After a year of pandemic hiatus, the Michelin Guide and its authoritative but divisive star rating system have returned to California. On Tuesday morning, the international restaurant guide revealed its selections for 2021, including five new two-star awards – two of which can be found in Los Angeles.
Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants by a team of anonymous inspectors. One star stands for “a very good restaurant in its category”, two stars for “excellent cuisine that is worth a detour”, while the coveted and elusive three-star rating for “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special trip ” stands. (There are still no three-star restaurants in Southern California.)
This year Josiah Citrin’s acclaimed tasting menu restaurant Mélisse in Santa Monica has rejoined the Michelin star system with two stars. Mélisse was not awarded stars in 2019, although it received two of them in the 2008 and 2009 guides of LA Brandon Go’s Hayato, an intimate Japanese kaiseki restaurant in the Arts District, also received two stars in new entries, up from the first in the year 2019. Star designation.
For Go, the honor is a bit surreal – last year he worried that he might have to close his restaurant.
After closing Hayato for most of 2020, the chief owner realized that he had to provide some form of service in order to stay afloat and keep his highly trained staff. The restaurant resumed its ornate take-out bento until May, then paused to prepare for a reopening in mid-June when California allowed indoor dining at full capacity and the seven-seat dinner service resumed. Even after reopening the dining room, Go wasn’t sure Hayato could recover; Two Michelin stars, he says, could attract more customers and provide more long-term stability.
“I just thought about where we were last year – a year ago I didn’t even know if the restaurant would make it,” he said. “But we did it, and it’s just an incredible gift to go from this low to this high.”
Hayato and Mélisse join n / naka, Providence, Sushi Ginza Onodera and Vespertine on the list of two-star restaurants in the LA area. Other new two-star California ratings include Addison in San Diego, Birdsong in San Francisco, and Harbor House in Mendocino County.
22 restaurants in California were awarded one star for the first time, six of them in the LA area:
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura in Beverly Hills, Morihiro Onoderas Morihiro in Atwater Village, Dave Beran’s Pasjoli in Santa Monica, Phillip Frankland Lee’s Pasta Bar in Encino, Minh Phan’s Phenakite in Hollywood and Yasuhiro Hirano’s Sushi I-Naba in Manhattan Beach.
Other new one-star awards in Southern California include Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad, Knife Plea in Costa Mesa, Soichi in San Diego, Sushi Bar in Montecito, and Sushi Tadokoro in San Diego. One-star restaurants on the New Central Coast include Bell’s in Los Alamos and Six Test Kitchen in Paso Robles. In Northern California, the honors went to Adega, Avery, Marlena, Niku Steakhouse, O ‘by Claude Le Tohic, Selby’s, Sushi Shin and The Shota, all in San Francisco, and Barndiva in Sonoma.
Awards aren’t just limited to star ratings. Jon Yao’s Taiwanese tasting menu restaurant, Kato, in West LA has had a one-star rating since the 2019 Guide, but this year it won the Michelin National Young Chef Award.
Historically, Michelin star ratings – particularly in the US and Europe – have typically rewarded fine dining, tasting menus, and omakase formats, but in 1997 the Guide introduced Bib Gourmands, which recognize restaurants that offer quality cuisine at a more affordable price ; In most US cities, these meals are often three courses for $ 40 or less.
In the California Guide 2021, 45 new restaurants were awarded the Bib Gourmand award. Among those that made the list: Bee Taqueria in West Adams, Chifa in Eagle Rock, Cola Pasta in Santa Monica, Jiang Nan Spring in Alhambra, Kazan in Beverly Hills, Konbi in Echo Park, La Azteca in Belvedere, Luscious Dumplings in Monrovia, Tumbi in Santa Monica and Wood Spoon in Downtown Los Angeles are all the rage.
For Michelin’s guide to California 2021, visit guide.michelin.com/us/en/california.