THREE STARS….In Slate today, Mike Steinberger says it’s a scandal that the new Michelin guide for New York gave its highest rating of three stars to four different restaurants. The truth, he says, is that New York eateries just aren’t that good:

Having eaten in all three of Ducasse’s three-stars, for instance, I can say without hesitation that the New York branch is a weak imitation of his Paris and Monte Carlo restaurants ? the service is just as attentive, but the food is a clear step down, and I suspect that if Ducasse were plied with enough Krug, he might admit as much.

First things first: I’m not disagreeing with Steinberger here. I’m the last person in the world to have an opinion about high-end restaurant quality.

But his piece certainly arouses my curiosity. Why is Ducasse’s New York branch a clear step down? Why can’t the New York branch, run by the same guy and presumably making similar dishes, create food as tasty and satisfying to discriminating palates as the branches in Paris and Monte Carlo? Is it simply impossible to get ingredients as good? Is good kitchen staff impossible to find? Or what? I know that opening a branch of Ducasse isn’t like opening a branch of Mickey D’s, but Steinberger didn’t just think the New York outlet was a little worse, he thought it was flatly, unarguably, worse.

And it wasn’t just something specific to Ducasse, either. He thought all the three-star New York restaurants were undeserving.

What’s the scoop here? Why is it that even with lots of money and chefs who clearly know how to produce three-star food, American restaurants still can’t measure up to their French counterparts?