The 6 Californian restaurants classified 3 stars by the Michelin Guide for 2021 – Robb Report
Two years after Michelin unveiled its very first all-California guide, the foodie’s bible is back from its pandemic-induced hiatus. Southern California had waited a decade for the chance to land its first three-star restaurant, but the only news that the 2019 edition made at its highest level was the demotion of Saison after Laurent Gras took over from Josh Skenes. . As the 2021 guide introduces 22 new one-star restaurants and five other two-star establishments, California will have to wait for a new place that Michelin considers “extraordinary cuisine, deserving of a special trip.” Maybe one of the state’s 16 two-star restaurants will go up in a year.
Unfortunately, the Golden State lost a three-star restaurant this year. As Meadowood’s restaurant burned down in the glass fire, Michelin removed it from consideration. However, Christopher Kostow is in the process of rebuilding the restaurant and toured North America before the reopening. And when Thomas Keller posted on his Instagram Stories that evening that The French Laundry’s service would be in honor of his three-star colleagues in California, he counted the Kostow restaurant among them.
At the moment, there are six three Michelin star restaurants in California, and all of them are clustered in the Bay Area. Here are the six.
Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Better late than never. Since opening in 2011, Chef Dominique Crenn has offered a moving and artistic interpretation of modern French cuisine. After years of earning two stars, Michelin finally awarded Atelier Crenn a third. The guide wrote that “The current menu displays a wonderful balance of grace, artistry, technical ability and taste.” With this honor, Crenn became the first woman to run a three Michelin star restaurant in America. Not only that, its new restaurant Bar Crenn – an ode to classic French gastronomy – landed a star in its first year of eligibility. In 2019, she announced she would be removing meat from all of her menus – seafood would stay – due to Crenn’s concern about the environmental impact of animal farming. However, last summer she announced that the meat would return to Atelier Crenn’s menu for the first time since 2018, as it would serve lab-grown chicken once it got FDA approval.
Benu, San Francisco
Among his peers, Chef Corey Lee is highly revered. “The first time I ate Corey’s food was at the French Laundry when he was a chef,” Crenn says. “I could taste the talent behind the food. What I love about Benu is that he celebrates where he’s from, Korea, and he communicates that in a very special way. Praised for his technicality and the sophistication of his dishes, Lee’s Benu earned his third star in the 2015 guide. Lee fused flavors from Korea, China and Japan with techniques he perfected as a chef in French Laundry for four years. The result is a popular tasting menu that will feature dishes like an oyster with pork belly and kimchi; or smoked quail, lily and fermented pepper. Like his counterparts, Lee has prepared take-out food during Covid-19 shutdowns. However, he used this opportunity as a testing ground for his upcoming Korean restaurant San Ho Won.
French laundry, Yountville
Since the early 1900s, the French Laundry has been transformed by Thomas Keller into a leader in American gastronomy after taking it over in 1994. Rooted in his love of French cuisine and technique, the menu de neuf dishes offer dishes such as a cauliflower velouté with grilled marcona almonds, scallops with black trumpet cream, squab with Jerusalem artichokes and venison with caramelized Brussels sprouts. “The French Laundry showed the importance of nostalgia in food,” says James Syhabout of two-star Clerk in Oakland. “It traces what makes you take yourself to the same place when you first ate a dish and it made you so happy. That’s all that sometimes matters about food. One of the biggest testimonials to the influence of French Laundry has been the sheer number of alumni who have opened their own acclaimed restaurants, from Grant Achatz’s Alinea, to Corey Lee’s Benu, to Rene Redzepi’s Noma, to Jordan Kahn’s Vespertine. Like his idol Paul Bocuse, Keller has created a testing ground for exceptional chefs.
Manresa, Los Gatos
It’s a cliché to say that a chef embraces farm-to-table, but David Kinch was a pioneer in developing contemporary California cuisine with a veggie-centric focus. Using the bounty of Golden State produce, he draws inspiration from the region, preparing dishes like Tidal basin, that mimics the rocky shores of the Bay Area. It is a rich broth that pockets a slice of raw foie gras and is accompanied by uni, clams, mussels, oysters, marinated kombu, grilled nori and shitake mushrooms. His influence continues in California with alumni opening their own exceptional restaurants, such as Syhabout at Commis, Jeremy Fox of Birdie G’s in Santa Monica and Josef Centeno of PYT in Los Angeles. Another fire in Manresa closed the restaurant last year, as it had done three years ago, but Kinch has bounced back again to reopen his flagship. Now he extends the Manresa name even further, with chef baker Avery Ruzicka creating the exceptional Manresa Bread bakery and cafe, and then opening Mentone during the pandemic.
Quince, San Francisco
Chef Michael Tusk has combined his love of Northern Italian cuisine with his entourage in Northern California to turn classics like tortellini into modern American dishes. Opened in 2003, Quince earned its third Michelin star in the 2017 guide. Like other stalwarts of contemporary California cuisine in the Bay Area, Quince is dedicated to finding the best product. Tusk has partnered with Fresh Run Farm, one of the early adopters of organic farming, to grow heirloom fruits, vegetables and flowers exclusively for the chef. In 2011, after six consecutive nominations, Tusk won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Pacific, for his work at Quince and his rustic Italian restaurant Cotogna. Earlier in 2019, Tusk and his wife Lindsay also opened their relaxed French-inspired wine bar Verjus. For the pandemic, Michael and Lindsay temporarily moved Quince to Hudson Ranch about an hour outside of town and served a simplified menu based on the produce around them.
Husband and wife duo Kyle and Katina Connaughton wanted to open more than just a restaurant when they launched SingleThread in Sonoma in 2016. From the inn above the farmhouse restaurant to the 11-course tasting menu, both create an immersive and complete experience. . The Japanese-influenced cuisine is influenced by Kyle’s time as a chef around the world. Among many stays, he worked at the restaurant of celebrity chef Michel Bras in Hokkaido, Japan, made pastries at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills; and directed the research kitchen at Heston Blumenthal’s temple of molecular gastronomy, The Fat Duck. When the pandemic shut them down last year, Connaughton switched to a take-out menu, but also partnered with local Sonoma Family Meal to cook meals for those in need in their community. The couple will also be opening a new restaurant in Healdsburg: Little Saint will serve a meatless a la carte menu in a space designed by Ken Fulk.