At a ceremony held high in the Oakland hills at the Chabot Space & Science Center on Tuesday night, the 2023 Michelin Guide California crowned a new cohort of top restaurants and chefs across the state. It was a fantastic night for the Bay Area and Northern California: Four restaurants from wine country down to the central coast earned their first, highly-coveted Michelin stars and three Northern California individuals took home special awards.
The list of newly minted Michelin-starred restaurants includes Thai restaurant Nari in San Francisco, chef Peter Hemsley’s seafood-centric Aphotic, Carmel-by-the-Sea fine dining restaurant Chez Noir, and Calistoga’s Auro. Chef Harrison Cheney of San Francisco’s Sons & Daughters received the Michelin Young Chef Award, which went to another San Francisco chef, David Yoshimura of Nisei, last year. Josh Schafer, director of operations at Healdsburg destination SingleThread, earned the Outstanding Service Award, while the Michelin Sommelier Award honored John Haffey of Carmel’s Aubergine.
Two Northern California restaurants also earned new Michelin Green Stars, which recognize restaurants that are “at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practice.” Apohtic, where Hemsley leverages direct relationships with local fishermen to spotlight local and less-common seafood on his multicourse tasting menu, earned one Green Star, as did Pomet, the farm-to-table Oakland restaurant backed by one of the owners of popular farm K&J Orchards.
Nari’s glittering new star means both of chef Pim Techamuanvivit’s San Francisco restaurants, the other being Union Square’s Kin Khao, both now hold one Michelin Star. It could be argued the achievement is overdue for Nari and chef de cuisine Meghan Clark since it’s the more upscale of Techamuanvivit’s two restaurants and would seem to be a more logical fit for the accolade. Aphotic’s stars, meanwhile, mark a high point for chef Hemsley and his new restaurant, which only opened in May after he ditched his previous concept Palette, and flipped the space into an inky black homage to foods pulled fresh from the sea.
There will likely be plenty of cheers across the San Francisco restaurant industry for co-owners Jonny and Monique Black, who picked up and moved down the coast to open their debut restaurant Chez Noir in Carmel-by-the-Sea after working at some of the city’s top restaurants including Atelier Crenn and Quince. Chez Noir opened in October 2022, just a few months before the December ceremony which saw the announcement of the 2022 Michelin Guide California — but the restaurant did not make it into the update at that time.
Chef Rogelio Garcia of Auro will also likely be familiar with the San Francisco restaurant community; prior to opening the Calistoga restaurant, which is located at the Four Seasons resort, he cooked at restaurants including Luce, Spruce, and the now-closed Commissary.
There were a few losses for Northern California restaurants, notably Spruce, which previously held one star but was not awarded any in this Guide update. Omakase, an upscale sushi restaurant, also lost its one star. Two restaurants that have closed since the 2022 ceremony or will be closing also dropped off the list: three-Michelin-starred Manresa closed at the end of the year, and San Jose’s Adega, which is closing later this year. Marlena, the Bernal Heights restaurant that recently lost both its chefs due to a conflict with the business owner, was also not included in the 2023 Guide.
But stepping back for a high-level view, Northern California continues to come out ahead when it comes to the prized tire awards. The region continues to retain the lion’s share — as in, five of six — of the state’s three-star restaurants including Atelier Crenn, Benu, the French Laundry, Quince, and SingleThread, as well as seven of the state’s dozen two-starred restaurants. For a region whose ego might still be stinging after being shut out of the 2023 James Beard Awards, it’s nice to finally have something to celebrate.
Visit the Michelin Guide website for the full list of starred restaurants.