(Bloomberg) -- California’s economy is expanding, and so are the number of restaurants on the highest end of the spectrum.
As the state stands ready to become the world’s fourth-largest economy, overtaking Germany, and rich residents get richer, dining rooms are following suit. The Michelin Guide, which announced selections at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, awarded three stars to Addison in San Diego. Seven area restaurants now hold that designation of “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” New York has only five with three stars, a list that has not changed in five years.
Three stars is the highest ranking given out by the international guide. The price of a three-star tasting menu now averages around $350.
At Addison, chef William Bradley highlights California ingredients with global influences. He’s made a point of moving away from the meat that has traditionally dominated fancy menus toward vegetables and seafood. His tasting menu (at $298, a relative bargain on the three-star scale) is stocked with such dishes as shellfish chawanmushi (the delicate Japanese custard, dressed with plump uni and glazed broccoli) and kampachi with pickled pear.
“Addison really impressed us that each year it was getting better and better and better,” says Michelin’s chief inspector, speaking anonymously because of his position, during a phone interview. “Over several meals this year, which involve not just the US local inspection team but a global team, it was unanimous—as all the award decisions are—that this was a restaurant indicative of three stars, or the highest level of the global rating.”
Addison is the first restaurant in Southern California to receive three stars. The other six places at the top end of Michelin’s spectrum are located in Northern California, which has traditionally had a lock on those awards. That includes destination such places as San Francisco’s Atelier Crenn, from the indomitable French cook Dominique Crenn, and the remarkable SingleThread in Healdsburg, where Kyle and Katina Connaughton highlight produce from their farm. (Next year, the three-star list is guaranteed to change: Manresa, which has had three stars since 2016, is scheduled to close at the end of this month.)
The 2022 Michelin guide features 89 starred restaurants in California. The total number is little changed from last year’s list, which cited 90 dining rooms with stars. The ceremony took place at the Petersen Automotive Museum, in a space bathed in red light and packed with supercars from the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bugatti.
This year’s list has three fewer two-star (“excellent cuisine, worth a detour”) spots than the 2021 version—a relatively significant drop, especially when the state’s economy is growing. That includes two notable San Francisco restaurants: Campton Place lost its notable chef Srijith Gopinathan, who is focusing on more casual concepts; and Daniel Patterson’s Coi wasn’t able to reopen after the Covid-19 pandemic. Also missing is the lauded modernist spot Vespertine in Los Angeles, currently taking reservations only for private events, according to its website.
“It had been temporarily closed since the pandemic, which at this point we've been unable to get there, so it was treated more as a closure than a demotion,” the chief inspector says of Coi.
The number of new places with one star also diminished this year, with 18 spots fitting Michelin’s definition of “a very good restaurant in its category,” compared to 22 new ones last year. Eight of those spots are in Los Angeles, including Gwen, the hybrid butcher shop-dining room from star chef Curtis Stone, and Kato, where Jonathan Yao offers Taiwanese-accented dishes. San Francisco has seven new one star spots, including Ssal, a Korean tasting-menu restaurant with a singular membership plan by which people who become members acquire house accounts for $300 every three months, among other features.
The Restaurant at Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, in Central California, also garnered a star for chef Rachel Haggstrom’s tasting menu that highlights local ingredients. “I hope it inspires people to take more interest in seasonality and what’s coming from the ground in the moment,” says the chef. “Hopefully it improves everything that we are eating on a daily basis, not just at Michelin star restaurants."
Since the inaugural California list in 2019, the balance of restaurant power has continued to shift south, although at a more modest pace than it did last year, when 13 San Francisco spots fell off the one-star list compared to Los Angeles, which gained both two-star and one-star places. This year, Los Angeles has nine new starred places; the Bay Area gained seven.
“More than ever, California is moving forward as a culinary [force],” says Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides. “This year’s list says a lot about the evolution of the overall quality of the food scene in California.”
Among this year’s Michelin losers were restaurants that had been seen as the new guard of California cuisine. That includes the Italian-Cali spot SPQR in San Francisco and Rustic Canyon in LA. Other stalwarts that are no longer starred spots are the Wolfgang Puck CUT steakhouse in Los Angeles and the beloved Moroccan spot Mourad in San Francisco.
As usual, Michelin didn’t go out of its way to recognize women. Only one new spot, the Restaurant at Justin Vineyards & Winery, has a woman at the head of the kitchen. Two other restaurants on this year’s list, Manzke in LA and Ssal, are run by husband-and-wife teams: Walter and Margarita Manzke and Hyunyoung and Junsoo Bae, respectively. The impact of a Michelin win helps elevate the broad range of cuisine in California, according to Junsoo: “There is such a wide range of territory and such a wide population the Michelin star can reach,” he says.
Offering Japanese cuisine continued to be a good way to get Michelin’s attention, with three new restaurants falling in that category. More interesting, the guide has started to recognize Korean cooking in a broader way. Along with Ssal, San Ho Wan, also in San Francisco, was recognized for its dishes; the place is co-owned by Corey Lee, who has three stars at Benu.
Michelin announced its California Bib Gourmands, the “cheap eats” department of the guide, on Nov. 29. In a sign of restaurant inflation, this year’s guide had 15 new spots among 141 in total. That might sound like a lot, but last year there were 45 additions. The criteria for Bib Gourmands is two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for less than $49. (In 2021, the figure was $40). This year’s new entries include an outpost of the celebrated Pizzeria Bianco and the breakfast-oriented All Day Baby in Los Angeles, and the Southeast Asian Good Good Culture Club in San Francisco.
All told, the Michelin selection for 2022 includes 56 distinct cuisine types, according to the chief inspector.
“When we launched the first West Coast Michelin Guide selection, which was San Francisco back in 2006, even back then we knew that California cuisine would be a very important factor,” the inspector says. “It was already its own distinct cuisine type, so we knew from the beginning that California cuisine was very important.”
Here are California’s Michelin winners. Regional designations are Michelin’s. An asterisk denotes a new entry.
Addison, San Diego*Atelier Crenn, San FranciscoBenu, San FranciscoThe French Laundry, YountvilleManresa, Los GatosQuince, San FranciscoSingle Thread, Healdsburg
Acquerello, San FranciscoBirdsong, San FranciscoCalifornios, San FranciscoCommis, OaklandHarbor House, Wine CountryHayato, Los AngelesLazy Bear, San FranciscoMélisse, Los AngelesN/naka, Los AngelesProvidence, Los AngelesSaison, San FranciscoSushi Ginza Onodera, Los Angeles
715, Los Angeles*Adega, South BayAngler SF, San FranciscoAuberge du Soleil, RutherfordAubergine, MontereyAvery, San FranciscoBarndiva, Wine CountryBell’s, Central CoastCamphor, Los Angeles*Caruso’s, Montecito*Chez TJ, Mountain ViewCitrin, Los Angeles*Cyrus, Geyserville*Gary Danko, San Francisco Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Los AngelesGwen, Los Angeles*Hana Re, Orange CountyHatchet Hall, Los Angeles*Jeune et Jolie, San DiegoKali, Los AngelesKato, Los AngelesKenzo, Wine Country Kin Khao, San FranciscoThe Kitchen, SacramentoKnife Pleat, Orange CountyLe Comptoir at Bar Crenn, San Francisco
Localis, Sacramento*Madcap, MarinManzke, Los Angeles*Marlena, San FranciscoMaude, Los AngelesMister Jiu’s, San FranciscoMorihiro, Los AngelesNiku Steakhouse, San FranciscoNisei, San Francisco*Nozawa Bar, Los AngelesO’ by Claude le Tohic, San FranciscoOmakase, San FranciscoOrsa & Winston, Los AngelesOsito, San Francisco*Osteria Mozza, Los AngelesPasta | Bar, Los AngelesPhenakite, Los AngelesPlumed Horse, Saratoga
Press, St. Helena*The Progress, San FranciscoProtégé, Palo AltoQ Sushi, Los AngelesThe Restaurant at Justin, Paso Robles*San Ho Won, San Francisco*Selby’s, South BayShibumi, Los AngelesShin Sushi, Los AngelesThe Shota, San FranciscoSix Test Kitchen, Central CoastSoichi, San DiegoSons & Daughters, San FranciscoSorrel, San FranciscoSpruce, San FranciscoSsal, San FranciscoState Bird Provisions, San FranciscoSushi by Scratch Restaurants: Montecito, Santa BarbaraSushi l-Naba, Los AngelesSushi Kaneyoshi, Los Angeles*Sushi Shin, PeninsulaSushi Takodoro, San DiegoSushi Yoshizumi, PeninsulaTaco Maria, Orange CountyThe Village Pub, PeninsulaWakuriya, Peninsula
(Updates with quotes from chefs throughout.)
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