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Announcing The Michelin Guide Ratings to San Francisco

There's a new restaurant ratings authority in San Francisco as of this morning. Today marks the release of the Michelin Guide to San Francisco Hotels and Restaurants. While I'm mildly curious to see which hotels rated tops in this guide, the information that everyone cares about is the restaurant ratings which are bound to ruffle feathers, explode egos, and surprise many.

Like the release of the New York guide, the ratings for San Francisco are a mix of predictability and utter befuddlement (it should be noted that my own predictions were wildly over-generous).

Actually, the San Francisco ratings are a bit more understandable at the two-star level than in New York, but in similar fashion to that guide, the one-star restaurants are all over the map, especially when it comes to service.

But first, the Michelin Star Ratings for the San Francisco Bay Area:


The French Laundry (Yountville)


Cyrus (Healdsburg)
Manresa (Los Gatos)
Michael Mina


Auberge du Soleil (St. Helena)
Bistro Jeanty (Yountville)
Bouchon (Yountville)
Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
Chez TJ (Mountain View)
Dry Creek Kitchen (Healdsburg)
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant (Forestville)
Fifth Floor
Fleur de Lys
Gary Danko
K & L Bistro (Sebastopol)
La Folie
La Toque (Rutherford)
Ritz-Carlton Dining Room
Sushi-Ran (Sausalito)
Terra (St. Helena)

So there you have it. What some people will definitely claim is the new authority on dining in the Bay Area. Certainly no surprise that The French Laundry is on top, and if it was going to be the only restaurant with three stars, then most of the two-star restaurants make sense. It's been about three years since I've been to Aqua, and while it's definitely great, I must say that it's the restaurant that sticks out as perhaps not up to par with the others in the category. And likewise from a food perspective, Manresa stands out as head and shoulders above the other two-stars.

It's those pesky one-star ratings that make this guide so annoying. It's pretty hard to see a restaurant like Gary Danko or Rubicon rated the same as Range. Don't get me wrong, I love Range, but it is not anywhere in the same league as Rubicon. And it is not trying to be.

Leaving aside the aspirations of the food for a moment, I understand the ratings (perhaps incorrectly) to place a healthy emphasis on service. If that is so, then how can a place that has phenomenal white tablecloth service get the same rating as someplace where you have to flag down your busy server when you want a refill of your water glass. Again, no one should take this as a knock on Range (or any of the other bistro-style restaurants on the list) but we're talking oranges and apples, here.

In any case, it's probably also worth pointing out some notable absences from the list. Looking at this one-star list it certainly seems odd not to see Piperade, Jardiniere, or Campton Place there on the list, and I'm sure someone could make a case for Incanto, The Slanted Door, Zuni, A16, or Delfina as well.

Probably too late for the publication of the guide were the recent launches of restaurants like Ame, Scott Howard, and Coi, which will have to wait until the next version to play in the Michelin star game.

So the Bay Area can let out its collective breath, and I can book a reservation at Bushi-Tei, which is the only restaurant on the list that I've never heard of.

Read the full story. The guides will be in stores on Wednesday.

Comments (16)

Bertrand wrote:
10.02.06 at 2:25 PM

What about Taylor's Automatic Refresher ? Who are these Michelin people to snob it ?........:)

Jack wrote:
10.02.06 at 7:44 PM

Sorry, Bertrand, but I don't think Taylor's deserves a star and I been there a LOT of times.

Wow - K & L Bistro - the equal of Gary Danko!

I have to rank Manresa best for food - above the French Laundry. I also think that Hana in Rohnert Park is superior to Sushi Ran. And that Farallon deserves the star that Dry Creek Kitchen got (which sets a standard for abysmal service).

GregP wrote:
10.02.06 at 9:47 PM

As much as I love K&L Bistro, there is absolutely no way it is in the same league as Gary Danko. Nor are they thinking they are, IMO. Great food, of course, but again, not in the realm of Gary Danko.

And one of the best meals I had in recent times was at Campton Place, but I see that it didn't even rate? And where is Jardiniere? Va de Vi?

For all the hoopla about Michael Mina, I had better food and service at Gary Danko. The food did not arrive in combos of 3, but was better nonetheless.

Will have to head over to Manressa, you guys really have me interested by now.


GollyG wrote:
10.03.06 at 1:24 PM

I'd always much rather take a recommendation from a friend than a guide - a Michelin star isn't so different from a Parker 95+ - OK if you share the same taste as the writer.

Jean-Louis wrote:
10.03.06 at 1:39 PM

Well, yes, Jardiniere is MIA and so is Farallon. You are right that the one stars are a mixed bag but that is the nature of the beast: worthy but not quite a two stars. THIS IS THE WAY MICHELIN DESCRIBES ITS RATINGS: Three stars "vaut the voyage" (worth a special trip)and the food is "remarquable"; Two Stars "merite un detour"(worth a detour) and the food is "excellente" and One Stars are "une tres bonne table dans sa categorie", i.e. a very good place in its class. So you can have a solid bistro type place like Jeanty and a white tablecloth superior restaurant like Gary Danko with the same grade. But Michelin will have other earmarks to tell them apart--the fork and sppon symbols, some red, some black, and from one to five. You will be pleased to know that they have a special sign for great wine lists as well. My take now: no table in our fair area is worthy of three stars, not the FL, no one. Maybe two stars, where they would be matched by Quince, Mina, Redd's and certainly Cyrus. A16 fully deserves one star if Bistro Jeanty is there. And La Folie with one star? Forget it!

Elizabeth wrote:
10.03.06 at 1:45 PM

Actually Taylor's is a favorite. Acqua should not be on anyone's list -- gritty salmon is not edible. My cat is eating venison and peas lately for an allergy and swears that IVD is the best in canned and dry, but what does he know?

Jean-Louis wrote:
10.03.06 at 1:47 PM

Ooops. That was spoons, not sppon... And the symbol for good wine list is a red grape, if they follow the French guide tradition. The French guide has also Bib Gourmands (Bib the tire mascot) signs to show promising restaurants that MIGHT get a star next year. But these are VERY controversial.

I would also put Ame in the two stars class, as well as Terra. I have not been to the Ritz Carlton in a while, or Masa's.

Alder wrote:
10.03.06 at 2:09 PM

Maybe the Michelin inspectors just couldn't get a reservation at A16 or Delfina ?


Jean-Louis wrote:
10.03.06 at 10:02 PM

More On Michelin Stars: Food Vs. Style

Expanding on my forks and spoons earlier comments, I looked up the 2006 Michelin Guide for Paris. Issue 1: Can you get three stars and not have plush surroundings, high level of service etc. Answer: definitely not. ALL the three stars in Paris (nine in all) have at least four "forks and spoons" (maximum is five), and four of those have the maximum: five f&s in RED. Looking at the two stars (16 in all), they have at least 3 f&s, and nine of them have at least four. Interestingly, l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon that pioneered the "eat at the counter, watch the cooks" look in France has one star and the lowest f&s rating (just one) of all the starred restaurants in Paris; so Michelin inspectors do not like counter seating-yet. And there is a prima facie correlation between stars and something other than food.
Issue 2: If you have stars, do you need a deep wine cellar? I thought so, until I came upon L'Ambroisie, a noted three stars: it has no "red grape cluster" symbol. So you can be at the top of the heap and not have a huge wine list. Then, again, everything may be relative.

Geoff Smith wrote:
10.04.06 at 11:38 AM

Shocked, absolutely shocked that Vik's Chaat Corner didn't rate at least one star.

chuck wrote:
10.04.06 at 5:52 PM

i actually think the SF list better than the NY list. NY's 1 star list was random; SF's makes a little more sense.

FL as the lone 3*** makes perfect sense.

IMO, Manresa should be the lone 2** of the Bay Area. It deserves 3*** but it's too casual for the 3*** standard (not that I'd want Manresa to change a thing!) I haven't been to Ame, but Redd, Cyrus, and a few of the other popular places these days are way over-hyped.

Good to see Gary Danko @ 1* - that's what it is. Sushi Ran certainly doesn't deserve a star; 2 lunches @ Rubicon recently have been horrendous.

And no way in hell Slanted Door deserves a star - that place is all about moving covers.

Jonathan wrote:
10.04.06 at 9:54 PM

I have watched with some interest the frenzy over the Michelin Guide selections and can't help but see the parallels between Michelins lack of "getting it" and the demise of old-school wine print media. Much like the threads which have spoken to the impending demise of Parker and Spectator as new, more "connected" local wine-centric bloggers (tablehopper, cooking with amy, even Alder!) take over the space these print stalwarts used to own, I see the Michelin Guide quickly losing its relevancy.

Why would I want a backward looking, old-world-based restaurant guide to help me find great dining experiences in the Bay area where Asian and Hispanics outnumber Caucasians and enliven the cuisine scene to no end?

Why would I want to read Michelin when I have the wholly transparent world of enlightened local food bloggers to draw upon?

For me, having lived in France and eaten (well) across the USA and elsewhere (I'm ITB), I've been to more than my share of "fancy" restaurants and quite honestly, I easily prefer a more eclectic, ethnic cuisine and simple but professional restaurant setting than those (often) stodgy and widely expensive places espoused in Monsier Michelin latest guide.

Adieu Monsieur Pneu! Or maybe I should say "Adios!"

Neil Monnens wrote:
10.09.06 at 1:49 PM

Gary Danko should be 2 stars.

Neil Monnens wrote:
10.09.06 at 1:53 PM

Oh... and I forgot to mention my favorite sushi restaurant: Zushi Puzzle. Ambiance is a little on the low side but the fresh and creative sushi makes up for any shortcomings in ambiance.

Lance Hardpack wrote:
11.19.06 at 8:58 PM

It was known that the French Laundry would pull all 3 stars as Per Se is identical in style. I keep seeing mention of Cyrus as either unknown or unworthy to be 2 stars. For shame. Cyrus makes MOST of those restaurants look foolish, Gary Danko included. If you have not been you are only hurting yourself.

abuy wrote:
08.25.07 at 1:25 AM

it was very nice to go through this blog. usually we cant find that much informative blogs like this. thanks.

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