Northern California now ranks with New York as the country’s top destination for high-end gastronomy, Michelin’s famously anonymous inspectors have declared. The Red Guide, which today unveiled its 2017 selections for the greater San Francisco Bay Area, elevated Quince, Lindsay and Michael Tusk’s expensive Cali-Italian tasting menu spot, to Michelin’s highest ranking of three stars, an honor held by just over a hundred restaurants worldwide.
The promotion of Quince means that the Bay Area now has six three Michelin-starred restaurants, the same number as New York. Chicago, by contrast, has two, and Washington DC has none. Male head chefs run the kitchens at all the of the country’s three-starred spots, a gender divide that will, especially for proponents of Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn, continue to cast a shadow over the guide’s selections.
Three stars, in Michelin parlance, means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” The other Bay Area restaurants maintaining that accolade are Saison, Benu, Meadowood, Manresa, and The French Laundry.
Two stars by contrast, indicates “exceptional cuisine, worth a detour.” San Francisco’s Lazy Bear, which sells ticketed tastings for an aggressively communal tasting affair, was the only new entrant to that category. All the other restaurants in that category, Acquerello, Atelier Crenn, Baumé, Campton Place, Coi, and Commis, maintained that honor.
One star signifies “a very good restaurant in its category.” Among this year’s entrants to that category were San Francisco’s Hashiri, Mister Jiu’s, Ju-Ni, The Progress, and Mosu, Menlo Park’s Madera, and San Jose’s Adega.
Here are some further observations about this year's selections, followed by the full list.
- U.S. Michelin Still Has No Three Star Female Chefs: Dominique Crenn, long a favorite to become the first U.S. female chef to earn a third Michelin-star, and one of the rare female practitioners of modernist cooking, saw her Atelier Crenn remain at two stars for yet another year. Naysayers will wonder precisely why Michelin chose to honor yet another fancy continental spot – Quince – over Crenn, one of the country’s most highly regarded bastions of avant-garde cookery.
- The Unanimity Rule and Atelier Crenn: “For us to award three stars, we have numerous different meals from numerous different inspectors from different parts of the world. It has to be unanimous,” Ellis told Eater. “All of the inspectors have to say yes, this is a three star experience. And we just didn’t hit that bar this year. But Atelier Crenn continues to produce some of the most innovating and exciting food in the country today.”
- No Star for In Situ? Critics like Eater’s Bill Addison and Pete Wells of the New York Times raved over Corey Lee’s In Situ, which mimics dishes from master chefs throughout the world, including Michel Guerard, Massimo Bottura, and Wylie Dufresne. “We were impressed with what we found....but my understanding is that we didn’t get to go there enough,” Ellis said, suggesting the newness of the restaurant could have been a factor in not awarding a star (it opened it June).
- Michelin’s Travel and Dining Budget: When Eater mentioned, as part of the discussion on In Situ, that Michelin has overlooked restaurants in the past, Ellis said that, “We have certainly stretched our assets,” with new city guides for Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore, and Washington launching this year. “We’ve been hiring at a brisk clip but like any organization we don’t have unlimited resources. Some places will slip through the cracks. We can’t have all the meals that we’d like to, although we do have most of them.”
- Other Snubs: Lee’s Monsieur Benjamin, Dominique’s Petit Crenn, and Rich Table also were left out of the starred ranks for yet another year.
- The Price of Three Stars: The newly-elevated Quince is the cheapest member of the three star club in San Francisco, but of course it’s not quite cheap; the full tasting runs just $283 per person after tax and tip (there’s even a more affordable option offered during weeknights). Dinner at Manresa, by contrast, costs at $303. The French Laundry starts at $337, and Meadowood, $359. And the tasting menu at Saison by Joshua Skenes, will cost $513 before wine.
- On Dining at Quince: Of the Bay Area’s high-rolling tasting menu spots, Quince felt “the most approachable,” Eater’s Bill Addison opined last year. “Tusk can startle with the occasional wild idea — dinner began with caviar with a fascinating combination of avocado, shaved wasabi, and lime — but the mooring of Italian cooking makes the restaurant feel recognizable and trustworthy,” Addison wrote.
- The Expensive Japanese Club: On the subject of pricey restaurants, Hashiri, San Francisco’s most expensive new restaurant, was awarded a star. The SoMa spot charges anywhere from $300-$500 service-included, for an omakase service at the bar. Mosu, an Asian-influenced kaiseki spot that opened in February, also earned a star for its long tasting, which runs $250 after tax and tip; Michelin inspectors were impressed with chef Sung Anh’s ability to create signature dishes, and insert his point of view.
- The Rare Affordable Sushi Spot: For those seeking a slightly more accessible Japanese experience, the young jū-ni, which opened in February, nabbed a star with its $85 sushi-only menu. Kusakabe, another affordable sushi spot ($95) that joined the list two years ago, dropped off in 2017 as a result of “consistency” issues.
- First Timers Club: Brandon Jew’s Chinatown restaurant, Mister Jiu’s, leapt onto the list with one star for 2017 with less than a year under its belt. Michelin has no rule that precludes a sub-one year restaurant from making the cut, though it is rare. Jew’s pedigree and fresh take on Chinese cuisine gave Michelin confidence that an early star would propel, rather than stabilize, the quality of his food.
- San Jose Now Has a Michelin Star: Jessica Carriera and David Costa’s Adega has become the second Portuguese restaurant in the states with a Michelin star (Aldea in New York is the other), and the only San Jose restaurant with a star.
- The Oakland Outlier: Commis, James Syhabout’s acclaimed tasting menu spot, remains the only East Bay spot honored with the guide’s signature accolade. It has two stars.
- The Total Star Count: San Francisco now has 54 Michelin stars total. New York has 75. Chicago has 22, and the newly launched Washington, DC guide has 12.
The French Laundry
Auberge du Soleil
Famhouse Inn & Restaurant
Keiko à Nob Hill
Sons & Daughters
State Bird Provisions
The Village Pub