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10.02.2006

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:

THREE STARS:

The French Laundry (Yountville)

TWO STARS:

Aqua
Cyrus (Healdsburg)
Manresa (Los Gatos)
Michael Mina

ONE STAR:

Acquerello
Auberge du Soleil (St. Helena)
Bistro Jeanty (Yountville)
Bouchon (Yountville)
Boulevard
Bushi-Tei
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)
Masa's
Quince
Range
Ritz-Carlton Dining Room
Rubicon
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.

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