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Dec 31, 2013 06:16 AM

Michelin-recommended Chinese & Japanese restaurants in SF Bay Area

I finally finished reading my birthday gift--the 2014 Michelin Guide--from beginning to end, skipping or reading very quickly through many restaurants of course. Kinda disappointing to see the following:

1. No Chinese restaurant with stars
2. Only one dim sum restaurant with a Bib Gourmand (Yank Sing)
3. All the top traditional (i.e., not M.Y. China) Cantonese restaurants we know in Daly City, Millbrae, and Foster City included in the general recommended list (but no Bib Gourmand or stars)
4. Only one Japanese restaurant with a star (Wakuriya)

Agree or not?

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  1. Most of the Chinese and Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area are not up to the service/atmosphere/consistency standards of the Michelin Guide - so this is unsurprising to me.

    Now service/atmosphere are not my deepest concerns when I eat out - so I don't use Michelin as my guide - that's why I am on Chowhound.

    5 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      The Michelin Guide has made it clear that neither service nor decor matters in their distribution of star(s) to a restaurant.

      1. re: vincentlo

        Michelin explicitly states that the stars are only about the food, but which places get stars and don't make it clear that they're also about service and decor, at least around here.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I think this is true in Europe as well.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Perhaps it's not that Michelin does take service and decor into consideration despite what they claim; it's more about restaurants here having the tendency to have great food go hand in hand with good service and decor. In Hong Kong, a no-frills dim sum chain gets 1 star. Can anyone think of a hole-in-a-wall here that deserves a star food-wise?

            1. re: vincentlo

              SPQR has one star and it would not make my top 10 list for SF Italian restaurants. It just gets extra points for being Frenchy.

              Does All Spice serve the best Indian food in the area?

      2. I agree that Wakuriya deserves its Michelin star and is probably the only Japanese restaurant in the Bay Area that should get one. Perhaps Sushi Ran but the top sushi restaurants in the Bay Area aren't at the level of the best in other cities like New York.

        3 Replies
        1. re: calumin

          How does Wakuriya compare to Mitsunobu and its former Kaygetsu?

          1. re: vincentlo

            I haven't been to Mitsonobu but have been to Kaygetsu. I very much enjoy Wakuriya better than Kaygetsu, perhaps it has to do with the setting for me. I think Wakuriya while sticking to traditional kaiseki style, the food seems a little bit more liberating. It was the best meal I've had in CA this year.

            1. re: vincentlo

              I haven't been to Mitsunobu so perhaps that is a candidate as well....

          2. Well Cafe China in Manhattan has one Michelin star and not only are Chowhounds not overly impressed, but even Yelpers only give it a 3½. So that makes one question Michelin when it comes to Chinese food. They give Hakkasan in Manhattan one star also, which is clearly deserved. But why not Hakkasan SF? Hakkasan NY and Beverly Hills are comparable in quality. I would expect SF to be so also, though I haven't eaten there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chandavkl

              I've been to Hakkasan NY a couple times and Hakkasan SF three times, and I would say that the one in SF is better. When I went to the NY one, however, it was very soon after they first opened so they might have improved.

              On this board a lot of people don't like that restaurant or concept, thinking it's too non-authentic and expensive. I think the food is very creative and well-prepared.

            2. When I went to Yank Sing for lunch more than 10 years ago, I felt that it is dimsum on expense account, so not sure if one can really fit the meal into that budget. It had nice food but if it merits a bib gourmand, there should be many other dim sum restaurants in the bay area that should be on the list.

              Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area, as I casually think about it, fall into a few broad categories (yes, I am sure there are some that won't fit into the below):
              1. Mid-range to fancy Cantonese (e.g. Koi Palace)
              2. Expense account chinese (e.g. Yank Sing, where food is nice but excessively expensive relative to its quality)
              3. Homely Szechuan/ Hunan/ Shanghai/ Dongbei/ other regional speciality house (e.g. Z&Y)
              4. Hole-in-the wall/ mid-range Americanized chinese (e.g. Taiwan Restaurant in San Jose, no chinese menu)

              Many Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area, with the exception of the first two categories, aim for low price or value-to-price rather than absolute quality. Its impossible to find e.g. szechuan restaurants that serves the 'water boiled dish' with super fresh and high quality fish because there aren't enough customers who are willing to pay for it. Partly because there is the perception that Chinese food needs to be cheap and partly because there is not enough customers who is demanding enough with their chinese food or with enough money to want to pay for it. the perception that Chinese food needs to be budget friendly drives the cycle that people demand budget food, so Chinese restaurants serving dishes made with Sysco ingredients because they can't charge more is quite widespread and folks haven't seen/tasted what quality Chinese food is like. whereas if you go to China/ Hong Kong, there is enough demand for quality Chinese that its much easier to find.

              What I just said does not mean I am saying there should be no stars/ bib gourmand for Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area, however.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ckshen

                Yank Sing is in a class by itself as far as dim sum quality and consistency. Also as far as price, but I don't need to be on an expense account to afford $25 for lunch.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  How does Yank Sing compared to Koi Palace?

                  the dimsum meal we ate back then cost $50- that's the reason that led to my 'classification'.

                  1. re: ckshen

                    I find Yank Sing consistently great so long as I remember to skip a couple of formerly great items ruined by ill-conceived de-porkification.


                    Koi Palace I found more hit and miss at dim sum though the best dishes were great.


                    My dinner experience at Koi Palace was so unprofessional that I'll never go back unless with someone who gets special treatment.


                2. re: ckshen

                  That is an on point analysis of the current state of Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area. I am totally frustrated with all the "3 dishes for $21" places that my friends would flock to because they are "so cheap". So every Chinese restaurant caters to the lowest denominator.

                3. Ate at Hakkasan in Mumbai/Bombay.Awful and overpriced,especially for India,where Chinjabi or Chindian is my favorite Chinese fusion food. Sent back two of five dishes.Having not eaten there,hope SF location is better!