For a couple of years it's been no secret that chef Joshua Skenes was aiming to make Saison the first Michelin three-star restaurant in San Francisco proper. Today, he got his wish, along with fellow S.F. chef Corey Lee, whose restaurant Benu also rises to three-star glory with the release of Michelin's 2015 Guide to the Bay Area.
For a while after the guide launched in the Bay Area in 2006, only The French Laundry held that honor, but since the 2011 guide it's been held by another Napa spot, The Restaurant at Meadowood. Three Michelin stars are something that chefs the world over strive to attain, and the guidebook's credibility in the food world lends serious weight to this rating, which is held by only a few dozen restaurants in Europe, Asia, and North America. It reflects, in the eyes of Michelin inspectors, the utmost in refinement, originality, luxury, and consistency in the modern food world.
Michelin employs several anonymous, Bay Area-based "inspectors" who spend the year scouring the Bay Area and returning to familiar restaurants to rate their ongoing quality and consistency, concentrating primarily on the food alone. Additionally, inspectors from other locales around the world, including Europe and Japan, are brought in to offer their own opinions, and to compare star ratings on an international playing field.
Critics especially in France where the guidebook originated say that Michelin's standards and tastes are antiquated, especially in a world where most modern diners have been rejecting the staid, tablecloth'd, old-world style of a traditional Michelin-starred dining room in favor of more casual ways of eating. Still, though, fine dining continues evolving perhaps nowhere more notably in the last few years than here in San Francisco and it remains the arena in which chefs push culinary boundaries and invent new ways to showcase flavors and ingredients.
Also notable among the changes in this year's guide, 25-year-old Acquerello and its executive chef Suzette Gresham rises to two stars, after holding one star for the past seven years of the guide. This is big, too, because Gresham becomes the first American-born female chef to earn two Michelin stars, and only the third female chef in the country to get this honor, after Dominique Crenn did two years ago.**
There are two new sushi spots in the city that join the one-star ranks as well: Kusakabe in the Financial District, which Michael Bauer raved about earlier this year; and Maruya in the Mission which, sadly, just lost both of its opening chefs an announcement that arrived the very day that this major honor did, and might just make the management think twice about letting master sushi chefs Masaki Sasaki and Hide Sueyoshi walk away so easily.
Below, the full star ranking. The complete 2015 guidebook will be available for purchase starting tomorrow online or at your local bookseller.
Benu, San Francisco
The French Laundry, Yountville
The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
Saison, San Francisco
Acquerello, San Francisco
Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Baumé, Palo Alto
Coi, San Francisco
Manresa, Los Gatos
Quince, San Francisco
All Spice, San Mateo
Ame, San Francisco
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
Aziza, San Francisco
Boulevard, San Francisco
Campton Place, San Francisco
Chez TJ, Mountain View
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
Gary Danko, San Francisco
Keiko a Nob Hill, San Francisco
Kusakabe, San Francisco *
La Folie, San Francisco
La Toque, Napa
Luce, San Francisco
Madera, Menlo Park
Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
Maruya, San Francisco *
Michael Mina, San Francisco
Plumed Horse, Saratoga
Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
SPQR, San Francisco
Spruce, San Francisco
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Terra, St. Helena
Terrapin Creek, Bodega Bay
The Village Pub, Woodside
Wakuriya, San Mateo
* Indicates a new addition to the star ranks in the 2015 guide.
** Emma Bengtsson, the Swedish-born executive chef at New York's Aquavit, became the second female chef in the U.S. to earn two stars this year. It's also notable that the Bay Area is home to the first two American-born male chefs ever to earn three stars, Thomas Keller and Christopher Kostow.
Previously: Quince Rises to Two Stars, State Bird Earns One, And Other Michelin Restaurant Updates for San Francisco
Coqueta, Kin Khao, Anchor Oyster Bar Among New Michelin Bib Gourmand Picks For 2015