Chef Yuan Tang and Carey Tang of Rooster & Owl Credit: Deb Lindsey

Michelin announced which D.C. restaurants are worthy of stars this morning. The big reveal comes as owners and workers are on edge. After a year of pivots and layoffs, restaurants are trying to staff up to meet new demand from vaccinated diners while simultaneously applying for Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants to tide them over until they can use more than 25 percent of their dining rooms.

Many of the nation’s top critics, including the Post’s Tom Sietsema, read the room and eliminated stars from their reviews over the past 14 months. But the French tire company insisted the show go on. While stars are career-changing for chefs, the spotlight is dimmed this year by all the restaurants that couldn’t outlast the pandemic.

Michelin, whose system of granting and removing stars has stoked controversy in the past, seems to acknowledge the COVID-19 crisis by adopting a “Still Serving” theme for this year’s awardees.

“A monumental shift has taken place throughout the restaurant community, requiring everyone to pivot in their own unique way—The MICHELIN Guide, included,” says Gwendal Poullennec, the international director of The MICHELIN Guides. “We look forward to highlighting the accomplishments of the industry’s most resilient restaurants, who, despite the toughest year, are still serving.”

Poullennec told the Post that Michelin’s anonymous team of inspectors have “been quite benevolent without compromising on the methodology.” This doesn’t square with Michelin stripping six restaurants that are still operating of Bib Gourmand status on Tuesday: Royal, Tiger Fork, Joselito, Millie’s, Ambar, and Supra. The new Bib Gourmand additions are all in Northwest: Ellē, Hitching Post, Karma Modern Indian, Makan, Residents Cafe & Bar, and Queen’s English.

Bib Gourmands go to restaurants inspectors perceive to be a good value. According to Michelin, they must offer a full menu of starters, main courses, and desserts and make it possible to order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less before tax and tip.

Michelin stars are generally reserved for restaurants with more of a fine dining feel. Inspectors deem a one-star restaurant “very good cooking in this category,” a two-star restaurant “excellent cooking,” and a three-star restaurant “exceptional cuisine worthy of a special journey.” Restaurants receiving stars are evaluated on cuisine alone, so ambiance and service, while important, are not considered. Inspectors look for quality products, consistency, and how much a chef is able to express himself or herself through food. Michelin has published a D.C. guide since 2016.

This year’s newcomers are Jônt (2 stars), Cranes (1 star), Elcielo (1 star), Xiquet (1 star), and Rooster & Owl (1 star).

“I know this was a career goal and we’ve been working really hard this past year with so many ups and down for our industry,” says Rooster & Owl co-owner Carey Tang. Her husband, Yuan Tang, is the chef. “There were really scary times. It’s hard to believe that this is the year that this dream comes true.”

“We look back on that year when we had to not once but twice pivot to takeout-only,” Carey continues. “How fortunate are we that the team we couldn’t keep on staff all year have come back and weathered this storm with us. To be recognized in this way, I’m so proud of them.”

The complete list of starred restaurants for 2021 follows. No restaurants lost stars.

Three Stars

The Inn at Little Washington

Two Stars

Jônt (new)

Pineapple and Pearls

minibar by José Andrés

One Star

Elcielo D.C. (new)

Cranes (new)

Xiquet (new)

Rooster & Owl (new)

Sushi Nakazawa

The Dabney

Bresca

Fiola

Kinship

Komi

Tail Up Goat

Maydan

Plume

Rose’s Luxury

Métier

Sushi Taro

Masseria

Little Pearl

Gravitas

“This starred selection highlights the remarkable strength and innovation of chefs and restaurants who continue to serve D.C.’s community of locals and tourists with high-quality cuisine,” Poullennec says. “Michelin inspectors were especially impressed to discover inspiring new restaurant openings, despite the challenges of the global health crisis.”

More from WCP