By Richard Leong
NEW YORK, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Michelin awarded its coveted stars to a handful of New York restaurants that feature Chinese, Korean or Japanese inspired dishes in the 2013 edition of its Big Apple guide that appears on Wednesday.
Masa, the city's only Asian restaurant with three stars and considered the gold standard of Asian cooking in New York, retained its top ranking.
Michelin again awarded Soto and David Chang's Momofuku Ko restaurant two stars and gave one star to Cafe China, Hakkasan, Lan Sheng, 15 East and Jungkin this year, along with 11 other Asian restaurants that kept their one-star ratings.
Laut, which serves Southeast Asian cuisine and had one star, was taken off the list.
"We have a lot of Asian restaurants which upped their ante. They are becoming more adventurous and creative. They are able to deliver new versions on old dishes that have really caught our attention," said Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides.
Asian restaurants in New York - with a population that is 13 percent Asian - have been given relatively few stars by Michelin. Critics say the rankings tend to favor high-end restaurants that serve European-inspired food.
Ellis said the success of chef Chang helped raise the standards and popularity of Asian restaurants.
"He is a Korean American who decided to do new takes on Korean food and hit the ball out of the park," said Ellis, a native New Yorker who now lives in France. "He's been a role model for a lot of chefs."
While there were notable changes at the one- and two-star levels in the latest guide, there were no surprises among the elite three-star restaurants.
Seven restaurants achieved Michelin's highest distinction, the same number as the 2012 guide. They included Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Masa, Per Se, Daniel, Eleven Madison Park and Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare.
Michelin also recognized the growing prominence of Brooklyn as a dining destination, giving one star to Blanca, which features a $180 tasting menu.
Four other restaurants in the borough received a star and joined nine newcomers among the 52 one-star restaurants in New York.
Atera, which opened earlier this year, made its debut with Michelin's second highest rating. The restaurant with an open kitchen won raves for its cutting-edge dishes. Head chef Matthew Lightner worked at Noma in Copenhagen, which has been ranked the world's best restaurant.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and SHO Shaun Hergatt were absent from the list this year. The now closed restaurants received two stars last year, Ellis said.
Michelin dropped Kajitsu, which serves Japanese vegetarian dishes, to one-star status from two-star because of a change of chefs, he added.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Andre Grenon)
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Keywords: FOOD MICHELIN/GUIDE