May 12, 2023 - Food and Drink

Michelin Guide dishes out Tampa's first-ever stars

The layout of Lilac in Water street Tampa.

Photo courtesy of Nikolas Koenig

Tampa's food scene is beaming after the Michelin Guide bestowed three restaurants with its coveted stars on Thursday.

Why it matters: The Michelin Guide recognized a few Tampa restaurants when it launched its Florida edition last year. But this week's ceremony was the first time any of the city's restaurants received a one-star rating.

  • The designation is regarded as a standard of excellence in the restaurant industry and solidifies Tampa's position on the foodie map.

Driving the news: Four new restaurants in Florida earned a star this year, including:

  • South Tampa's Japanese restaurant Koya, Tampa Heights' modern Italian spot Rocca and Water Street's Mediterranean eatery Lilac.

Details: Inspectors felt drawn to the "culinary sensibilities" of Koya, noting the chutoro hand roll with wasabi guacamole in particular.

  • Rocca's dishes drew praise for their harmony of classic flavors and exciting displays of originality. Its desserts also received kudos from the inspectors, who called them a "delightful bookend to an impressive meal."
  • Meanwhile, Lilac received compliments for its Mediterranean influences, Florida-focused ingredients and French techniques. Inspectors applauded the restaurant's "sexy vibe," although they noted the venue is void of lilac.

Between the lines: Florida's tourism boards are paying as much as $1.5 million over the next three years to get the honor.

  • Michelin inspectors skipped restaurants in Pinellas since Visit St. Pete/Clearwater wasn't part of the deal.

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