Michelin Stars, awarded by the French company Michelin in their yearly Michelin Guides, have long been a trusted sign of excellence in restaurants. At present, only three countries within Asia have a Michelin Guide: Hong Kong, Macau and Japan, though Singapore is expected to join the list very soon.
While undeniably helpful in sussing out good eats, such a rating system often conjures grand expectations of restaurants in customers, leading Michelin-starred establishments to be commonly perceived as lavish, expensive and out of reach. While there is some truth in that, there are definitely exceptions.
With the DBS Altitude Card, frequent travel is more attainable than ever by offering competitive air miles — more on that soon. We all need a little luxury from time to time, so I’ve compiled a list of affordable Michelin-starred restaurants within Asia where you can savour excellent cuisine without obliterating your life savings.
— Hong Kong Affordable Michelin Restaurants —
1. Ho Hung Kee
The very first wonton noodle shop in Hong Kong to be awarded one Michelin star, Ho Hung Kee has since moved from a humble store jam-packed with tourists into a spacious, modern new space.
Their noodles are widely-loved, with a springy bite to them and submerged in a flavourful prawn soup. Despite their fame, prices for each bowl of House Specialty Wonton Noodles in Soup remain affordable, starting at HK$39($6.80 SGD).
Ho Hung Kee: 12th Floor, Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
2. Seasons by Olivier E.
Hong Kong isn’t all Cha Chan Teng and nothing else. One-starred Seasons restaurant serves up innovative French cuisine against a sleek, stylish backdrop. The Lunch Set Menu starts at HK$318 ($55 SGD) for three courses, with fine offerings like the Guinea Fowl Breast with Tandoori Bread Crumble, Black Rice Purée.
For three courses of authentic, quality Western fare in Hong Kong, I find its price tag quite reasonable. For comparison’s sake, French restaurant Odette in Singapore starts their Lunch Set Menu at $88++.
Seasons by Olivier Elzer: Shop 308, 3/F, Phase 2, Lee Garden,, 2-38 Yun Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
3. Tim Ho Wan
Hong Kong is synonymous with Dim Sum, and who better to execute quality dim sum at an affordable price tag than one-star Tim Ho Wan, formerly known as the world’s cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant?
Tim Ho Wan’s signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork weighs in at only HK$16 for three (an economical $2.80 SGD for three beautifully sweet and soft puffs) while prices of other Dim Sum items are set in the same range.
Tim Ho Wan (Sham Shui Po): 9 Fuk Wing St, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
4. Lei Garden
Every Lei Garden outlet in Hong Kong has been conferred a single Michelin star, and I consider this an unbelievable feat that attests to Lei Garden’s consistently high standards. The restaurant is the perfect joint for Yum Cha, serving intricately made and exquisitely presented Dim Sum.
The best part is, a quality meal at Lei Garden is very accessible, with several outlets across Hong Kong and dish prices averaging between HK$28-60 (approximately SGD$6-$10.50). Really, who says quality has to be synonymous with expensive, unattainable food?
Lei Garden (Mong Kok): 111-127 Sai Yee St, Mong Kok, Hong Kong
5. Kam’s Roast Goose
There’s a long, rather melodramatic history behind Kam’s Roast Goose, involving sibling rivalry. However to hungry customers, all that matters is that Kam’s restaurant bears one shiny Michelin star. For duck that is tender, slightly fatty and crisp-skinned, Kam’s definitely delivers and at a very reasonable price too.
Their Roast Duck Lai Fun (Lai Fun is a short and thick Chinese noodle variety), marrying delicious duck meat and comforting noodle soup, will set you back by only HK$55 (SGD $9.50).
Kam’s Roast Goose: Po Wah Commercial Centre, 226 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
— Japan Affordable Michelin Restaurants —
The unassuming Soba joint Kyoraku-tei earned its gleaming Michelin Star back in 2015 for its mastery of the art of noodle-making. 2016 sees Kyoraku-tei on the Bib Gourmand list in recognition of its affordable yet top-notch fare, so technically this was a Michelin-starred restaurant.
All its soba noodles are made from seeds specially imported from another prefecture, freshly made and served on the same day. A definite guarantee of freshness. Besides their smooth, bouncy soba noodles, Kyoraku-tei also makes supremely delicate, crisp Tempura.
Kyoraku-tei has an extensive menu and prices range depending on how much you order. A most basic, piping bowl of Kake Soba with Seasonal Vegetables will only cost ¥900 (SGD $11.70), while a lavish lunch of Soba served with Tiger Shrimp, Eel and Vegetable Tempura will set you back by ¥2400 (SGD$31), a reasonable price for its quality.
Kyoraku-tei: 3-6 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku 162-0825, Tokyo Prefecture
Tsuta is the world’s first Michelin-ranked ramen restaurant, and living proof that good things don’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg. To us noodle-laymen, Ramen in Japan is already a class of its own, so imagine how spectacular Tsuta’s must be to be singled out and lauded by Michelin.
All orders in Tsuta are done via a vending machine, and for just ¥1250 (roughly SGD $16.25), you’ll get a bowl of Shoyu Ramen chockful of rich, mushroom broth and premium ingredients like Black Truffle, Chashu and a flavourful Ramen Egg. Talk about value for money! The only catch is the queue time, but some things are just worth the wait.
Tsuta: 1-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima 170-0002, Tokyo Prefecture
8. Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima
Sardines — some love them, others can’t stand them. Regardless of how you feel, it’s undeniable that sardines are the highlight of the meal at Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima, earning the restaurant a single Michelin star.
For a restaurant in Tokyo, a city with a rather high cost of living, lunch is unbelievably cheap at Nakajima. (Dinner is another story, though.) The lunch sets at Nakajima start at ¥800 (SGD $10.40), which includes some Japanese pickles, miso soup and white rice, and gives you the option of choosing from 4 different preparation methods for the Sardine: deep fried, nabemono, sashimi, or simmered in dashi.
Shinjukukappo Nakajima: 3 32-5 Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
— Macau Affordable Michelin Restaurants —
9. The Eight
The Eight has three Michelin stars, everybody. THREE! According to the Michelin ratings, that means The Eight’s exceptional cuisine is not just worth a visit or detour, but deserves a special journey. You’d expect with such high praise that The Eight would be out of your league — it’s not.
Food on The Eight’s menu is very much within budget for a regular, non-flashy traveler. For just 100 MOP (SGD $17) will get you a delectable meal of Claypot Rice with Preserved Chinese Sausage, Chicken and Mushroom, while a Barbecued Suckling Pig with ‘Thai Herb’ and Mint Leaves costs only 160 MOP (SGD$27).
The Eight: Grand Lisboa, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
10. Golden Peacock
Alright, there isn’t a Michelin Guide to India, but that won’t stop anyone from having Indian food that is Michelin-approved — in Macau, that is. The one-starred Golden Peacock in the grandiose Venetian Macao is striking and vibrant, featuring contemporary yet authentic Indian food by a chef from Kerala.
The mains at Golden Peacock are known to be spicy, but they won’t burn a hole in your pocket at 85 MOP (SGD $14.50) to 120 MOP (SGD $20), though there are definitely luxurious items that cost more. Most other items on the menu go for less than 100 MOP (SGD$17), so the damage done here is more or less comparable to any restaurant back home.
Golden Peacock: The Venetian Macao Estrada da Baia de Nossa Senhora da Esperanca Casino, Level 1, Shop 1037, Macau
If this list has changed your perception of Michelin star restaurants being costly, why not go and savour these reasonably priced and magnificent eateries yourself? The DBS Altitude Card brings you one step closer to fulfilling your wanderlust — it’s the fastest way to fly anywhere with its efficient air miles.
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