Michelin 2017


Three Stars

Benu, San Francisco

The French Laundry, Wine Country

Manresa, Peninsula

*Quince, San Francisco

The Restaurant at Meadowood, Wine Country

Saison, San Francisco

Two Stars

Acquerello, San Francisco

Atelier Crenn, San Francisco

Baumé, South Bay

Campton Place, San Francisco

Coi, San Francisco

Commis, Oakland

*Lazy Bear, San Francisco

One Star

*Adega, San Jose

Al’s Place, San Francisco

Aster, San Francisco

Auberge du Soleil, Wine Country

Aziza, San Francisco

Bouchon, Wine Country

Californios, San Francisco

Chez TJ, South Bay

Commonwealth, San Francisco

Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Wine Country

Gary Danko, San Francisco

*Hashiri, San Francisco

*Ju-ni, San Francisco

Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco

Kin Khao, San Francisco

La Toque, Wine Country

Lord Stanley, San Francisco

Luce, San Francisco

*Madera, Peninsula

Madrona Manor, Wine Country

Michael Mina, San Francisco

*Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco

*Mosu, San Francisco

Mourad, San Francisco

Nico, San Francisco

Octavia, San Francisco

Omakase, San Francisco

Plumed Horse, South Bay

*The Progress, San Francisco

Rasa, Peninsula

Solbar, Wine Country

Sons & Daughters, San Francisco

SPQR, San Francisco

Spruce, San Francisco

State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Sushi Yoshizumi, Peninsula

Terra, Wine Country

Terrapin Creek, Wine Country

The Village Pub, Peninsula

Wako, San Francisco

Wakuriya, Peninsula

Still the same dated focus on the dictatorial food-as-performance-art canapé endurance test.

Not one Italian restaurant where the food couldn’t pass for French.

Mister Jiu’s is the best Chinese restaurant in the area. Right.


Where I’ve been (not many of them) and what I think:

The French Laundry, Wine Country - Never going back … well, if someone else is footing the bill and invites me, I probably wouldn’t say no, but I wouldn’t have high expectations, either.

Acquerello, San Francisco - Excellent - first visit in July - wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Bouchon, Wine Country - I went once and was so put off by indifferent/poor service and food that was just adequate, I never wanted to return.

Commis, Oakland - Been maybe 5 or 6 times. Very good to outstanding.

Commonwealth, San Francisco - Great. 3 visits

Michael Mina, San Francisco - early days of the original - fantastic. I’ve been twice to the California St. location and have no desire to return. Well, subject to TFL standard.

Sons & Daughters, San Francisco (Never have been but I do miss their causal spot Sweet Woodruff)

The simple fact is that (1) price not an object, there aren’t many on the list that I’m eager to visit, and (2) price an object, the $1K for a dinner for 2 just isn’t going to happen.

That is hilarious.

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What Italian joints would you put on? La Ciccia, Perbacco?

Poor Crenn must be near suicidal after failing to get that third star, the only one of the major contenders to not have it, and yet so clearly gunning for it.

If SPQR gets a star, I don’t see any justification other than French chauvinism for snubbing Perbacco, La Ciccia, A16, Desco, and Corso.

Yeah, that is pretty weird honestly.

I somehow never noticed those places didn’t have stars till now. Though La Ciccia is a touch homier than most places Michelin awards stars to.

I don’t totally get Michelin anyway. I’m pretty shocked the Sir and Star doesn’t have a star based on my last meal there for example. But I also have no idea how Cala didn’t geta star…other than being too new I suppose.

Perhaps Desco and especially Corso are too “comfortable” in the service and especially Corso, decor department, to overcome the raters’ constipation. (I’ve never been to SPQR, so I can’t compare, but there’s no good reason that Perbacco doesn’t have a star when looking at the one-star-competition.)

A16 beats SPQR in service, decor, and every other regard except Frenchiness. It even has the same owner and sommelier.

Officially, stars are only about the food. Obviously that’s a lie in San Francisco.

Michelin is slowly diluting themselves every year, at least with their US ratings. They’re still hugely relevant for business, obviously, but they’ve become way too lax. I can’t tell if their ratings are supposed to be absolute or relative, but some restaurants which are rated as 3* and 2* in SF are aren’t at the same level of their analogues internationally.

  • Benu is extremely technical, but it doesn’t imbue me with any excitement or intrigue.
  • The French Laundry is certainly an institution and an early adopter of that style of restaurant, but if it’s 3*, it’s for the name and history, not for the food outright. I wish I went earlier, when the food was ostensibly better, or so I’ve heard.
  • David Kinch has a great legacy, but Manresa is a solid 2* in my opinion, consistently good but rarely amazing and recently I haven’t meshed with their menus. Their new CdC is very talented but unfortunately I think there’s more misses now.
  • only Saison and Meadowood are real 3* level, in my opinion. (I haven’t been to Quince recently; well actually I did return but I left because of a service snafu and probably won’t be back in a while).

Looking at the list, I’m surprised that Monsieur Benjamin doesn’t have 1* yet Lazy Bear has 2*. That tells me pretty clearly what Michelin is looking for.

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French Laundry? Bouchon? Wtf

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What do you think of this? Meadowood seems to be the worst of the bunch from this review and I cannot find a more recent or detailed look:


What do you think of Crenn having stars?

Also, do you like Californios?

Well, that’s his opinion to which, of course, he’s very entitled. No two meals are the same, and experiences and tastes may differ, but I seem to have the opposite opinion from him on some of the 3* Bay Area restaurants. I personally think that Meadowood is certainly NOT “the worst of the bunch.” In fact, I think that Meadowood is clearly deserving of its 3* rating. In addition, it is probably even underrated by some reviews. The menu is very smart, there’s a ton of finesse, and the kitchen often exhibits a masterful control of ingredients. The food has great clarity and to that end, is seemingly simple at times, so I can see how it can be lost on some diners. But “lacking conviction?” No. I probably just have a different palette or preferences than that blogger.

Value is somewhat subjective, so I don’t want to go into price discussions much. I’ve dined at the chef’s counter and at the regular dining room, and I really enjoyed both. We had a lobster & sunchoke dish in the dining room’s Autumn menu which literally left us speechless. I haven’t had that kind of dish elsewhere in the Bay Area except for Saison, which has delivered several of those moments.

I also strongly disagree with that blog’s opinion that the food at Saison “lacked some of the intensity of flavor” and that “the kitchen’s goal was to put on a performance rather than leave guests satiated.” That’s been pretty much the exact opposite of my experiences.

For me, Saison and The Restaurant at Meadowood are the two clearest 3* restaurants in the SF Bay Area. I went to all the 3* restaurants in the Bay Area in the past year or so; Saison multiple times (with the exception of Quince, which was a single visit a while back. I actually went to Quince about two months ago, but a service issue prevented me from eating there). For comparisons, I once went to Manresa and Saison on back to back nights, and another time Manresa and Meadowood back to back as well. For me personally, Saison and Meadowood are at the very top of the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked Manresa, just as much as I’ve liked Aubergine in Carmel (which technically has no Michelin stars right now, but it’s been operating at a solid 2* for some time now).

No problem with Atelier Crenn - it hasn’t really struck a chord with me, but I can see why it can be polarizing and why it appeals strongly to a lot of people. I went a while ago - I think late 2012 or sometime in 2013; I know they’re always evolving, so I’ll return eventually.

Yes, I quite like Californios; 1* is well deserved, a lot more than some of the other Bay Area 1* in my opinion.

Again, this is just all my own opinion.

Interesting to note since Saison is certainly the best meal I’ve had in SF, possibly anywhere.

Is the Willows Inn similar to Saison?

Have you been to Single Thread? Curious if it’s as great as everyone is saying.

Do you think Californios has room to grow? Personally, it’s my second favorite place to eat in SF, they just seem to hit all the right flavor notes for me.

Yes, the food at Saison is exquisite. What ingredient combinations and pure, deep, harmonious flavors. The texture and temperature contrast of the uni “liquid toast.” Beet dehydrated over the fire then reconstituted with roasted bone marrow, topped with pickled rose petal and flavors of peach? That smoked caviar service (the kelp gelee with coastal herbs or corn custard with tomato gelee were my favorite). The aged duck (or beef with heartbreads) with Saison’s steak sauce, toasted shiso and/or cherry blossom leaf…duck liver toffee with bread, milk beer…smoked buttermilk ice cream with caramel…the fraises du boises and Essencia. I could go on and on.

I have not been to Willow’s Inn yet. They may be kindred in spirit; but I kind of think that Willow’s Inn is probably a bit different in that it seems committed to being “of Lummi island” in the way that Aubergine is “of the Carmel coast.” For example, I have a hard time seeing a dish like Saison’s king crab Sumatran curry with yogurt and kaffir lime sauce or the duck liver toffee at Willow’s Inn. But I’m just going by pictures; I don’t really read reviews or blogs. Willow’s Inn is definitely one of my destinations, right up with Single Thread in Healdsburg and Smyth in Chicago.

As far as Single Thread, I hope to go soon. It’s a matter of making it a weekend trip with hotel and all. That Ninebark in Napa closed is disappointing; it would’ve rounded out a nice weekend, so at the moment I’m waiting for The Charter Oak to open to make it a nice 2 days.

Yes, I think that Californios has room to grow, but at the moment, it is a also one of my favorite places in SF. The flavors are very well thought out and on point. Some of my favorite dishes: their ceviches or aguachiles; sea bass with sauce of sorrel and charred green grapes; abalone in roasted tomatillo broth with chayote and castelveltrano olive; binchotan grilled spring lamb loin with 3 chili yogurt mole and house made green onion sourdough; “swagyu” barbacoa with pineapple; wagyu carne asada; the progression to dessert is always a great flow - overripe banana ice cream working perfectly with foie and Tokaji, etc. Its very smart, and the table is set for it to continue evolving into a great restaurant - and they are evolving. As it is, though, it is one of the most exciting places in SF (perhaps because I think that high-end Mexican food is underrated), especially for the relative price point and because it’s fun. Off the top of my head, I’d like to see greater consistency of the first few bites, and perhaps for them to up the ingredient quality at times (the “Yerba Buena Fruit Cup” goat cheese salad comes to mind…a “barbecue” quail of sorts with a mole of spiced housemade chocolate and sour cherry had a great sauce but was not a great cut of meat…the wines are well paired but pretty inexpensive, they are efficient in their pairing options to keep the cost down relatively). With that said, if they up the price too much it starts getting into another quadrant, and I’m happy to return as they continue to do what they’ve been doing.

I’ve never had someone else mirror my opinions on places so closely. I’ve been to every iteration of Californios menu and every time they charge more it really shows to me, to the point where I get excited about their next price increase.

I will have to rethink Meadowood probably.

I wonder what your other favorite spots in SF or LA are?