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Michelin Says Saison and Benu Are Among World's Best Restaurants, Awarding Three Stars to Both!

Michelin elevates Saison and Benu to the Bay Area's ranks of three-starred restaurants, an honor shared by The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood.

Saison, San Francisco's most expensive restaurant, and Benu, famous for its faux shark's fin soup, are two of the world's best places to eat out. That's what Michelin, the European tire maker that publishes one of the world's most recognized dining guides, declared today, bestowing its highest accolades on the two Bay Area restaurants.

In the rarefied world of Michelin, worthy culinary establishments are awarded one star ("a very good restaurant in its category"), two stars ("excellent cuisine, worth a detour"), or in the case of Saison, Benu, and about a hundred other restaurants around the world, three stars ("exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey").

Acquerello was the only new entrant to the two-star category, and that upgrade makes chef Suzette Gresham America's third female chef with two Michelin stars; no woman in the U.S. holds three stars as of yet. The one-star list is identical to last year's, except for the addition of Kusakabe and Maruya, which now constitute San Francisco's first and only Michelin-starred starred sushi restaurants -- New York has seven.

Scroll down for the full list of starred venues. But first, here are twelve things you need to know about the winners and losers in the 2015 San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country Michelin guide.

1. Joshua Skenes' Saison, which now has three stars, up from two, is San Francisco's spendiest restaurant, as Eater has documented. The seafood-heavy tasting menu, which tips its hat to Japan, is $248, while an extended tasting is $398.

2. In a glowing review of Saison, Eater's Bill Addison wrote that his dinner there was "easily one of the most expensive and remarkable meals" of his life. He spent $864 on his dinner for one.

3. Benu, the other new entrant to the three-star category, is helmed by ex-French Laundry chef de cuisine Corey Lee. It offers a more affordable menu than Saison, at $195. Diners can expect a Korean and Chinese-influenced menu of 20 or so courses, with dishes like jellyfish-wrapped shrimp with caviar or thousand-year-old quail egg.

4. "For seasoned diners, I'd currently recommend Benu for a splurge over all the other blowout restaurants in the Bay Area," Bill Addison wrote in his 2014 review of the restaurant, praising Corey Lee's modernist efforts to approximate the "feathery elasticity" of shark's fin soup.

5. The San Francisco Bay Area now has four restaurants with three Michelin stars, compared with one in Chicago (Alinea) and six in New York.

6. Acquerello's Suzette Gresham is now America's third female chef to run a two-Michelin-starred restaurant. The other two are Atelier Crenn's Dominique Crenn and Aquavit's Emma Bengtsson. The smart money is on Crenn eventually becoming the first U.S. woman to earn a third star, though keep in mind that the French-born chef recently made a strong case against the "female-chef" label.

7. Manresa by David Kinch retained its two Michelin stars, even though it was devastated by a fire in early July. The restaurant might re-open by year's end.

8. Michael and Lindsay Tusk's Quince retains two stars after a "knockout renovation" that didn't arrive in time for this year's guide. Post-renovation, the price of its dinner menus rose to $190, up from $180 earlier this year, and $158 in September of 2013. Daniel Patterson's Coi also remained at two stars following an expensive renovation completed back in February. Will either snag a three-spot in the 2016 guide?

9. The only newcomers to the one-star category are Kusakabe, a sushi spot where dinner starts at $95, and Maruya, another sushi restaurant where meals run $85 and up. They are San Francisco's only Michelin-starred sushi restaurants. Also noteworthy is the fact that both opened within the past thirteen months. By comparison, not a single new raw-fish restaurant in New York, be it Nakazawa, Sushi Ko or Dojo, earned a Michelin star this year.

10. Related: Maruya's two chefs left the restaurant today. Cue the sad trombone.

11. April Bloomfield's Tosca Cafe, which opened last fall, is among the most significant omissions in the 2015 starred list. Bloomfield holds stars for The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in New York, but @MichelinGuideSF presaged her poor showing here by noting that "after several visits, [they're] not sure Bloomfield is showing her best" there.

12. Rich Table was also denied a star for yet another year, as was Chez Panisse by Alice Waters, which lost its star at the end of 2010 and has yet to recover it. "We didn't find the inspiration that we'd found in the past," Michelin director Michael Ellis told Eater during an interview this morning. Chez Panisse is the only one of Michael Bauer's Chronicle four-star restaurants to not hold at least one Michelin star; Saison joined the four-star group in July.

Here's the full list of the starred selections, with new entrants to each category indicated as such. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Three Stars

  • Benu (new)
  • The French Laundry
  • The Restaurant at Meadowood
  • Saison (new)

Two Stars

  • Acquerello (new)
  • Atelier Crenn
  • Baumé
  • Coi
  • Manresa
  • Quince

One Star

  • All Spice
  • Ame
  • Auberge du Soleil
  • Aziza
  • Bouchon
  • Boulevard
  • Campton Place
  • Chez TJ
  • Commis
  • Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
  • Gary Danko
  • Keiko à Nob Hill
  • Kusakabe (new)
  • La Folie
  • La Toque
  • Luce
  • Madera
  • Madrona Manor
  • Maruya (new)
  • Michael Mina
  • Plumed Horse
  • Solbar
  • Sons & Daughters
  • SPQR
  • Spruce
  • State Bird Provisions
  • Terra
  • Terrapin Creek
  • The Village Pub
  • Wakuriya

Video: What is the Michelin Guide?