When news broke last week that more than 60 diners at Noma, a Copenhagen restaurant, had contracted norovirus and fallen ill in February, many resulting articles called Noma “the world’s best restaurant.”
That is based on a relatively new measure of gastronomic greatness, and it isn’t a unanimous opinion. The ranking, the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, is based on votes by over 900 judges, including chefs, food writers and food lovers at large, who try to defy the cliché and give an accounting for taste.
Started in 2002, the ranking has risen from a feature idea in a U.K. trade publication to an industry award show covered world-wide. Yet critics say the rankings are susceptible to lobbying and to comping of meals by contending restaurants. And more-populist voting, such as on the international travel website TripAdvisor, doesn’t always agree with the results. Noma ranks ninth on TripAdvisor—in Copenhagen. The top spot in the city is an ice-cream shop called Ismageriet.
The World’s 50 Best rankings are both influential—driving more interest in a restaurant than a Michelin star or a major review, say some owners—and inherently imperfect.