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Oct 22, 2013 03:49 PM

2014 SF Bay Area Michelin Stars

The new list was just released:

Thoughts? I wasn't surprised to see State Bird added or Alexander's or Redd drop off - I really enjoyed meals at both those places but I've heard very mixed things recently about both of them. I never really thought La Costanera was star worthy in the first place, but I'm surprised about Frances, which is still one of the darlings of SF dining.

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  1. AQ is missing from the one-star list. I'm not surprised to see Frances demoted; I never understood how it got the star in the first place. It's popular because there is so little competition in the Castro.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Paul H

      I dunno, I think Frances is pretty good. Maybe not as good as their reservation situation suggests, but I'd happily dine there.

      1. re: Paul H

        Have had many meals at Frances and have enjoyed them all. One thing to note is that we have only ordered entrees once and were a bit underwhelmed with them. I've also heard this feedback from friends who have dined there. Might be a reason why they were docked. We usually go with most of the bouchees, a couple apps, and a dessert. Plus the $1/oz house wine is a great option and the market shots never disappoint.

        1. re: foodcoupleSF

          Interesting - I had the same experience at Frances. I've only been once but we really enjoyed our apps and desserts and were underwhelmed by the entrees. I thought we just ordered wrong, but its really interesting to know others have had the same experience.

      2. Disappointing AQ doesn't have a star. Surprised Luce and Spruce still has one.

        10 Replies
        1. re: tjinsf

          This is the second or third site where I have seen mentioned that people do not think Luce does not deserve a Michelin Star. I have been twice, and left impressed each time. Can anyone provide any insight?

          And, yes I do agree that AQ being left out is most unfortunate...

          1. re: WineGeekSF

            I've eaten there many times for business dinners and I find the food and service to be average. To me there is nothing that makes it exception in terms of the creativity of the dishes, the technique used or the service. It's a solid place just not exceptional compared to the places I think of as 1 star although Michelin does one star the expense account set restaurants.

            1. re: WineGeekSF

              Luce was better when Dominique Crenn was chef de cuisine. I had a version of the yogurt menu which she did for Iron Chef once - that was really good.

              1. re: WineGeekSF

                I have been three times. One experience was fantastic - interesting food with a very engaged server. Second time food was oK, no WOW items. Third time was why I won't return- brought my boyfriend for tasting menu with wine pairing. Server just dropped food in front of us and said "this is the chicken dish" and walked away. Nothing about prep, chef's intent, pairing - zip. We had one course that the wine pairing really didn't work for us and asked to hear from the sommelier what they we trying for to better understand/learn something. Server wouldn't ask for sommelier. When we asked again he said they had run out of the intended pairing wine and this was a similar priced varietal.really?!? Still no sommelier to discuss. We'll never return. $250 with a minuscule tip.

              2. re: tjinsf

                I so wanted to like it because I live so close, but had an almost-thoroughly disappointing experience at AQ. The food was obviously off-temperature, seafood entree smelled fishy in a bad way, textures off in one dish like there was obviously an ingredient left out. The waiter was always there when we didn't need him and never when we did, and had a semi-huffy, overly informal manner. The bar manager was wonderful on the drink we had before dinner, however. Made great conversation, and gave great and patient explanations for the beer selection.

                It was obvious from the sheer number of employees running around the place that they want that star badly, but In my opinion, and have heard the same from others, the food and service is not memorable and not worth the price.

                I will have to go back at some point to give it another shot, but I'm having trouble looking forward to it.

                1. re: MissEnPlace

                  Don't bother going back to AQ, MissEnPlace - I've tried three times and every visit was exactly as you describe. Almost everybody on staff acted like we should be thrilled to be there -- huffy, overly formal, just as you put it -- but it was an emperor's-new-clothesy show, with the server telling us a dish was exquisite when it tasted just okay. Almost funny, at times, like when a waiter haughtily told us how you could tell a really good wine because it was made of only one kind of grape. The last visit, we waited 15 minutes to order drinks and then, after another 10 (and these were not cocktails, just beer and wine), when we asked about where they were, we got a "humph" from the waiter, who stomped off and didn't come back for another long while. Dessert was good, though.

                  1. re: jane

                    "Almost funny, at times, like when a waiter haughtily told us how you could tell a really good wine because it was made of only one kind of grape."

                    Oh that is amusing! I didn't find the service problematic when I went to AQ - the food didn't quite "do it" for me (different tastes I guess), but I liked the concept and the space. Liked it more than Commonwealth as an overall experience.

                    1. re: jane

                      I knew that Chateau Margaux stuff was no good! Too many grapes, then!

                      1. re: dunstable

                        not to mention Châteauneuf-du-Pape

                      2. re: jane

                        "waiter was always there when we didn't need him and never when we did, and had a semi-huffy ... manner"

                        Sounds like a good summary of what very characteristically passes for expert restaurant service in the US, sadly.

                        (A visit to Las Vegas soon after the advent of its new wave of super hotels with lavish restaurants around 2000 contrasted one high-end restaurant, run by Europeans, where servers were invisible but appeared at your elbow just as you started thinking you might need one, vs. a competing restaurant run by Americans, where the servers would come up to the table, beam at you, and tell you about themselves, but not notice the utensils missing from the place settings, nor offer coffee afterwards.)

                        "like when a waiter haughtily told us how you could tell a really good wine because it was made of only one kind of grape."

                        Now that's astounding, and a dangerous kind of remark to have quoted if a restaurant seeks special recognition.

                  2. I am surprised to see State Bird added. Is it the novelty of the carts? I thought there was inconsistency in the food and service when I went, maybe it has improved. I like both Frances and Rich Table better than State Bird.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Scott M

                      An Eater interview with a Michelin inspector produced this bit:

                      Q: State Bird Provisions earned their first star this year. What can you say about what went into that decision?

                      A: Oh, it's so exciting. It's a ton of fun, I have to say. The food is amazing, and its really creative and the presentation is unique, you know with the dim sum carts and you can see all the plates coming around, so then it kind of speaks to what you're feeling in the moment. And of course they have the menu list that you can order from, but with that presentation you might order something you might not ordinarily think of. And they have this great contrast of some more contemporary dishes, some more creative interpretations of rustic dishes. It's just a ton of fun, and obviously they have the criteria: they have terrific quality product, it's very solid technique. It was one of my favorite meals this year. I'd go back there on my own in a heartbeat.

                      I generally concur with this statement. I sort of agree with you regarding the food at State Bird (I like it okay, though not enough to regularly jump through all the hoops to get a table), but there's no denying that the overall experience is very fun.

                    2. i'm very surprised state bird got one star.

                      also surprised quince got 2 stars. but i guess they had to do something to keep it interesting at the 2 and 3-star level.

                      1. " I wasn't surprised to see. ... Alexander's or Redd drop off - I really enjoyed meals at both those places but I've heard very mixed things recently about both of them."

                        I don't know how many people are aware of the following, but there was a major business change at Alexander's as it proceeded to expand from the original lavish offbeat Cupertino steakhouse (where I had some impressive meals) to first a SF location and then the new "Sea by Alexander's" in Palo Alto.

                        From what I've learned, mostly from fragmentary incremental press reports, the original front-line team of JC "Alexander" Chen (whom the business is named for) and Chef Jeffrey Stout -- the two people constantly cited and credited by critics in the early years of Alexander's, 2005-2010 -- were both pushed out after the success of the original. Chen first, then Stout just as he was about to open The Sea. Subsequently there has been a flurry of print advertising. It reminds me of some high-tech business case histories, where a new investor came in, kicked out the founders, and proceeded to milk the brand they'd built up.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: eatzalot

                          So it looks like if you lose your star rating you aren't considered for Bib Gourmand? Range lost their star a while back and Frances this year but neither is Bib Gourmand. I don't see them as being less qualified than Rivoli, Wood Tavern or the Slanted Door.

                          1. re: Scott M

                            La Costanera lost its star this year and was added to the Bib Gourmand list. I'm surprised Frances wasn't on the Bib Gourmand list though - maybe it was considered too pricey (its not much more than La Costanera though).

                            1. re: adriennehm

                              I am not familiar with La Costanera; but Rivoli is in the same ball park as Frances in terms of prices.

                              1. re: Scott M

                                The cutoff is $40 for two courses and a glass of wine or dessert. Frances's non-veg entrees start at $27 vs. $24 for Rivoli and I believe they add an SF employer mandates surcharge.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I believe the surcharge is $1.50 per person and Frances offers bouchees in the $7 range which Rivioli does not. Also, Frances' house wine option is a very good value compared to Rivoli.

                                  1. re: Scott M

                                    $7 bouchee + $27 entree + $5 for five ounces of house wine + $1.50 = $40.50

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      And how does the calculation work out for Rivoli?

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          The other nice thing about Frances is you have options to come in under $40. You don't have to get an entrée. Get two bouchees and the pasta appetizer which is typically a fair portion of pasta, plus the wine and the surcharge.

                                          $7+$7+$13+$5+$1.5 = $33.5

                                          There are many different options that will work.

                                          1. re: Scott M

                                            I'm so glad to see Frances gone and happier still to see Izakaya Yuzuki added to the Bib Gourmand.

                                            I'm also happy to see State Bird get its star.

                                        2. re: Scott M

                                          i've never been able to figure out how slanted door is on that list year after year, given the multiple $40+ entrees....