The Michelin Guide team appears to be on a new schedule this year when it comes to the California guide — it's not being released until December, whereas it used to come out in early fall. And we're now getting a list of "New Discoveries" that includes the formerly Michelin two-starred Cyrus, which took a decade-long break and has just reopened in a new town.
Perhaps it's an acknowledgement that the 2021 guide rollout was a mess — I believe I called it a "disorganized shitshow" — that the Michelin folks are taking a few extra months to get their act together with the 2022 update for California. (New York's guide came out in early October.) But the announcements this year have been a touch confusing, which suggests that there's been at least some internal delay, or something. Maybe they are reconsidering this combined California guide business, given that we live in an enormous state with multiple metropolitan areas?
The latter decision, to do a statewide California guide, came before the pandemic, in 2019. It was basically throwing a bone to Los Angeles after the Michelin inspectors snubbed them entirely and stopped printing an LA guide after just a few years — declaring in 2010 that there weren't enough restaurants of star quality, and no three-stars, to make a full city guide worth doing.
The Bay Area's food-world profile only grew in the last decade, eclipsing New York in 2017 with our number of three-star spots. And in that same time, admittedly, the food in LA got better too. So, now we have a statewide guide that has inspectors traipsing to Mendocino, Sacramento, San Diego, and beyond.
Still, the bulk of the attention in the guide is on San Francisco, Wine Country, and Los Angeles — and this year's guide release party, on December 5, is happening in LA.
After confusingly doing this already once this year, the Michelin Guide announced Wednesday that there are 37 new restaurants being added to the updated California guide — with seven of those in the Bay Area. Back in June, they announced 17 Bay Area restaurants that were being added, including San Ho Won, Nisei, Sorella, Ernest, Abacá, and Le Fantastique. Now, seven more. (This latest round seems more focused on SoCal.)
"By revealing some of the new additions made by our inspectors throughout the year, we enhance our digital tools to further strengthen the ties that bind us to food lovers,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, in a statement. "We hope that these regular revelations and updates to the selection throughout the year will provide opportunities to highlight the profession and invite everyone to discover and support the restaurants around them."
You call it "regular revelations and updates," I call it a stalling tactic. Maybe this time they won't give stars to restaurants that aren't open.
Anyway, the seven new additions to the guide for the Bay Area, which have not necessarily earned stars, are Oakland Thai spot Bird & Buffalo, Oakland's Hi Felicia, the newly revived Cyrus in Geyserville, Itria, Ken, Osito, and Yuji in Japantown.
By this time next month we'll know how the star ratings shake out. And in a week or two we should be getting the Bib Gourmand roster.
Assuming no one loses stars, the Bay Area is already down to five Michelin three-star restaurants — or at least we will be by the end of the year. Chef David Kinch has announced the closure of Manresa in Los Gatos, leaving the remaining top-tier restaurants Atelier Crenn, Benu, The French Laundry, Quince, and SingleThread. And we know that if Chronicle critic Soleil Ho were the one doling out stars, The French Laundry and Quince might not even make the three-star cut these days — Ho snubbed both on a recent list of best splurge restaurants, and a recently published review of The French Laundry describes it as still impressive but lacking some elements of surprise and delight that would make it worth the price and insane difficulty of getting a table.
Photo: Marjan Blan