After a long year of traveling and eating, roving critic Bill Addison’s National Essential 38 has arrived for 2017. It’s the fourth annual list, which is created by extensive research and constant eating throughout the course of the year, with multiple visits to the Bay Area, of course.
Last year, San Francisco ruled the list with four restaurants representing its thriving culinary scene year, beating out NYC for the most on the list. This year, SF drops down to three, though those interested in making comparisons can still note that the City By the Bay now has more three-Michelin-starred restaurants than the Big Apple.
New to the list this year are Cala and Mister Jiu’s, while Benu, which Addison describes as having “mind-blowing precision and revelatory flavors,” remains on for the fourth year in a row. Dropping off are Saison, Liholiho Yacht Club, and Zuni Cafe, all of which continue to produce excellent dishes in an extremely competitive dining scene. Here’s a quick look at each restaurant that made the list, and why they were chosen from Addison himself:
San Francisco is one of the most anguishing cities for what to include and not include. It’s why more SF restaurants turn over every year than in plenty of other towns. (The same goes for Los Angeles, by the way.)
Mister Jiu’s wowed me this year with its navigation of tradition and innovation in Cantonese cooking. I admire Brandon Jiu’s willingness to evolve his menu to from banquet-style to a la carte: Everything clicked into place then.
The flavors of California and Mexico, already inherently entwined, meld into a singular expression of place in the hands of Gabriela Cámara at her San Francisco outpost, Cala.
Benu has been a part of this guide each of its four years; to me, it is honestly neck and neck with Blue Hill Stone Barns as the best tasting menu restaurant in America. Every meal I’m astounded by the mind-boggling technique and the concentration of flavors and textures — and by Yoon Ha’s exquisite pairings with Corey Lee’s peerless cuisine.