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The best restaurants in California, according to Michelin

The Michelin Guide picked 89 restaurants in the sunshine state this year

California is emerging as a hotspot for premium dining. (Photo: Max Griss, Unsplash)

By Bloomberg

LAST PUBLISHED 06.12.2022  |  01:38 PM IST

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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.

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Three stars is the highest ranking given out by the international guide. The price of a three-star tasting menu now averages around $350 ( 28,777 approx).

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 or 24,509 aaprox, 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. 

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.

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“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 ( 24288 approx) 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. 

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. 

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 ( 4,029). (In 2021, the figure was $40 or 3,289 approx). 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."

Also read | The chefs with the perfect recipe to win Michelin stars

Here are California’s Michelin winners. Regional designations are Michelin’s. An asterisk denotes a new entry.

Three Stars
Addison, San Diego
*Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Benu, San Francisco
The French Laundry, Yountville
Manresa, Los Gatos
Quince, San Francisco
Single Thread, Healdsburg

Two Stars
Acquerello, San Francisco
Birdsong, San Francisco
Californios, San Francisco
Commis, Oakland
Harbor House, Wine Country
Hayato, Los Angeles
Lazy Bear, San Francisco
Mélisse, Los Angeles
N/naka, Los Angeles
Providence, Los Angeles
Saison, San Francisco
Sushi Ginza Onodera, Los Angeles

One Star
715, Los Angeles
*Adega, South Bay
Angler SF, San Francisco
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
Aubergine, Monterey
Avery, San Francisco
Barndiva, Wine Country
Bell’s, Central Coast
Camphor, Los Angeles
*Caruso’s, Montecito
*Chez TJ, Mountain View
*Citrin, Los Angeles
*Cyrus, Geyserville
*Gary Danko, San Francisco 
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Los Angeles
Gwen, Los Angeles
*Hana Re, Orange County
Hatchet Hall, Los Angeles
*Jeune et Jolie, San Diego
Kali, Los Angeles
Kato, Los Angeles
Kenzo, Wine Country 
Kin Khao, San Francisco
The Kitchen, Sacramento
Knife Pleat, Orange County
Le Comptoir at Bar Crenn, San Francisco
Localis, Sacramento
*Madcap, Marin
Manzke, Los Angeles
*Marlena, San Francisco
Maude, Los Angeles
Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
Morihiro, Los Angeles
Niku Steakhouse, San Francisco
Nisei, San Francisco
*Nozawa Bar, Los Angeles
O’ by Claude le Tohic, San Francisco
Omakase, San Francisco
Orsa & Winston, Los Angeles
Osito, San Francisco
*Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles
Pasta | Bar, Los Angeles
Phenakite, Los AngelesPlumed Horse, Saratoga

Press, St. Helena
*The Progress, San Francisco
Protégé, Palo Alto
Q Sushi, Los Angeles
The Restaurant at Justin, Paso Robles
*San Ho Won, San Francisco
*Selby’s, South Bay
Shibumi, Los Angeles
Shin Sushi, Los Angeles
The Shota, San Francisco
Six Test Kitchen, Central Coast
Soichi, San Diego
Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
Sorrel, San Francisco
Spruce, San Francisco
Ssal, San Francisco
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Sushi by Scratch Restaurants: Montecito, Santa Barbara
Sushi l-Naba, Los Angeles
Sushi Kaneyoshi, Los Angeles
*Sushi Shin, Peninsula
Sushi Takodoro, San Diego
Sushi Yoshizumi, Peninsula
Taco Maria, Orange County
The Village Pub, Peninsula
Wakuriya, Peninsula