evaluations and criticized seemingly everything, including the servers' failure to clean up dirty dishes, and the chemical-flavored mushroom soup. Wells wrapped up the experience as underwhelming and lacking overall luster. The critical piece by Wells drew such a following that chef Thomas Keller responded with an apology and the promise to do better. Perhaps this is yet another example of the controversial pressure that a Michelin star can create for chefs, as the accolade encourages reviewers to nitpick even the smallest of details, and leaves chefs with a need to make amends.

11. Tian Munich - Munich

It's not often that vegetarians have a Michelin-starred restaurant to flock to, but Tian Munich provided that promise, and the aim to achieve tian, or "heaven" as its Chinese character means. Founder Christian Halper focused on bringing healthy, vegetarian food into the high-end culinary business. Responsibility for running Tian Munich shifted to Paul Ivić in 2018. Unfortunately, the vegetarianism-based goal, while exciting, has not quite reached fruition.

YouTubers Perfect Vegan Vacation visited Tian in 2022 and left an emotional video review that highlighted how upset they were by the experience. Their family did not get along well with management, who didn't seem to care about them or their comfort. They were also dissatisfied with the food and left wondering why everything they had heard was so much more positive. 

Other reviews echoed the same unhappy sentiment, with some commenting on less-than-exciting meal details, the restaurant's lack of real plants, and food that was entirely too salty. Unfortunately, the sodium-heavy dishes led to reviews from salty guests that seriously bring the restaurant's Michelin star status into question.

12. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant - Maldives

Who hasn't wanted the experience of dining underwater with aquatic animals swimming around in calming blue waters? Ithaa Undersea Restaurant plays on that fantasy with its underwater, aquarium-esque restaurant in the Maldives. With a dining room five meters underwater, guests can enjoy fresh seafood as they watch their meal's relatives swim by in real-time.

While many patrons have enjoyed the deep sea experience and written glowing reviews, not everyone is happy. The more lackluster mentions are focused on the restaurant's food and the service, which unfortunately make up the majority of the outing. One reviewer shared their disgust with the food and mentioned that their bill seemed to more support the underwater experience than the meal. They suggested that future diners lower their expectations and standards for the food, as there isn't much to brag about there.  

Another issue centered around menu discrepancies between what was posted online and what they received in person. Others reported that served left dirty dishes laying around, while courses were so mistimed that diners felt rushed, making the $500 per person price tag seem all the more unreasonable. 

13. Alinea - Chicago

Alinea is one of 13 restaurants in the United States to presently hold three Michelin stars. It's also been touted as one of the world's best restaurants and more, all while maintaining its honorable accolade. Chicago-based chef Grant Achatz provides guests with a dining experience with a modernist approach, but one that seems to have missed the mark according to guests of recent years.

One guest visited Alinea for the second time in September 2022, with high expectations. She reported that this visit left her thirsty, as everything was so salty that it was inedible. Another recent visitor claimed that the service was not up to par and that they didn't feel special during their visit. In 2022, the restaurant came under extra scrutiny for serving some dishes without a plate at all.

A few previous patrons grilled the restaurant for wasting the opportunity of a Michelin star. They found the pricing to be extreme, the menu to be blah, and specific foods to be overdone to the point of failure, among other issues. The Michelin star system itself was brought under scrutiny by several reviewers, who criticized the restaurant's three-star status, wondering how Alinea became a recipient of the stars in the first place. 

14. Le Bernardin - New York

Sibling chefs Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze opened Le Bernardin, which came to New York as a seafood-focused restaurant of high caliber. They received one Michelin star in 1976 and two more in 1980. Since then, Le Bernardin has expanded to include a separate lounge area (complete with its own menu), as well as many positive reviews. However, it seems that in recent years that esteemed level of perfection has begun to slip.

One extremely well-traveled reviewer shared that Le Bernardin was a disappointment after his February 2023 visit. He complained that the food was overcooked, dry, and disappointing and that the atmosphere was snobby and unwelcoming to the point where it dampened his wife's birthday celebration. 

Other reviews agreed that the vibe of Le Bernardin was pretentious and annoying, and its food was not delicious enough to make the visit worthwhile. Many of the reviews for Le Bernardin are positive overall, but the few negative reviews do present the possibility that perhaps yet another Michelin-star restaurant is at least a smidge overrated.