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Oct 23, 2012 07:18 PM

SF Michelin stars 2013

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

    23 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      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

        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

        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

          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

            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

              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

                >> 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

              >> 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

                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

                  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

                    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: Dustin_E

                        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

                          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

                            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

                  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

                    I dunno man:


                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                        >> 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

                        >> 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.

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

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

                        1. Great about Atelier Crenn's 2 stars!

                          1. 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.