HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Are you making a specialty food? Get great advice
TELL US

SF Michelin stars 2013

Robert Lauriston Oct 23, 2012 07:18 PM

http://www.michelintravel.com/micheli...

  1. sparkerly Nov 20, 2012 12:57 AM

    has anyone been to baume recently?

    1. Robert Lauriston Nov 10, 2012 05:03 PM

      Adam Sachs does a good job of summing up what's going on in SF that Michelin's missing:

      http://www.travelandleisure.com/artic...

      11 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        t
        Thomas Nash Nov 10, 2012 06:37 PM

        Great article. He nailed the places I know. So I am inclined to trust him on the new ones we haven't tried yet.

        1. re: Thomas Nash
          Robert Lauriston Nov 10, 2012 08:25 PM

          I'm only surprised he didn't make it to AQ. Maybe he couldn't get in!

          1. re: Thomas Nash
            t
            Thomas Nash Nov 11, 2012 10:49 PM

            Looks like one has to read this article very legalistically. We tried Abbot's Cellar based on its mention.

            Sadly the weird, post-puritanical characteristics of new SF restaurants that Adam Sachs describes only applies to the beer emphasis at Abbot's Cellar, not the food. No place better represents what Daniel Peterson meant by accusing San Francisco restaurants of shopping not cooking.

            The beer and ingredients are first class, but the kitchen brings no creativity, no interest to the rather boring, if perfectly cooked from a technical standpoint, plates. Technically fine salad, aged strip steak with French beans, pheasant, no sauces just simply cooked. Forgettable deserts. OK service.

            After Sachs raved about Bar Tartine and Wise Sons and Benu, and mentioned Namu Gaji, all of which are excellent, I had high hopes for the rest of his list...

          2. re: Robert Lauriston
            d
            Dustin_E Nov 12, 2012 02:34 PM

            >> The chicken-liver mousse with pole beans and dill, topped with a crumbly cracker of pain de mie, at Rich Table

            is a more casually presented version of "Salade Delice"

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernand_...

            also still sometimes served at joel robuchon's restaurants.

            anyway, this is just a random collection of casual mid-range places. not sure what it has to do with michelin.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              d
              dunstable Nov 13, 2012 07:42 AM

              If you're suggesting that the MIchelin is ignoring creativity-driven restaurants, that argument falls apart when you look at the MIchelin guide for other cities. Take a look at Chicago's, for instance:

              THREE STARS ***
              Alinea

              TWO STARS **
              Charlie Trotter's
              Ria

              ONE STAR *
              Blackbird
              Boka
              Bonsoiree
              Courtright's
              Everest
              Graham Elliot
              Longman & Eagle
              L2O
              Moto
              Naha
              Schwa
              Seasons
              Sepia
              Spiaggia
              Takashi
              Topolobampo
              Tru
              Vie

              That is a significant number of creativity-driven restaurants. In fact at a glance there appear to be more of that sort of thing than old school French places that Michelin traditionally favors. For that matter, it's not like Michelin is shorting SF on that score either -- in fact other people on this thread have suggested that the Michelin favors this sort of thing over typical California cooking.

              No, as the author of that article also pointed out, that says more about California's dining scene than anything else.

              1. re: dunstable
                Robert Lauriston Nov 13, 2012 08:31 AM

                Michelin shorts SF by giving stars to places that are more or less following modern trends imported from France and Spain while ignoring the main stream of local culinary evolution.

                In other words, come to this area and pick where to eat based on Michelin stars, and you may entirely miss what's really going on.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  d
                  dunstable Nov 13, 2012 08:45 AM

                  Again, it's not their job to encapsulate Bay Area cuisine with their ratings. If that's what you want, then no one is forcing you to buy their guidebook (people seem to forget this). They are attempting to present a selection of restaurants that meet a unified set of criteria under their brand. The hope is that a one-star in SF is more or less equivalent in quality to a one-star in Paris, or Singapore, or wherever else. If the end result "ignores the main stream of local culinary evolution," oh well. A person from Chicago could similarly argue that deep dish pizza and Italian meat sandwiches are wholly ignored by the star system, but that probably doesn't matter much to Michelin either.

                  And again, the Michelin Guide is not just about the stars. There are hundreds of restaurant recommendations in there, not just the few that get stars.

                  1. re: dunstable
                    Robert Lauriston Nov 13, 2012 08:53 AM

                    Just as with Michael Bauer, ignoring Michelin isn't sufficient to decrease their pernicious influence.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      d
                      dunstable Nov 13, 2012 09:05 AM

                      And again, does the SF dining scene truly evince this influence? These seem to be contradictory statements. You just claimed one post ago that Michelin is "ignoring the main stream of local culinary evolution." How pervasive can their influence be, if this is possible? If Michelin's influence is so great, then how will one "entirely miss what's really going on" by following their choices? Which is it?

                      1. re: dunstable
                        Robert Lauriston Nov 13, 2012 09:09 AM

                        Michelin is useful for finding the best French and French-influenced restaurants. Period.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          d
                          Dustin_E Nov 13, 2012 01:06 PM

                          >> Michelin shorts SF by giving stars to places that are more or less following modern trends imported from France and Spain while ignoring the main stream of local culinary evolution.

                          are you sure it isn't that the trendy new bay area restaurants are following modern trends imported from france and spain, and michelin inspectors are comparing bay area versions to the original, and simply saying they don't deserve a star?

                          >> Michelin is useful for finding the best French and French-influenced restaurants. Period.

                          it provides a starting point to comparing best-of-the-best high-end meals between cities and countries.

                          That way, visitors aren't always lead to mediocre, mid-range local favorites that don't compare particularly well to competition from other prominent dining cities.

            2. v
              vulber Oct 30, 2012 04:16 PM

              keep in mind michelin takes into account quality of ingredients - which is why the $1 dim sum place probably won't get a star. that being said, several of the starred restaurants have non-seasonal menus that stay static year-round, which should be penalized

              1. Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 11:17 AM

                "The star symbols judge only what's on the plate, meaning the quality of products, the mastering of flavors, mastering of cooking, personality of the cuisine, value for the money and the consistency of what the restaurant offers to its customers both throughout the menu and the year. One star indicates a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard."

                So per Michelin this area has no very good Afghan, Basque, Burmese, Cambodian, Cajun, Chinese, Ethiopian, Greek, traditional Italian, Korean, Mexican, traditional Moroccan, Persian, southern, Spanish, traditional steakhouse, tapas, Thai, Turkish, or Vietnamese restaurants.

                And only one each of our many Indian, Japanese, and Peruvian restaurants is very good.

                21 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  d
                  Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 11:32 AM

                  Which of these

                  "Afghan, Basque, Burmese, Cambodian, Cajun, Chinese, Ethiopian, Greek, traditional Italian, Korean, Mexican, traditional Moroccan, Persian, southern, Spanish, traditional steakhouse, tapas, Thai, Turkish, or Vietnamese"

                  places would you give stars to?

                  1. re: Dustin_E
                    unclefishbits Oct 26, 2012 11:39 AM

                    I would give Thanh Long *something*. Boring place, boring interior, stellar, unbelievable food.

                    1. re: unclefishbits
                      d
                      Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 11:44 AM

                      i mean, i love garlic noodles and a whole crab slathered in butter and spice as much as the next buy, but as dunstable mentioned earlier, a michelin star is a really, really high bar.

                      which restaurant would you knock off the list to replace with Thanh Long?

                      1. re: Dustin_E
                        Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 12:05 PM

                        They don't have any limit on the number of restaurants on the list. That's one thing they do right that Michael Bauer gets wrong.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    d
                    dunstable Oct 26, 2012 11:34 AM

                    I still don't understand why you have such a hard time with this. As I pointed out earlier, while we can all quibble with the selections, there is little arguing that Michelin is at least consistent with respect to itself. It seems pointless to complain about their star system on a macroscopic level -- the stars are not attempting to quantify pure flavor; rather they assess the "Michelin-ness" of the restaurant. If you don't like it, well, that's okay, you can buy some other guidebook then.

                    It should also be pointed out that in the Michelin guide itself, there are dozens of recommendations for ethnic food. It's not like they ignore ethnic food.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      drewskiSF Oct 26, 2012 03:03 PM

                      That's the Bib Gourmand section ;-)

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 03:25 PM

                        To put my disgust another way, according to Michelin, Paris has more very good Chinese restaurants than the Bay Area, and the same number of very good Japanese restaurants.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          d
                          Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 03:50 PM

                          have you tried them?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            d
                            dunstable Oct 26, 2012 03:50 PM

                            My brow is arched. I'm not going to claim to know the Parisian dining scene well, but are you saying this is definitely not the case?

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              c
                              calumin Oct 26, 2012 04:11 PM

                              You don't have to know the Parisian dining scene in detail to know that there are a lot more very good Chinese and Japanese restaurants in San Francisco than in Paris.

                              1. re: calumin
                                d
                                Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 06:35 PM

                                paris is bigger than sf and richer than sf.

                                i wouldn't be surprised if there were a couple michelin-worthy chinese and japanese places there that stand out from the mostly terrible places there.

                                the only michelin starred chinese place in the us is wing lei in the wynn casino in vegas. wing lei has really good really consistent americanized chinese food. beautiful dining room and great service (though michelin claims to only be judging food.)

                                is jai yun better? probably, but they are very different.

                                Masa and Urasawa are 3 and 2 michelin stars. SF definitely doesn't have anything of that caliber.

                                but michelin is only slightly above useless for non-western cuisines, anyway.

                                1. re: Dustin_E
                                  p
                                  PorkyBelly Oct 29, 2012 06:21 PM

                                  China Cafe, Hakkasan, and Lan Sheng in nyc each have a star.

                                  1. re: PorkyBelly
                                    d
                                    Dustin_E Oct 30, 2012 10:04 AM

                                    have you been to any of them? i'd be interested to hear how they compare to what we have in sf bay. thanks.

                                    1. re: Dustin_E
                                      c
                                      calumin Oct 30, 2012 11:33 AM

                                      i have been to hakkasan. the london version is better than the one in nyc.

                                      stylistically the restaurant is beautiful - nothing like what currently exists in sf. the food is creative but a lot of the dishes fall short. i think yank sing has much better dim sum than hakkasan. yank sing is also significantly cheaper than hakkasan (by a lot).

                                      there's supposed to be an SF branch of hakkasan coming soon.

                                      1. re: calumin
                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 30, 2012 11:41 AM

                                        Yeah, Hakkasan SF is supposed to open November 19, and the chef is shooting for two stars. Will that be the only luxurious Chinese restaurant in the area? I can't think of any others.

                                        http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?...

                                2. re: calumin
                                  d
                                  dunstable Oct 26, 2012 07:33 PM

                                  This strikes me as sort of an arrogant stance. I know zero about Parisian Japanese restaurants, but most of the Japanese expats I've met in SF do not think this city has excellent Japanese food, as a whole. This isn't to say that there aren't good Japanese restaurants in SF, but it's not like SF can lay claim to being a mecca of Japanese cuisine, even at the lower levels. At the very least it is well behind NY (I still don't understand why SF doesn't have a place like Yakitori Taisho, or why it took so long for SF to get any sort of izakaya at all); it wouldn't shock me if it were behind Paris too.

                                  1. re: dunstable
                                    Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 07:50 PM

                                    The guide covers the Bay Area. The very good Chinese and Japanese restaurants are mostly not in SF.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      d
                                      Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 08:43 PM

                                      koi palace is not michelin-worthy.
                                      yum's bistro is also probably not michelin-worthy.

                                      sawa could deserve a star, maybe.
                                      sushi sho is great, but probably doesn't deserve a star.

                                      this is comparing to starred places in other cities of the same cuisine type.

                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 27, 2012 10:09 AM

                                        "comparing to starred places in other cities of the same cuisine type"

                                        That's letting Michelin off the hook for their lying stated criteria and their bias against anything that's not French or French-influenced.

                                        And even then: are there really so many French / French-fusion / Cal-French places in the SF are that are as good as in France?

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          d
                                          Dustin_E Oct 27, 2012 01:36 PM

                                          how is michelin lying about their criteria? "very good" is apparently just a higher bar for them than for you.

                                          i don't understand why you think their ratings are so terrible? what places would you give stars to that they didn't? AQ and Jai Yun? Where else?

                                          Yes, i think there are a number of one-starred french-influenced places in sf that compare favorably with what you can get in france. at least if you accept that michelin lowers its bar in the US compared to France and Japan.

                                          Do you have a problem with them comparing what they find in SF to other cities? Why? In my experience, it is pretty reliable, all things considered.

                                    2. re: dunstable
                                      d
                                      Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 08:36 PM

                                      >> At the very least it is well behind NY

                                      la too.

                              2. Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 11:11 AM

                                "Michelin inspectors travel the world, so their basis of comparison is global ..."

                                Not the Michelin inspector profiled in the New Yorker. "'The vast majority of the time, we’re hiking around the Upper East Side, we’re eating at neighborhood restaurants, we’re hiking around Brooklyn.' Assigned specific areas of the city to cover, Maxime, who lives in Manhattan, spends weeks riding the subway out to the farthest reaches of Queens to make her way through a selection of Thai restaurants, eating two meals a day, every day, and she typically eats alone, since talking with a spouse or friend is frowned upon."

                                http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20...

                                1. Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 04:31 PM

                                  Has anyone been to Costanera recently? I went early last year, and it was obvious to me that they were shooting for a Michelin star, but I also thought the food was not as good as at Mochica and so they probably wouldn't get one.

                                  1. v
                                    vulber Oct 25, 2012 01:46 AM

                                    first, i think coi is phenomenal - have no problem with it getting two stars.

                                    new york also has quite a lot of a la carte 3-star restaurants. it's far from a secret in NYC, but jean-georges' 2-course lunch for $34 is hands-down the best fine dining steal you'll find anywhere in this country. that being said, i'm pretty sure the inspectors were not going during lunch - the best parts of the meal were not the two courses, but rather the two amuse-bouches - it's just too difficult to combine intense flavors and large portions together.

                                    that being said, a major difference between SF and las vegas/new york is lunch service.

                                    none of the two or three star restaurants in the bay area offer lunch service (other than the french laundry, which more offers it as an additional way to get a reservation, not because there's a demand for it; it's the same menu).

                                    while people in new york city may not have the time for an extended tasting menu lunch, they have no problem dropping $200-$300 on a lunch for two people; you just don't have that kind of disposable income here. several of the a la carte restaurants in nyc are tasting menu only for dinner.

                                    also, it frustrates me tremendously that delfina has no stars and la folie only has one.

                                    and most egregious, the slanted door continues to be a bib gourmand pick despite fulfilling none of the criteria.

                                    41 Replies
                                    1. re: vulber
                                      Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 08:47 AM

                                      Delfina is Cal-Italian without French influences, so no stars.

                                      Outside of San Mateo, if you're not serving French or French-influenced cuisine, no stars.

                                      La Folie does not have a tasting menu, only prix-fixe with a reasonable number of courses, so maximum one star.

                                      Whatever the standards elsewhere, those seem to be the rules here.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        c
                                        calumin Oct 25, 2012 09:17 AM

                                        There are few Michelin 3 star restaurants in Italy, but many of the ones that are could also be accused of having French influence.

                                        1. re: calumin
                                          Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 09:52 AM

                                          Yeah, even back when I lived in Italy in the 80s, almost all the high-end restaurants were more or less French. I think the only restaurant in Italy with three stars then was Gualtiero Marchesi, which was closer to French-Japanese fusion than Italian.

                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          d
                                          Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 10:10 AM

                                          None of these are "rules" -- it is just michelin judging what is on offer here. Overall, it is a not-bad assessment.

                                        3. re: vulber
                                          d
                                          Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 09:51 AM

                                          Delfina has no stars because the food isn't that good.

                                          One star for La Folie is being generous. The flavors aren't precise, and the cooking is sloppy.

                                          Just because a place is popular with locals does not mean a place deserves michelin stars. That kind of evaluation is what Zagat is for.

                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                            Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 10:09 AM

                                            "Delfina has no stars because the food isn't that good."

                                            You agree with Michelin that (using their definition of one star) the only "very good [Italian restaurants] offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard" are the ones with strong French influences?

                                            To me it's just blatant French prejudice. Why print the guide in English if you're that narrow-minded?

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              d
                                              Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 10:18 AM

                                              I just think that happens to be what the local market demands.

                                              Local market doesn't want to pay more than $20 for a traditional italian pasta dish.

                                              Local market doesn't want to pay more than $120 for a meal that isn't in a tasting menu format.

                                              That constrains what chefs can offer. There's no market for 2 or 3 star a la carte meals, so michelin doesn't find any here. There's no market for 1 star traditional italian, so michelin doesn't find any here. Ditto for asian cuisines.

                                              I think farina should have a star -- farina definitely doesn't have french influence.

                                              Michelin certainly has a bias toward french cuisine, but i don't think it is nearly that dominant.

                                              1. re: Dustin_E
                                                Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                Creative chefs who aren't locked into a Michelin mindset can do and are doing great things without having to charge elitist prices.

                                                AQ's barley dish is a perfect example. By using a flavorful grain as the main ingredient and seasoning it with luxury ingredients they not only put out a delicious dish for $13 but served healthier food that's more in line with modern preferences.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  v
                                                  vulber Oct 25, 2012 11:51 AM

                                                  i guess i should go for dinner. have only been for brunch and thought it was good, but would much prefer foreign cinema for that price range for brunch.

                                                  1. re: vulber
                                                    Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 12:43 PM

                                                    I had a great brunch at AQ (I guess I neglected to post about it), but the dishes weren't as original or impressive as most I've had at dinner. Which is maybe all for the best at brunch.

                                                    1. re: vulber
                                                      t
                                                      tjinsf Oct 25, 2012 06:24 PM

                                                      the dinner is much better than the brunch.

                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      d
                                                      Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 12:30 PM

                                                      these "creative" chefs are arranging commonplace ingredients so they look like pretty dishes from noma or michel bras, because they want to be able to charge $13 for 50 cents worth of grain and $12.50 worth of labor.

                                                      there is a market for this, but it isn't nearly as universal as you imply.

                                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 03:30 PM

                                                        "these 'creative' chefs are arranging commonplace ingredients so they look like pretty dishes ..."

                                                        You know what's commonplace? Foie gras, lobster, and truffles. I've seen those in literally hundreds of restaurants. Whole-grain barley I don't recall having seen before except in soup. If it tastes good, who cares if it's inexpensive?

                                                        What makes AQ great is not presentation (though they do that well) but flavor.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          p
                                                          pauliface Oct 25, 2012 03:40 PM

                                                          The best thing I had in NYC last week was a cookie from a bakery that has been in existence for 116 years.

                                                          1. re: pauliface
                                                            d
                                                            Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 09:44 AM

                                                            i liked the har gow and turnip cakes i had for < $1.00 in chinatown last weekend more than anything i had at a $60 meal at azizza a couple months ago. does that mean the chinese place deserves a star more than azizza?

                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                              Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 10:23 AM

                                                              If the Chinatown place is consistently better than Aziza, then based on Michelin's stated criteria (see below) it ought to be more deserving of a star, but per Michelin there are no "very good" Chinese restaurants in the area.

                                                              To turn it around, if for $60 Aziza can't give you even one dish that's more delicious than what you can get in Chinatown for $1, why do they deserve a star?

                                                              "The star symbols judge only what’s on the plate, meaning the quality of products, the mastering of flavors, mastering of cooking, personality of the cuisine, value for the money and the consistency of what the restaurant offers to its customers both throughout the menu and the year.

                                                              "One star indicates a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard."

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                d
                                                                Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 10:51 AM

                                                                chinatown place (think it was broadway dim sum cafe, but not sure) has value, and probably consistency.

                                                                but quality of products, the mastering of flavors, mastering of cooking, personality of the cuisine aren't particularly good.

                                                                still tastes good, but doesn't deserve a star.

                                                                michelin inspectors travel the world, so their basis of comparison is global, and all sf chinese places are pretty weak compared to what is found in hong kong.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                  p
                                                                  pauliface Oct 26, 2012 10:57 AM

                                                                  Does this mean Aziza has gone downhill, or that it just doesn't float your boat?
                                                                  I have not been in some time, so I'm curious whether or not this is a general impression.

                                                                  I did notice that they'd been straying more and more from something close to traditional moroccan into directions more like other non-moroccan places, but the quality had remained high.

                                                                  1. re: pauliface
                                                                    Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 11:14 AM

                                                                    I haven't been to Aziza recently, though the menu certainly reads less Moroccan than it used to.

                                                                    But that's irrelevant to my point: if a meal at a one-star place doesn't have a single dish that's as delicious as a $1 takeout item, what does a star mean?

                                                                    1. re: pauliface
                                                                      d
                                                                      Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 06:44 PM

                                                                      i've just never been blown away at azizza. i like the lamb dish at harris' a lot better. i didn't find the b'stilla (sp?) particularly interesting. their vegetable couscous dish was average at best (i like the one at cafe des amis quite a bit better.) their hummus was really good, but that's not worth a star.

                                                                      but i'm not a fan of a lot of places that are popular with CH, so take it with a grain of salt.

                                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      mariacarmen Oct 26, 2012 03:25 PM

                                                                      would you say Jai Yun deserves one?

                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 05:08 PM

                                                                        Based on the stated criteria and my experiences eating there, Jai Yun's arguably the most egregious omission.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          d
                                                                          Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 06:37 PM

                                                                          +1 for this. jai yun's food is definitely star-worthy.

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            mariacarmen Oct 29, 2012 02:14 PM

                                                                            agreed.

                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    unclefishbits Oct 25, 2012 05:25 PM

                                                                    Yay! I am tired of the ahi tartare.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      d
                                                                      Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 10:00 AM

                                                                      >> If it tastes good, who cares if it's inexpensive?

                                                                      okay, but you have to make the fair comparison of barley flavored with crab against just a bunch of crab at the same price.

                                                                      sometimes the "creative" dish wins. but in my experience, 9/10 times i'd rather just have a higher quantity of the original ingredient, prepared more simply.

                                                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 10:29 AM

                                                                        "... 9/10 times i'd rather just have a higher quantity of the original ingredient, prepared more simply."

                                                                        That's like objecting to pappardelle al ragù because you'd rather have a pork chop. It's a barley dish, not a crab dish.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          d
                                                                          Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 10:45 AM

                                                                          so you think barley dishes are more in line with modern preferences than crab dishes?

                                                                          i think you handicap places because you find them novel and interesting while staying within your preferred price range.

                                                                          nothing wrong with liking these places, of course, but this is not representative of all mainstream contemporary dining preferences.

                                                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                            Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 11:01 AM

                                                                            I spend a ton of money in restaurants. That my favorite dish cost $13 doesn't mean the total tab won't exceed $200 a head. More than once I've spent more eating at the counter at Plum than it would have cost me to eat at Coi.

                                                                            I don't like stuffy places with overly elaborate service. I wouldn't like them any better if they were cheaper. One thing I liked about Saison's chef's counter was that it provided that style of meal without the annoying trappings.

                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8178...

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                              d
                                                                              Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 11:22 AM

                                                                              so you dislike stuffy / overly elaborate service, and michelin likes stuffy / overly elaborate service.

                                                                              i think you (and a lot of people on this board) also like to find new dishes and flavor / ingredient combinations that stimulate you intellectually more than michelin does.

                                                                              whether you or michelin are more representative of the mainstream dining population is up for debate.

                                                                              didn't mean to imply you don't spend money on food. meant to imply you prefer midrange places with somewhat complicated or innovative approaches to their dishes. so you are paying for the intellectual stimulation rather than the ingredients.

                                                                              i usually (not always, but usually) leave these types of places thinking i would have rather just had a steak.

                                                                              1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2012 11:35 AM

                                                                                Actually, my favorite restaurants are mostly Italian or Cal-whatever with an Italian sensibility, with a focus on finding the highest quality ingredients and bringing out their flavors using relatively simple techniques. Shopping / foraging over cooking, simplicity over complexity, tradition over the chef's personal expression.

                                                                                I'm biased against the kind of relatively complicated preparations and presentations they do at Plum and AQ, but their dishes are generally so delicious that they overcome my prejudices.

                                                                                1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                  unclefishbits Oct 26, 2012 11:38 AM

                                                                                  Dustin... +1 to steak comment, but then I get the steak and think I should have done it at home. My wife and I have been so soured on the dining scene, we have been doing 4 or 5 coursed menus just for fun, because we love it, and it's usually a better experience - though the prep work is what you actually pay for in the restaurant because a day's worth of cooking.... not so feasible. =) But we have been recreating some french dishes and it's just been a blast. Coi might have finally put us over the top on the Michelin orientation of restaurants. Even La Folie recently, with slow, friendly service and a stellar menu was just "we're over it". Maybe it's the final bills are precisely 10% - 15% too high.... sticker shock is still present at that level. =)

                                                                                  1. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                    d
                                                                                    Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 06:39 PM

                                                                                    i also like cooking multi-course french meals at home. but for some reason my steaks always suck :-)

                                                                      2. re: Dustin_E
                                                                        t
                                                                        tjinsf Oct 25, 2012 06:30 PM

                                                                        I love the barley dish at AQ, I've tried to recreate it. I failed. I am willing to pay the 13 dollars to get that taste again. It has jack-all to do with how it looked. A dish to me doesn't have expensive ingredients to be worth the higher price.

                                                                  3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    c
                                                                    calumin Oct 25, 2012 12:25 PM

                                                                    It's an interesting point, in that it raises a much larger issue.

                                                                    There are no Korean Michelin starred restaurants. No Indian Michelin starred restaurants. No Thai Michelin starred restaurants. And so on...

                                                                    I think the idea that traditional Italian cuisine deserves to be put in the same category that Michelin has placed French cuisine is somewhat dubious. But I also think that way too many other cuisines around the world similarly get shafted, so there's enough resentment to go around (if one chooses to take offense at their biases).

                                                                    1. re: calumin
                                                                      d
                                                                      Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 12:46 PM

                                                                      moranbong (korean) in tokyo has two michelin stars.
                                                                      nahm (thai) in london used to have a star.
                                                                      tamarind (indian) in london has a star.

                                                                      not saying these ratings are necessarily worth anything, but they are there.

                                                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                        c
                                                                        calumin Oct 25, 2012 01:07 PM

                                                                        thanks for the correction.

                                                                        still a pretty low representation (and no representation by the home country in each case).

                                                                        my point is that there are obvious biases with Michelin - which isn't a bad thing as long as you take it for what it is. those biases may for the most part favor complex preparations which may make it harder for lots of cuisines, including traditional Italian, to do really well in its rating system.

                                                                        1. re: calumin
                                                                          d
                                                                          Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 01:13 PM

                                                                          well, michelin doesn't cover bangkok, mumbai or seoul.

                                                                          but yeah, definitely biases. "expensive" probably being the most significant one.

                                                                      2. re: calumin
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 03:41 PM

                                                                        Talking only about the SF guide, All Spice (Indian) and Wakuriya (Japanese) both have one star. Those are the only ones that serve non-European cuisine without strong French influences.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          p
                                                                          pauliface Oct 25, 2012 04:26 PM

                                                                          Wakuriya surely deserves it.

                                                                          I was hoping maybe Izakaya Yuzuki would get some mention. If I were to place it among the michelin one-stars that I know well, it would certainly not be at the bottom of that list.

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            d
                                                                            Dustin_E Oct 26, 2012 09:25 AM

                                                                            Didn't notice All Spice -- thanks. anyone been? looks great. $15 corkage sounds good too. Wonder how it compares to amber india.

                                                                  4. Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 06:02 PM

                                                                    "A 2 or 3 star michelin a la carte dish generally is usually priced at between $60 and $100 for one dish. a simple argument of economics would make it unlikely a handful of places in the mission serve the same caliber of food for 1/4 of the price."

                                                                    Perhaps the best dishes I've had this year were barley with Dungeness crab, mushrooms, spruce, and I think squid ink at AQ, braised brisket at Bar Tartine, and broad beans with pork trotter at St. Vincent. Would someplace that charges $60 for a dish t have the nerve to offer such humble ingredients?

                                                                    I've never found any correlation between price and how delicious the food is. That's kind of rule one of Chowhound.

                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      w
                                                                      WineGeekSF Oct 25, 2012 12:09 AM

                                                                      Interesting discussion of tasting menu versus ala carte. Obviously, as has been stated Michelin will not consider you for 2 or 3 star level without a tasting menu. But what has been not been touched on or mentioned in this whole discussion is how cost effective tasting menus can be for restaurants. The food waste in preparation of any of these dishes on Michelin list is tremendous. Hence the $30-$50, if not higher entree price, also the number of chefs that help prepare the dish as well. Tasting Menu only restaurants cut down on this waste by preparing on the ingredients on that menu. Instead of a tasting menu and an ala carte menu. So from a business sense, it make much more sense to be tasting menu only.

                                                                      I personally tend to enjoy tasting menus, but what I do not like is when two people order it, and you both get the same thing. Very hard to share and compare and contrast. That is my biggest caveat against tasting menu. Why not design a tasting menu for two, with two different items for each person. Enhance the creativity...

                                                                      On another there seems to an inordinate amount of focus on only a few restaurants... AQ, Atelier Crenn, Coi, Saison, SPQR and a brief mention of Gary Danko... What about the newcomer Keiko? What about the other restaurants that maintained Stars? Luce, Boulevard, Frances?

                                                                      Indeed Luce seemed to even generate a bit of negativity. I have been there twice and found the flavors and purity of the dishes to match or exceed almost anything on the aforementioned.

                                                                      I am curious to hear feedback...

                                                                      1. re: WineGeekSF
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 08:43 AM

                                                                        There are places that do different tasting menus for two people (French Laundry has) but it goes directly against the theory that tasting menus are great because the chef-auteur can present everything in the best possible order. As a practical matter, it would double the sensory and memory overload.

                                                                        On the other hand, great for people whose main purpose is to photograph, blog, and/or brag.

                                                                        1. re: WineGeekSF
                                                                          t
                                                                          tjinsf Oct 25, 2012 09:01 AM

                                                                          Frances doesn't get the love it deserves for sure. Luce for me has gone down hill over the last year. We've had to send things back for proteins being overcooked.

                                                                          1. re: WineGeekSF
                                                                            d
                                                                            Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 09:48 AM

                                                                            >> Obviously, as has been stated Michelin will not consider you for 2 or 3 star level without a tasting menu.

                                                                            Where has this been stated? This is simply not true.

                                                                            >> What about the newcomer Keiko?

                                                                            I like Keiko's more than any of the 2 stars. Very strong one-star, even by international (france, japan) standards. Definite potential for 2-stars in time.

                                                                            Commis, Gary Danko, Quince, Acquerello all deserve their star. SPQR probably does as well, but is on the border.

                                                                            Boulevard and Azizza don't deserve stars any more than Harris' or Ruth's Chris deserve them. All good restaurants, but shouldn't have stars. One market (lost theirs) probably deserves a star about as much as these. Farina deserves a star more than any of these. Chez panisse on a good night is an extremely strong one star, probably two. On a bad night it is a zero star, unquestionably.

                                                                            Based on one visit, Sons and Daughters deserves none, and that is being generous.

                                                                            >> The food waste in preparation of any of these dishes on Michelin list is tremendous.

                                                                            interesting point.

                                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                              Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 09:59 AM

                                                                              What Michelin says and what they do don't have much in common. They don't say Italian food sucks compared with French food (which they have backwards, of course), but then they ignore all Italian restaurants without French influences.

                                                                              I don't think they have any international standards so anything I say regards only the local list. I'm skeptical they're even consistent around the Bay Area: the San Mateo inspector seems to be less of a French chauvinist.

                                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            d
                                                                            Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 10:02 AM

                                                                            >> I've never found any correlation between price and how delicious the food is. That's kind of rule one of Chowhound.

                                                                            That is wishful thinking and ridiculous.

                                                                            >> Perhaps the best dishes I've had this year ...

                                                                            crab, mushrooms and squid ink are not humble ingredients. Look at the menu of Le Meurice in Paris. You could dishes with similar ingredients on the menu.

                                                                            Some of my favorite things i've had this year are prime rib at HOPR, chocolate cake at harris', xlb at kingdom of dumpling, scallops and uni at chotto, congee at koi palace, turnip cakes at some dirty place in chinatown, under the bridge crab and wonton soup at yum's bistro. This does not mean these are michelin-caliber dishes or that these places deserve michelin stars.

                                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                              Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 10:20 AM

                                                                              "The star symbols judge only what’s on the plate, meaning the quality of products, the mastering of flavors, mastering of cooking, personality of the cuisine, value for the money and the consistency of what the restaurant offers to its customers both throughout the menu and the year. One star indicates a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard. A good place to stop on your journey."

                                                                              The food at AQ meets all the above criteria. Maybe Michelin found it less consistent than I and many others have, but it seems more likely to me that they are simply excluding whole categories of restaurants based on unstated prejudices.

                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                d
                                                                                Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 10:35 AM

                                                                                fair enough. i'm sure there are a lot of places that deserve single stars more than the current list.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                  t
                                                                                  tjinsf Oct 25, 2012 06:20 PM

                                                                                  I wonder if for AQ not getting a star was because of the service and the more casual style. I think you are right it meet the stated criteria and it does seem crazy it's not on the bib or one starred. I will say the service especially when they first stated was very disjointed and the servers were always as aware of the wines and the dishes as I would expected and the service didn't flow the way I would expect. It's has gotten much better since they opened.

                                                                                  1. re: tjinsf
                                                                                    unclefishbits Oct 25, 2012 10:04 PM

                                                                                    EXACTLY. It's the same with Frenchie or L'ami Jean in Paris, etc. It's so unpretentious that it's insulting. There are a number of examples like this....

                                                                            2. Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 03:02 PM

                                                                              "Zero a la carte places in the bay area serve 2 or 3 michelin star caliber food."

                                                                              I had a great time at Saison, but neither the individual dishes (except the caviar) nor the meal as a whole were in the same class as AQ, Bar Tartine, Plum, or St. Vincent.

                                                                              I intend that as a criticism of the Michelin guide, not Saison. A 26-course $500 meal has its place in the spectrum of dining experiences. It's just not inherently superior to a dinner of more normal scope.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                d
                                                                                Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 03:26 PM

                                                                                really?

                                                                                in my experience only a few of the best dishes i've had at chez panisse downstairs or manresa border on proper 2 or 3 star michelin a la carte dishes.

                                                                                i thought crenn or saison compared reasonably well with pierre gagnaire (paris) or ryugin (tokyo), but i'm not the biggest fan of tasting menus, so am not the best judge.

                                                                                1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 03:28 PM

                                                                                  Saison has two stars, so by definition that's two-star-caliber food. Everything was lovely but few of the dishes were memorable.

                                                                                  The no-star places have the advantage of not having to design dishes to fit in a 26-course menu without making patrons feel overfed (not Michelin holds back stars for overfeeding, that's just one of Skenes's pet peeves).

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                    d
                                                                                    Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 03:51 PM

                                                                                    it's two-star caliber food in the bay area in a tasting menu format.

                                                                                    michelin is well known for supposedly "handicapping" US and british restaurants relative to france and japan.

                                                                                    picking single dishes out of a tasting menu isn't the best comparison. Can i pick a garnish out of an a la carte dish and compare that to a single tasting menu course?

                                                                                    A 2 or 3 star michelin a la carte dish generally is usually priced at between $60 and $100 for one dish. a simple argument of economics would make it unlikely a handful of places in the mission serve the same caliber of food for 1/4 of the price.

                                                                                    blogs i like on the same topic: (i think i've linked to these before, but whatever)

                                                                                    http://www.andyhayler.com/restaurants.asp?country=USA&show=city
                                                                                    http://www.gastromondiale.com/2012/01...

                                                                                    1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 04:16 PM

                                                                                      I don't understand your reasoning.

                                                                                      Saison does only long tasting menus. Overall, I preferred my meals at AQ, Bar Tartine, Plum, and St. Vincent. I also preferred individual dishes at those places to anything I had at Saison except maybe the caviar, which a la carte might have cost as much as a whole meal at the other places.

                                                                                      I don't understand how that's not a fair comparison on both counts. You're not agreeing with me that tasting menus are inherently inferior to a more normal dinner?

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                        d
                                                                                        Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 04:34 PM

                                                                                        "Zero a la carte places in the bay area serve 2 or 3 michelin star caliber food."

                                                                                        is what i originally said. I should have written

                                                                                        "Zero a la carte places in the bay area serve dishes that are on the same level of dishes ordered a la carte at 2 or 3 michelin star places in paris (or las vegas)" (at least in my experience -- unsurprisingly, given the price differential.)

                                                                                        2 star places and above in the bay area are tasting menu only, which is why i'm using international (and las vegas) comparisons for michelin ** a la carte dishes.

                                                                                        sorry for the confusion.

                                                                                        I also prefer a bunch of high-end and low-end places in the bay area to the 2-3 michelin starred places here.

                                                                                        I agree tasting menus are inherently inferior. it would be better if the effort was instead put into creating 5 or 6 really great courses. after trying a bunch of them, i find tasting menus now often just test my patience.

                                                                                        but i think there is a place for michelin, and a place for old-school *** places. and i actively dislike a lot of the "innovation" that goes on at contemporary restaurants, even though i'm (relatively) young.

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                          unclefishbits Oct 24, 2012 04:37 PM

                                                                                          This is great confirmation about how much of this relies on the fallibility of the human condition and personal preferences, you know? If a small group of people on a like minded board are going to clash, there is no way a couple people can make a city happy. =)

                                                                                          Dunstable - it makes me realize again that you are right - there is a time and place for 14 courses, just as there is a time and place to not have it. One preferences will define the frequencies. =)

                                                                                          Fun chatting tho. Cheers all!

                                                                                2. unclefishbits Oct 24, 2012 02:08 PM

                                                                                  First, I adore Dom, but laughed pretty hard at the "trapped prisoner" comment in this Eater article:
                                                                                  http://sf.eater.com/archives/2012/10/...

                                                                                  (where I posted the below

                                                                                  )

                                                                                  Second - this is a tome, but not a rant. I am just drooling thoughts here:

                                                                                  Coi is a perfect example of this errant stasis consuming this city's adoration of Michelin. Michelin, bless them (especially in Europe), is a dinosaur, stuck in the 20th century, say 1993. Not only has food changed, but systems are in place that create groupthink and inbreeding. They will catch up in time, but for now, these ratings, albeit great for discussion, suffer the allegiances of fallible humans. For now, we're beyond the vapid "plate of figs" comment, and now dealing with some severely ingrained problems with our food scene. This isn't earth shattering, but it's important to talk about.

                                                                                  Michelin is working against us now, by celebrating these archaic methods of preparing food. Patterson is just dandy, but our Coi experience was depressing, and deflating.

                                                                                  Let me make this simple: There is a quiet, important, revolutionary "happening" in food and beverage that will not really take form for a couple years. To most it will sound obvious, so I will sound idiotic. But the nature of an unpretentious food scene is that it doesn't have the flash to gain glossy magazine or Food section articles. Yet.

                                                                                  Chefs are burnt out. They are ground into dust by the machine that is our F&B industry. Investors, Owners, other people's expectations, the social reviews which have pros and minuses, the uncontrollable guest experience on the floor with cell phones, cameras, etc - it's different than when they signed up for it. People who entered the industry to feel a connection to the food, and act as tradesmen to spend their life energy sharing a bond over this food - have become married to a system that chews people up, and spits them out.

                                                                                  So, like what is happening in Paris, people are ripping tablecloths from the table, pairing down service, pricing wine inventory fairly to enhance the meal, rather than increase revenue, and generally reducing the pretentiousness of the experience of food. This is where the out of touch, completely in
                                                                                  their own world chefs are romanced by the Michelin system that obscures function for form. It limits the ability of chefs to find their path, because they are being trained to work within the confines of ancient expectations. It's incredibly limiting, and homogenizes the potential variability of exciting new cooks.The fact is, *ESPECIALLY* in San Francisco, in the epicenter of some of the finest food sources in the entire world, it should be fine to level ego in an attempt to showcase accessible product *before* form. The trapped prisoner analogy is good, because the errant, knee jerk over-manipulation of food and experience is driving a disconnect between this epic product and our sense of place. It also just looks INCREDIBLY insecure. Maybe it's because some people lack formal training, and over compensate. I don't know, but I am also not suggesting formal training is mandatory, either.

                                                                                  I don't vouch for these as the finest restaurants in the world, but Cosentino's vibe at Incanto, Nopa, AQ, Dixie, Fremont Diner, State Bird Provisions, & even the endless gastropubs like 15 Romolo popping up, are all celebrating food over Michelin-stylized pomp and circumstance. When you eat that food, the sense of connection to food and place is unbelievable. This was refreshing to see in Paris, but only now do I realize that it means it doesn't get the attention it deserves - because the scene is driven by Michelin. Bib Gourmand or not, we need to re-center the discussion about what it means to eat food, and how we want to relate to it. Taking some of the most beautiful and accessible product in the world and making it inaccessible and unrecognizable doesn't seem like a thoughtful approach to cuisine.

                                                                                  Many can argue against that, for sure, but these are all personal opinions. My wife and I just realized that a 2 1/2 hour meal and 3 excellent courses is a lot more meaningful to us than a 4 1/2 meal where it's like watching someone work out 14 personal issues.

                                                                                  The world needs all type of restaurants, but to the people who entered the business to work with beautiful food, and make it beautifully so you can enhance people's lives - it's become a broken system of alliances and false allegiances; an exhausting day to day battle with the business of food, and not food itself. It's more like playing the game of politics than enjoying the beautiful, quiet moments in the kitchen. I feel so bad for chefs right now - especially the ones locked into this game by their investors or people's expectations. Of course they chose that path, but there is no way it was what they bargained for. There is no way they could expect these changes.

                                                                                  As for this Michelin list - I cannot wait to come back and see what this SF list looks like in 10 years. Even 5 ..... there is a conscious change coming in how we approach our chefs, and food, and I think it's going to be wonderful for everybody. Just my 2 9/10ths cents.

                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                    p
                                                                                    pinotho Oct 24, 2012 02:52 PM

                                                                                    I had heard that a condition of your bail was no more smoking and typing....guess not .... : )

                                                                                    1. re: pinotho
                                                                                      unclefishbits Oct 24, 2012 03:03 PM

                                                                                      lol.

                                                                                      Dustin - you are right. It's just the nature of what you enter (I don't mean chef school kids buying into celebrity stardom bs, I mean classical trained chefs who ground it out), is so absolutely different from what the result is. When I started in hotels, I (sort of) knew it was an underpaid, 6 or 7 day a week, 12-14 hour a day job. I knew that.... and it's what I got. Same with my architect friends with carpal tunnel, fashion people that are too old at 23, etc, advertising guys who just want to sleep at home for once..... they all knew what they signed up for, but cooking and the restaurant biz has had such changes, I think it's a little different for those chefs, especially the classical trained ones.

                                                                                      But, essentially, you are right and I agree and could ramble and wax forever on this stuff. lol. pardon that.....

                                                                                      1. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                        d
                                                                                        Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 03:17 PM

                                                                                        >> could ramble and wax forever. pardon that.....

                                                                                        no worries -- that's what the internet is for :-) good to have your two cents.

                                                                                    2. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                      d
                                                                                      Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 02:53 PM

                                                                                      >> Chefs are burnt out. They are ground into dust by the machine ... married to a system that chews people up, and spits them out.

                                                                                      Being a chef is in vogue, and so restaurants are competitive businesses. Entering at the ground level has low barriers to entry. All competitive industries chew people up and spit them out. Just like architecture, fashion, advertising. Really, was it any different 30 or 50 years ago? Failed chefs who were contemporaries of Alice Waters and Paul Bocuse, felt the same way, i'd guess. (please correct me if i'm wrong.)

                                                                                      1. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                        d
                                                                                        dunstable Oct 24, 2012 03:08 PM

                                                                                        No offense, but in fact I feel that it is precisely your attitude that is the real problem with the Bay Area dining scene. I don't want to suggest that you are not open to your opinion. It is a perfectly valid opinion. However, since we are ranting...

                                                                                        San Francisco has the opposite problem: its diners and primary food critic are obsessed with this Alice Waters, food-to-table California cuisine thing, in which the chef treats the ingredient itself with great reverence, and does very little to it. Frankly, it's incredibly boring, and is the main reason I've lost interest in mid-range SF restaurants. Many people actually LIKE creativity with food. The "fig on a plate" comment was not vapid; it was correct, and he is not the first to espouse it. David Chang, Nate Appleman, and now Danny Bowien himself, darling of the young SF food scene, has complained about SF's mid-range restaurants.

                                                                                        Where that goes, we can both be right -- we can choose to dine at different restaurants and we'll both be happy. But it is specifically San Francisco that whines whenever a restaurant like Coi opens, as though even attempting creative food is somehow a crime against humanity. If you don't like it, then don't go! Its existence is not some pernicious blight upon food. Moreover, there are very few restaurants in SF that are attempting anything that even sniffs of molecular gastronomy, whereas there are dozens that do the California thing. Molecular gastronomy scarcely qualifies as a trend here, never mind a significant characteristic of the city's restaurants.

                                                                                        Similarly, I find it very ironic that someone should blame the apparent "errant stasis" of our city's dining scene on "this city's adoration of Michelin." The Michelin Guide hands out very few stars, and almost none at the two and three star level. Does San Francisco's dining scene truly revolve around these thirty or forty restaurants? Is a restaurant's survival truly going to hinge on whether it has one versus two stars? This strikes me as highly unlikely, especially compared to Bauer, who can make or break a restaurant through his reviews. It is Bauer that restauranteurs are wary of offending, not Michelin. It is Bauer and his ingredient-first philosophy that are limiting SF's chefs, not Michelin. THIS is what stifles creativity, having a food critic that disdains it.

                                                                                        With respect to that cuisine in particular, this comment requires justification:

                                                                                        "It limits the ability of chefs to find their path, because they are being trained to work within the confines of ancient expectations. It's incredibly limiting, and homogenizes the potential variability of exciting new cooks.The fact is, *ESPECIALLY* in San Francisco, in the epicenter of some of the finest food sources in the entire world, it should be fine to level ego in an attempt to showcase accessible product *before* form."

                                                                                        This is perhaps a justifiable comment, but not when your example of this alleged constriction of expression is Coi, one of the most creativity-driven restaurants in the Bay Area. "Confines of ancient expectation"? Nothing on Coi's menu would look at home in an Escoffier reference.

                                                                                        Again, we are just stating our opinions here, and there is no "right" answer. But that said, I find these suggestions that creative food is inherently pretentious quite tiresome. These remarks are starting to sound like those of visitors to a modern art museum who claims that their grade-school child could replicate the results on the walls. Just accept that, while it's not for you, plenty of other people do understand it and do like it, and leave it be.

                                                                                        1. re: dunstable
                                                                                          unclefishbits Oct 24, 2012 04:31 PM

                                                                                          I really respect that response. A lot. Good food for thought. I am tired over the overly reverent "local" stuff. I am also tired of the chefs going to farmer's markets just for the twitter shot of adoring fans when they could get the same produce sent to their restaurant for cheaper. Yes to your comments... yes. =) I do think the attention to Michelin retards the overall development of the scene, however. As to the comment of Coi, were definitely speaking of different tastes, because I have never been so bored in my life than with that dining experience.

                                                                                          Again... totally respect and understand your opinions, smart enough to sway me back to the middle. As I said, it takes all types.... and well said.

                                                                                          1. re: dunstable
                                                                                            t
                                                                                            tjinsf Oct 25, 2012 08:56 AM

                                                                                            this. all of this.

                                                                                            Also this whole Michelin equals fancy food tasting vs. farm to table thing is so confusing to me. You know what my French spouse said to me when I explained the farm to table thing to her? She laughed and said well French food has always had that as the basis of all cooking.

                                                                                            But seriously how many "authentic" pizza places, gourmet burgers and roast chickens do we need and why put them on a platter. What's more crazy spending 200 dollars on a menu I can't make easily at home or 15 dollars on a freaking burger I can easily make at home.

                                                                                            1. re: tjinsf
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 09:14 AM

                                                                                              There's nothing new about farm-to-table in France, though plenty of restaurants in Paris use green beans from Africa in winter. On the other hand, the US got so far away from it that when Chez Panisse brought it back in the 70s they had to have foragers on staff to make up for the lack of the distribution system that has developed in the meantime.

                                                                                              I can make a charcoal-grilled burger at home that's better than I can get in a restaurant but only if the weather's nice, it's not dark out, and I plan far enough ahead to shop and prep the day before. And making French fries is way too much of a mess and fire hazard.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                unclefishbits Oct 25, 2012 01:13 PM

                                                                                                Lol on fries. no frying! Eating in France did help me realize how much the industrial revolution (like farm trucking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI3Avp...) disconnected Americans from food sources. Distribution created such a dramatic shift in awareness of what food is, people don't even think "cow" when they eat "burger" or "pig" with "bacon, etc.

                                                                                                Robert - your comment is so on point. Both of you.... it's always been the way things are done in, say, Provence, so there's no annoying marketing trend or capitalizing off a ridiculous concept like "local" - because that is simply what it is.

                                                                                                But when the Waters thing returned here, the rubber band shot all the way to the other side and this wonderful re-connecting with unbelievable product garnered this haughty, pretentious side that is so wildly impractical, and mildly insulting. I think those "I know my Farmer" stickers are *SO* vain, because the level of privilege that people are mired in is absurd. We are so lucky to be able to have these farmer's markets, etc - but it shouldn't be about "who's better".

                                                                                                I remember an economist article where someone said, "now something as prosaic as picking an apple has become emblematic of education level & sophistication". That's not okay.

                                                                                                But my wife and I shop at the Marin market for the week, and have returned to daily shopping instead of spending the $400 on a month of preservative laden and packaged food - so there is a middle ground for all this pretension, etc. I think we're just getting back to where the French have been the whole time - where it is simply how things are done, and that's not what is worth talking about.

                                                                                                I hate being out and getting food I should have just prepared myself at home. I do my best to avoid that possibility. But then again, chefs are so insecure about standing out within the confines of the Michelin system, they over manipulate the product simply because all Bay Area chefs are working with the same inventory. A friend mentioned the only real way to stand out is start growing your own vegetables, which is happening. My friend in Boulder was doing that for his restaurant 15 years ago, our catering friends in Carmel Valley do it for everything they use, a hotel I am involved with in Willamette Valley just upped their acreage for their chef..... that's a REALLY cool trend to me.

                                                                                                But obviously, after years of watching people wrestle with inner demons and put it on a plate, I enjoy simplicity.... and we're back to it taking all types of people to run all types of restaurant for all types of guests. =)

                                                                                              2. re: tjinsf
                                                                                                unclefishbits Oct 25, 2012 01:19 PM

                                                                                                If you have a problem with the Michelin System, so does Vanity Fair in this incredibly SCATHING article: http://sf.eater.com/archives/2012/10/...

                                                                                                1. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 03:16 PM

                                                                                                  Wrong link, here's the A. A. Gill piece from Vanity Fair: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/201...

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                    m
                                                                                                    MagicMarkR Nov 12, 2012 03:36 PM

                                                                                                    "It’s no accident that the legacy of 100 years of Michelin is not just an emaciated, inhospitable French table but the legion of score-settling adjective junkies populating unreadable Internet blogs." (Vanity Fair, Nov 2012)

                                                                                                    Ahahaha, that's hilarious! (I guess I'd better count myself.)

                                                                                            2. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                              Discerning1 Nov 5, 2012 08:54 AM

                                                                                              Hear, hear. Beautifully stated.

                                                                                            3. bbulkow Oct 24, 2012 12:38 PM

                                                                                              South bay perspective:

                                                                                              1) Madera kept their star - TOO BAD. Baume at two - TOO BAD.

                                                                                              2) All Spice and Wakuriya at one star in san mateo! Indian-modern (very modern) and what looks like Real Japanese. Good stuff.

                                                                                              3) The Bib Gourmand list is about as one expects.

                                                                                              1. w
                                                                                                WineGeekSF Oct 24, 2012 12:12 AM

                                                                                                I have to say not too many surprises, all in all. I guess Michelin feels that high end Molecular Gastronomy is here to stay with the elevation of Atelier Crenn to two stars. Only surprise was the previous mention of Luce as not deserving... I have ate twice in the past six months and things are only improving. It is nice to see the variety of restaurants and styles represented...

                                                                                                1. j
                                                                                                  Jefferson Oct 23, 2012 09:33 PM

                                                                                                  From the Press Release: "The MICHELIN Guide 2013 editions include two new symbols: one highlighting notable beer lists and the other indicating restaurants with a dim sum offering." The highlighting of dim sum seems unusual. Have they done that with other categories of food? One precedent might be a food pub icon for the U.K. guide.

                                                                                                  1. mariacarmen Oct 23, 2012 08:54 PM

                                                                                                    Great about Atelier Crenn's 2 stars!

                                                                                                    1. t
                                                                                                      tjinsf Oct 23, 2012 08:10 PM

                                                                                                      also crazy that AQ didn't get bib or one star.

                                                                                                      1. t
                                                                                                        tjinsf Oct 23, 2012 08:06 PM

                                                                                                        surprised that Luce still has a star and surprised Quince is only one star still.

                                                                                                        1. Robert Lauriston Oct 23, 2012 07:20 PM

                                                                                                          All three French-Italian fusion places (Acquerello, Quince, SPQR) got one star. Zero Cal-Italian or Italian-Italian.

                                                                                                          23 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                            calumin Oct 23, 2012 10:02 PM

                                                                                                            I haven't been to SPQR, but what is the French influence in their menu? I definitely see the Roman influence, and I see the influence of Northern California, but don't see the French connection.

                                                                                                            1. re: calumin
                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 08:37 AM

                                                                                                              The Roman influence at SPQR went away with the original chef. The current dishes have so many ingredients so highly and variously manipulated that it's in the same Cal-French-Italian camp with Acquerello and Quince.

                                                                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                              n
                                                                                                              nocharge Oct 23, 2012 11:20 PM

                                                                                                              I find it interesting that the two-star places in SF proper are places that try to go beyond Gary-Danko-style generic fine dining and take risks with more unique concepts that may or may not work for everyone. (That would be Benu, Coi, Crenn, and Saison.) The more traditional fine dining places were all capped at one star and Fleur de Lys even lost its single star. Maybe Michelin isn't quite as much a "reactionary spirit" as one might have feared.

                                                                                                              1. re: nocharge
                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 08:50 AM

                                                                                                                MIchelin's not reactionary in the sense of rewarding places stuck two generations in the past, but they're very narrow-mindedly focused on an expensive, elitist style of food and service which has been around long enough that the Le Fooding movement against it is over ten years old.

                                                                                                                What kind of idiot thinks only long, expensive tasting menus are worth a detour or a special trip?

                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                  d
                                                                                                                  dunstable Oct 24, 2012 10:21 AM

                                                                                                                  Love it or hate it, Michelin is at least consistent with respect to its own mission. If I hear "two-star Michelin star" restaurant, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to get, whether I'm in San Francisco or New York or wherever else. Conversely, Bauer's top 100 is all over the place, and the only shared quality about them is that Bauer picked them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make "Bauer Top 100 restaurant" a vague, not entirely useful distinction for someone who is not familiar with Bauer and his quirks.

                                                                                                                  I have no real problem with the Michelin as an overall restaurant guide. It's much superior to Zagat's, at least.

                                                                                                                  1. re: dunstable
                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                                                                                    Michelin ignores its stated criteria and exercises its prejudices in a consistent fashion, though the SF editors could perhaps take a lesson from the Hong Kong book.

                                                                                                                    Bauer's comments in his blog re the Top 100 make it quite clear that there are, say, 70 easy choices and then another 60 of roughly equal merit, so his choice of which 30 of the latter to include is as arbitrary as the cutoff at 100.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                      d
                                                                                                                      Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 11:07 AM

                                                                                                                      >> the SF editors could perhaps take a lesson from the Hong Kong book.

                                                                                                                      in what sense? michelin hong kong is almost ignored.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                    d
                                                                                                                    Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 11:14 AM

                                                                                                                    >> What kind of idiot thinks only long, expensive tasting menus are worth a detour or a special trip?

                                                                                                                    detours and special trips are themselves expensive. would it really be worth spending, say, $200 a day on airfare and hotel to eat a $20 dinner?

                                                                                                                    if you were visiting friends and family and exploring a new wonderful place, sure.

                                                                                                                    if you were traveling only for the food? probably not. certainly not if you were visiting from somewhere with a well developed food scene, like london, paris, tokyo, new york... or almost any city that has its own michelin guide.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 12:08 PM

                                                                                                                      The more your travels are inspired by the food, the more absurd it is to focus on only one narrow, highly internationalized segment of the local food scene.

                                                                                                                      A trip I took to New York a few years ago, the most memorable meal was at a cheap Chinese place and the most disappointing was at WD-50, the only Michelin-starred place I ate at.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                        d
                                                                                                                        Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 01:12 PM

                                                                                                                        would you really say the cheap chinese place was "worth a detour", if say, you were visiting friends in boston, and had absolutely no interest in doing anything else in manhattan other than eat?

                                                                                                                        anyway, WD-50 is a 1 star, which means it supposedly isn't worth any travel.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                          t
                                                                                                                          tjinsf Oct 24, 2012 02:25 PM

                                                                                                                          I feel differently and perhaps it is having used the guides in Europe growing up. I think the best food travel is a mix of both the internationally known fine dining and the local haunts you just wander into or get taken to by locals. They are two different creatures something Michelin gets. There are so many other elements that they consider that even an issue for a local casual place and need not be.

                                                                                                                          I don't think it's an either/or when it comes to food and travel. Yes the Taj Malal is a cliche yet I'm still happy I've gotten to see it in person and the same goes for many of the long menu I've gotten to try. That doesn't mean I don't think one of the best meals I've ever had was in a shack in a mangrove swamp in Malaysia.

                                                                                                                          I think anyone using the Michelin ratings can understand what they are valuing, the service expectations, the use of technique, the involvement of the chef etc, not just does the food taste good. If you think those things aren't important then no it's a useless rating indeed.

                                                                                                                          1. re: tjinsf
                                                                                                                            d
                                                                                                                            Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 02:37 PM

                                                                                                                            agree.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                                                              unclefishbits Oct 24, 2012 02:56 PM

                                                                                                                              well said... but I also think it (so you don't need to read the essay) homogenizes talent, and limits people to work within the confines of these old systems, rather than challenge themselves to simply do food well, and not worry about the blinders in place.... It derails innovation to some extent, & doesn't give proper deference to product and location.

                                                                                                                              1. re: unclefishbits
                                                                                                                                d
                                                                                                                                Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 03:09 PM

                                                                                                                                homogenization is not always a bad thing, though. it can enhance consistency, which is very important if you want to build a business out of "doing food well."

                                                                                                                                come to think of it, consistency is supposedly a very important criterion of the michelin reviewers.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Oct 24, 2012 03:20 PM

                                                                                                                                  Theoretically, the kind of consistency the Michelin inspectors look for is that quality doesn't vary from day to day at the same restaurant.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                        t
                                                                                                                        Thomas Nash Oct 24, 2012 12:19 PM

                                                                                                                        Dead-on Robert.

                                                                                                                        Unless something has changed, I am sure in France it does not take a required tasting menu to get 3 étoiles. Frankly I find these long tasting menus to be so 1990s. I never remember what I ate the next morning. The great meals I had 30 years ago in France, I still remember in considerable detail. There were a few magnificent dishes, and sometimes a set menu of reasonable length.

                                                                                                                        In mid-week, Benu allows selections from an à la carte menu. We more enjoyed a recent Benu meal à la carte than a previous excellent tasting extravaganza. Gagnaire's Twist in LV also allows selections.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Thomas Nash
                                                                                                                          d
                                                                                                                          dunstable Oct 24, 2012 01:01 PM

                                                                                                                          I dunno man:

                                                                                                                          http://eater.com/archives/2012/02/28/...

                                                                                                                          I've never been to any of these places, but most of them have menus available on the Web. It's not all tasting menus, but you are still spending astronomical sums, which is consistent with what I expect of a "Michelin three-star." I'm guessing homey rustic bistros didn't make their cut in France either.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Thomas Nash
                                                                                                                            d
                                                                                                                            Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 01:18 PM

                                                                                                                            i visited a bunch of 3 stars in paris last summer, and literally none of them had required tasting menus.

                                                                                                                            But michelin awarding only tasting menus in the bay area is a function of the local market, rather than michelin's style / taste in food.

                                                                                                                            Zero a la carte places in the bay area serve 2 or 3 michelin star caliber food.

                                                                                                                            In las vegas, Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy (3 star and 2 star, respectively, before the guide left LV) both serve a la carte menus. Though they are certainly no less expensive than tasting menus. 3 courses including dessert easily runs $200 per person (usually more.)

                                                                                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                                                                              m
                                                                                                                              michaelstl Oct 25, 2012 11:01 AM

                                                                                                                              All of the Paris 3* offer a tasting menu with the excpetion of L'Ambroisie. They may not be of the 15+ course variety though and instead in the 5-8 course range.

                                                                                                                              1. re: michaelstl
                                                                                                                                d
                                                                                                                                Dustin_E Oct 25, 2012 11:52 AM

                                                                                                                                and almost all (pierre gagnaire being the exception afaik) the tasting menus are just a collection of courses available on the a la carte menu. and none of them are required.

                                                                                                                                1. re: michaelstl
                                                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Oct 25, 2012 12:39 PM

                                                                                                                                  In France, a 5- to 8-course menu is normally a prix-fixe version of what you might order a la carte, typically with several choices for some of the courses. Either way you would follow the traditional arc of a French meal.

                                                                                                                                  That's a totally different beast from the modern tasting menu where you get tiny portions of 13 or 26 or however many dishes. That style was unknown hereabouts before the French Laundry started doing it in the mid-90s. Did some French chef do that earlier?

                                                                                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                              d
                                                                                                                              Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 02:11 PM

                                                                                                                              >> expensive, elitist style of food

                                                                                                                              michelin tries to give stars to places it considers to be "the best". Of course "the best" is also going to be expensive.

                                                                                                                              there's nothing wrong with thinking these places totally aren't worth the money (most normal people would believe this.)

                                                                                                                              but trying to say midrange casual local bistro type places are as good as michelin 2 and 3 star places that cost 5 times as much is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                            3. re: nocharge
                                                                                                                              d
                                                                                                                              Dustin_E Oct 24, 2012 02:01 PM

                                                                                                                              >> take risks with more unique concepts that may or may not work for everyone.

                                                                                                                              The SF 2-star places are in the vein of el bulli / pierre gagnaire / fat duck.

                                                                                                                              There doesn't seem to be a local market for 2-star caliber places that are in the vein of Alain Ducasse Plaza Athenee / Ambroisie / Taillevent.

                                                                                                                              Closest thing to the second category we've got is chez panisse downstairs and various steakhouses, but those are pretty different.

                                                                                                                          Show Hidden Posts