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The top restaurants in Seoul and Busan, as per Michelin

The longtime Guide has expanded to a second city in South Korea. But only three restaurants there got stars

(Left) A dish from Mosu in Seoul; and pasta from Fiotto in Busan.(Photos via @fiotto_busan and and @mosuseoul, Instagram )

By Bloomberg

LAST PUBLISHED 22.02.2024  |  05:30 PM IST

Busan, South Korea’s increasingly buzzy beachside city  and shipping hub, has a couple more reasons to visit, via the Michelin Guide.

On Thursday, the famed dining arbiter awarded stars to restaurants in its inaugural guide to Busan, South Korea’s second biggest city. 

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But despite the fanfare of the inaugural Michelin guide, only three Busan restaurants—Fiotto, Mori and Palate—received a star. Fiotto, which specialises in homemade pasta made with Korean ingredients, also received a Michelin Green star in recognition of its sustainable mentality. 

Also read | The place of Michelin stars in life, universe and everything

“Facing the sea, the perfect gateway to the world, Busan has demonstrated over its long history of commerce, the ability to bring people together, be open to new ideas and influence the world," said Jerome Vincon, managing director of Michelin Korea, during the award ceremony at the Signiel Busan hotel. “These chefs, together with their teams, nobody could dream of better ambassadors of Busan with their generosity, creativity, courage and excellence."

Star rankings for Seoul were also announced at the event. The city now has only one 3-star restaurant, Mosu. Last year, there were two: Gaon closed earlier this year because of financial constraints, and Mosu has been temporarily closed as they go through operational changes. 

Two new two-star restaurants also joined the list: Mitou, which features a Japanese-accented menu, and Restaurant Allen, which offers modern, seasonal cooking. Both were promoted from one star. One 2-star restaurant dropped off the list: Joo Ok in the Plaza Hotel has closed in Seoul and is relocating to New York City later this year. 

Seoul now has a total of 33 starred dining rooms, one more than last year. 

Almost eight years after publishing the inaugural Seoul guide, Busan has become South Korea’s second city with a Michelin guide. (The state-run tourism agency reportedly paid the guide 2 billion won, currently $1.5 million, to bring it to Seoul.) The seaside city has increasingly garnered attention from travelers and foodies around the world in recent years with a wave of new hotels and ambitious restaurants. Its cultural clout exploded in the fall of 2022, when K-pop boy band BTS performed their “final concert" in the city before going on hiatus.

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The inaugural guide on Thursday underscores the rising profile of Busan, which has rapidly expanded with the city’s major development projects. It’s home to the world’s biggest department store along with a 1,123-foot skyscraper, and a new airport, slated for 2029. 

“I am honored but I also feel a lot a lot of pressure," Jaehoon Kim, a 37-year-old Busan native who owns newly starred Palate, told Bloomberg. “Getting Michelin's recognition is obviously going to be a major turning point for myself, but I also see it as a key moment for Busan where it can take its culinary scene to the next level."

Even during the pandemic, Michelin has continued to expand its universe by adding up-and-coming cities around the globe. Since publishing its first Asian guide, Tokyo, in 2007, Michelin has moved into over a dozen cities in the region, including Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.

And it’s continuing its expansion worldwide: In 2024, the French tire maker plans to announce inaugural guides for Mexico. 

See also: Why It’s Time to Book a Trip to Busan, the Miami of South Korea

Although Michelin first began producing guides in 1900 for chauffeurs, it didn’t start awarding stars until 1926. Three stars mean “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey"; two are given for “excellent cooking, worth a detour"; and one denotes a “very good restaurant in its category."  

An asterisk (*) denotes a new entry.

Following are a list of Busan’s starred restaurants:

One Star 

*Mori
*Palate
*Fiotto 

Following are a  list of Seoul’s starred restaurants

Three Stars
Mosu

Two Stars

Alla Prima
Jungsik
Kojima
Kwon Sook Soo
La Yeon
Mingles
*Mitou
*Restaurant Allen
Soigné

One Star 
7th door
Bicena
Eatanic Garden
Evett
Exiquisine
Goryori Ken
Hane
*Haobin
Kangminchul Restaurant
Kojacha
L’Amant Secret
L’Amitié
*L’impression
Muni
Muoki
Onjium
Solbam
Soseol Hannam
Soul
Sushi Matsumoto
*VinhoYunZero Complex

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