We're now a week out from the release of the 2022 Michelin Guide to California — which should probably be called the 2023 guide at this point but now that it's all app-based I guess it doesn't matter.
It's that time of year — albeit a few months late — for the Michelin people to tease out a few details before the publication date of their annual guide update. All the other U.S. guides (New York and Chicago) came out earlier this year, but the California guide has seemingly been delayed, with a release date now of December 5.
We learned earlier this month that seven more Bay Area restaurants have been added to the new California guide — Oakland Thai spot Bird & Buffalo, Oakland's Hi Felicia, the newly revived Cyrus in Geyserville, and Itria, Ken, Osito, and Yuji in San Francisco. That came along with 30 other additions, mostly in Los Angeles.
This week we get the full set of new additions to the Bib Gourmand list, and there are just three for the Bay Area: Liholiho Yacht Club's sister restaurant Good Good Culture Club, North Beach upscale brunch/brunch-for-dinner spot Hilda and Jesse, and Jo’s Modern Thai in Oakland. The Bib Gourmand designation, in case you didn't know, is reserved for restaurants of high quality — but not quite star quality — where you can get two courses and a glass of wine or a dessert for $49 or less, pre-tip. (The cutoff used to be $40, which was becoming increasingly untenable especially in the Bay Area, and even $49 feels like a stretch now.)
The fact that there are only three additions since last year may not be so surprising given that a) a high-quality meal for under $50 is pretty tough to find in these parts, and b) there haven't been so many restaurant openings since the last guide update in 2021, especially those that fit this criteria.
Given the new additions mentioned earlier this month, there's a pretty high probability that places like Cyrus (which once had two stars in its earlier incarnation in Healdsburg), Itria, and Osito are likely to be new star designees. But we'll see! Last year's guide, despite the complications of the pandemic, saw stars get stripped from two SF restaurants — Octavia and Rich Table — which seemed out of line and unfair, given the quality of food at both restaurants.
As of last year, the Bay Area had six three-star restaurants — one more than New York — however one of them, Manresa, has announced it will close at the end of the year and will likely be left out of guide for that reason.
We'll know how it all shakes out next week. Meanwhile, here are the new Bib Gourmands and their Michelin blurbs to add to last year's roster:
All Day Baby (Los Angeles; American cuisine)
On a sun-soaked corner of Sunset Boulevard, find one of the city’s most compelling reasons to wake up early. Anybody can throw together a breakfast sandwich, but few compare to the one at All Day Baby. A tower of softly scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and American cheese arrives under a cloak of strawberry jam stacked between a fluffy cathead biscuit.
Caboco (Los Angeles; Brazilian cuisine)
Chefs Rodrigo Oliveira and Victor Vasconcellos bring both modern and authentic Brazilian fare to their adopted home of Los Angeles. This airy, industrial-chic space welcomes guests with a well-rounded menu of deeply flavorful and enjoyable dishes. Entrees are designed for sharing, and you can easily make a meal out of a variety of small plates.
Chulita (Venice; Mexican cuisine)
Tacos are served all day at this spot where Oaxacan-style, California-influenced fare rules. Slake your thirst with a tequila or mezcal, then tuck in to a starter, such as the quesadilla de calabaza, made from dark masa, filled with Oaxacan queso and garnished with pipián de calabaza. It's even better when filled with tender barbacoa.
Flavors from Afar (Los Angeles; International cuisine)
A kitchen on a mission, Flavors from Afar works with refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants to highlight recipes from their native countries. Eritrean, Lebanese, Navajo, Guatemalan, Haitian — the rotation is constant, and the culinary reach of the effort is vast. This is authentic homestyle cooking in the best of ways, a spotlight on undiscovered talent and a striking reminder of the many flavors the world has to offer. A portion of proceeds benefit the Tiyya Foundation, which supports immigrants and displaced Indigenous communities.
Good Good Culture Club (San Francisco; Southeast Asian cuisine)
Stroll into this lush, happening spot and your eyes will quickly fall on neon blue letters scrawled above the lively open kitchen: “Did you eat yet?” The correct answer is “no”: an empty stomach will be amply rewarded by the vibrantly flavorful cooking here. Southeast Asian flavors find unique Californian expressions in dishes like a signature adobo-glazed fried chicken wing stuffed with garlic rice, or a Lao-style sausage with tangy pasilla pepper jaew.
Hilda and Jesse (San Francisco; American cuisine)
Offering what may well be the Bay Area’s most creative and ambitious take on brunch, this disarming passion project from co-owners Kristina Compton and Rachel Sillcocks gets its extra shine from the pair’s extensive fine dining experience — each also contributed a grandparent for the restaurant’s name. The hospitality is cheery and warm, matched by a winsome space that calls to mind a modernist diner, and happily the cuisine is every bit as finely tuned.
Ipoh Kopitiam (Alhambra; Malaysian cuisine)
Chef Kenji Tang has something of a hit on his hands, and day or night, the line to get in can be as dense as the takeout tickets that pile up on the front counter. Tang fills a void with a fairly succinct menu of well-known Malaysian favorites that stand out in a region known more for its Chinese restaurants.
Jo’s Modern Thai (Oakland; Thai cuisine)
The menu, designed by Chef Intu-On Kornnawong, displays the bold, balanced flavors typical of Thai cuisine, but isn’t overly concerned with hewing to tradition. That creative, irreverent approach is exemplified in dishes like a signature take on drunken noodles, which features smoky barbecue brisket, or a pork burger seasoned to resemble the complex herbaceous flavors of laab.
Lalibela (Los Angeles; Ethiopian cuisine)
Chef/owner Tenagne Belachew and her daughters are congenial fixtures in a simply adorned setting that feels like a humble abode. They are content to let the food do the talking and offer a dazzling selection of vibrant Ethiopian classics with vegetables and meat alike arriving on oversized silver platters lined with injera.
Moo’s Craft Barbecue (Los Angeles; Barbecue)
High school sweethearts Andrew and Michelle Muñoz are living a dream come true. What started out as a backyard hobby smoking meats on weekends has transformed into a full-fledged restaurant in Lincoln Heights. Smoky, salt-and-pepper-crusted brisket and snappy, spicy sausages packed with cheddar and jalapeños pay homage to the barbecue traditions of Austin, Texas.
peasants FEAST (Solvang; American cuisine)
It may seem impossible to be even more charming than its Solvang surroundings, but peasants FEAST doubles down, and delivers. This daytime-only café from Michael and Sarah Cherney spotlights the seasons on its sandwich-driven menu. There's nothing ho-hum about what's between the bread here. Instead, the cooking is all heart and the selections show off a unique creativity (cue the pastrami smoked salmon sandwich).
Pijja Palace (Los Angeles; Fusion cuisine)
“Indian Sports Bar” is not a phrase you hear often, if at all, so it’s no surprise that this quirky hotspot at the base of a Comfort Inn defies labels. Large flatscreen TVs showing the day’s game hang on every wall, and people do indeed come here to cheer on their team. The food is equally original, riffing on classic bar dishes but elevating them with astute seasoning and careful preparation.
Pizzeria Bianco (Los Angeles; Pizza)
Those who think Los Angeles can't compete with New York when it comes to pizza obviously haven't been to Pizzeria Bianco. There is a reason long lines snake through ROW DTLA and queue up at the takeout window with diners hankering for a taste of Chef Chris Bianco’s pizza.
Ramen & Tsukemen TAO (Buena Park; Japanese-Ramen cuisine)
This unassuming spot in an easy-to-miss location in an open-air mall belies the wondrous steaming bowls found within. The small dining room with space for 20 is strictly no-frills but it's of no concern, since you're here for the soul-stirring comfort food made with passion and dedication. The concise menu features a few appetizers, though ramen clearly steals the show.
Saffy’s (Los Angeles; Middle Eastern cuisine)
Crackling flames, heat radiating from the coals, the constant kneading and stretching of dough — the visceral nature of Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’ latest restaurant is impossible to ignore. Lamb and pork kebabs cooked on long metal skewers are the main event, but appetizers easily hold their own. There might not be a better, creamier hummus around; this one boosted with smoked paprika, toasty pine nuts and an herby green zhoug.
Top image: Photo by Marjan Blan