SF Michelin Ratings – My Thoughts

The San Francisco Michelin ratings are out and everyone is blogging / reporting about them. Despite our gripes, we all love these sorts of comparisons – they’re fun puzzles and games, if nothing else. Most people complain that Michelin hasn’t included their favorite restaurant but I think the ratings are quite generous – much more than I would be. I will play into the publicity game – my thoughts are below for places I’ve been:

Three Stars

  • French Laundry – despite being perfect to a fault, it is the epitome of 3-star dining in France. And, believe it or not, it is just as good as many of them. My review.

Two Stars

  • Aqua – my last meal was many moons ago, but I might pop in for a few lunches over the next few months. My last meal was one star, striving to be two star.

  • Manresa – obviously I am a big fan of the restaurant and, from a food perspective based on my travels over the last two years, it’s easily operating at a 3-star level. Some of my many reviews.
  • Cyrus – this is a restaurant that desperately grasps for the three-star level but one star would be fair. My review.
  • Chez TJ – the big surprise of this year’s results, a 2-star restaurant in trying-so-hard-to-be-trendy downtown Mountain View. I’ll probably give it a shot sometime early next year.
  • Meadowood – another surprise, the menu looks a little dull. I’ll let others test the waters first.

One Star

  • Bouchon – quite generous.

  • Chez Panisse - the holy sacred restaurant rightfully deserves one star. Everyone that loves food should try it, but it’s solid high one star territory. My last meal (out of four or so.)
  • Coi – it’s shooting for two stars but my meal would be a solid one star. Coi is one of the rare SF one-star restaurants that could move up to two stars. My review.
  • Farmhouse Inn- in my mind, the epitome of a solid one-star restaurant – very good to great ingredients cooked well. My last review (I’ve been 3-4x since.)
  • Gary Danko- it is nothing more than a one-star restaurant. If people really believe this is fine dining, or a great restaurant, I would only advise they get out more.
  • Quince- the epitome of a great one-star – very good to great ingredients cooked near perfectly. Quince could make the two-star list if they wanted to go that route. My review.
  • Redd- it’s trying to be a one-star place but I wouldn’t give it a star yet. My review.
  • Sushi Ran- no way.

The Omissions

  • El Paseo – various reviews look encouraging and it looks like a place that is trying to reach one-star.
  • Marinus – the chef is well respected locally and internationally.
  • Pilar – to me, this is also the epitome of a one-star restaurant. A glaring omission.
  • Slanted Door – the food is merely ok, it definitely didn’t deserve one star.
  • Zuni Cafe – I still fail to see the magic of this place.

Some might argue why a French tire company should be trusted to rate our restaurants. There might be some validity to their argument but the Michelin guide remains the best guide to our fine dining scene. Zagats? Did I ever tell you about my highly-rated John Ash meal? Yelp or Chowhound? They’re both good for discovery but only sometimes for content. SF Chronicle? They don’t really seem to have the resources to properly cover the dining scene.

Thanks to the new Michelin ratings, I will definitely try Chez TJ and re-try Aqua.

- chuck

  • http://www.alifewortheating.com Aaron

    hah! Bouchon getting one star is quite generous indeed. Seems like a little bit of star-by-association if you ask me.
    Also, I certainly agree that Chef Kinch’s food down in Los Gatos is 3-star quality. That place is special.

  • http://www.ForkandBottle.com Jack

    Chuck, you are the All-Seeing, All-Knowing, Uber-Restaurant Swami.

    Seriously, your assessments are so Dead On.
    (I can’t verify the ones I haven’t been to, though: Chez TJ, Meadowood (but boring menu is exactly what I thought when I looked at the online menu again about 2 months ago), El Paseo and Pilar.)

    Although you didn’t list the Bib Gourmands, some of them are right and some way wrong, like both Willi’s.

  • ChuckEats

    Aaron, before you know it, Ad Hoc will get a star next year!

    Jack, I try – unlike Michelin, I haven’t figured out how to get someone to pay me for this great insight :) I thought that the Bibs I knew were appropriate (Delfina, Cafe Gibraltar, Sociale, Slanted Door, and a few others.) South Park Cafe is 1 block away from me so I guess I will give that a shot.

  • Aaron (different one)

    The stars by association thing is true in NY for sure, Vongereitchen & Batali restaurants seem to get a star by virtue of thier name alone. My meals at Perry St & Babbo were horrible, and although I’ve never eaten there I feel like I just know that Del Posto sucks.