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Who Will Win (and Lose) a Michelin Star for 2019

Will this year be Dominique Crenn’s year?

Bob McClenahan

It’s been a somewhat low-key year in the Bay Area for fine-dining, with a few chef shuffles, openings, and erstwhile changes that might impact tomorrow’s Michelin guide announcements.

Last year was a big three-star year, bringing COI into the fold alongside Quince, Benu, Manresa, The French Laundry, Saison, and the Restaurant at Meadowood. That addition brought SF to a total of seven top-tier restaurants ahead of NYC’s five, a testament to this city’s fine-dining scene.

There’s plenty more speculation to be made over these restaurants and others, but below is a high-level look at how the Michelin constellation might look tomorrow. Here are some predictions for this year’s guide:

Three Star Candidates

Atelier Crenn: For the past few years Dominique Crenn’s two-Michelin-starred flagship has been under scrutiny by Michelin inspectors. Last year, Michelin Guide director Michael Ellis told Eater “We can’t invent what we find. It has to be based upon what our inspectors experienced,” and that “nothing would make us happier to award that third star…she’s an inspiration for a lot of chefs.” After a renovation of her dining room, and a strong year of cooking from Crenn, pastry chef Juan Contreras, and Crenn culinary director Jonny Black, this could be the year that Michelin and Crenn get their wish.

Single Thread: Last year it debuted on the guide with two stars, a major accomplishment and a big testament to Michelin inspectors admiration for chef Kyle Connaughton’s vision. With another year under its belt — and even more accolades — Single Thread is a strong candidate.

Two Star Candidates

COI: After last year’s surprising shuffle — in which the restaurant earned three stars under chef Matthew Kirkley followed by Kirkley’s departure to lead the USA’s Bocuse d’Or team — Michelin may take it down a notch. This often happens following a change in leadership as a restaurant finds its new legs under a new chef; in this case, chef Erik Anderson has implemented a very different —though still Michelin-worthy — menu than his predecessor, replacing delicate seafood dishes with more classic French preparations and game birds.

Saison: This one’s tricky. Following a change in direction, even a three-star place can drop its ranking. But, in this case, the chef now at the helm of Saison’s kitchen is Laurent Gras, a chef who’s helped earn three stars at three different restaurants over the years, including now-closed L2O in Chicago. Odds are split that it will keep or lose a star this year.

Mourad: Mourad Lahlou’s eponymous restaurant has continued to perfect his elegant style of Moroccan cuisine. This year, former Aziza chef de cuisine Louis Maldonado returned to SF to help Lahlou open a second restaurant Asmara, taking on the role of CDC at Mourad in the meantime. Could this year’s teamwork result in a bump to the next level for Mourad?

One Star Candidates

Aina: The modern Hawaiian restaurant in Dogpatch did not decline in quality this year, as far as Eater can tell. Thus, its disappearance from the Bib Gourmand list this year may instead be a sign that its continued dedication to heritage Hawaiian ingredients like poi, and inclusion of a chef’s counter tasting menu, may have leveled it up to one-star status.

Angler: The timing of Angler’s opening may have just disqualified it as a candidate for Michelin status for 2019. If, somehow it’s in the running, Joshua Skenes’s luxurious a la carte “sea-life” focused restaurant is a very, very strong contender to debut with one star, even after only a few months.

Bar Crenn: In addition to the possibility of adding a third star to her flagship, Dominique Crenn’s new salon, Bar Crenn, could join the one-star club. The price, atmosphere, wine list, and menu are all top-tier, making it ripe for Michelin recognition. Can someone call themselves a four-star chef? Asking for a friend.

Che Fico: The rustic Italian restaurant has had a big year already, with the accolades pouring in locally and nationally. However, will it earn a nod from the Michelin inspectors? Handmade pasta, pizza, and a newly debuted charcuterie tasting could be enough to push it into the Michelin-verse,

Eight Tables by George Chen: The richly appointed tasting-menu-only restaurant atop China Live was born with Michelin in mind. An expensive menu ($225 in the dining room, $325 at the chef’s table), hefty wine list, and unique dining experience that channels the “private chateau” dining of the Chinese elite are right up Michelin’s alley. If not one star, two could be a possibility, especially after the restaurant’s continuing evolution since it opened last fall.

Tomorrow’s guide will be announced tomorrow, November 29, so stay tuned for more analysis and reporting. In the meantime, check out last year’s guide, and this year’s Bib Gourmands for more context.

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