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Monday, October 02, 2006

Michelin Guide Results Announced

The results from the first ever Michelin Guide for San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country have been publicly announced, and here they are:

Michelin 2007 Ratings for San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country
Three StarThe French Laundry
Two StarAqua
Michael Mina
One StarFleur De Lys
La Folie
Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton
Gary Danko
Fifth Floor
Chez Panisse
Sushi Ran
Chez TJ
Auberge du Soleil
Bistro Jeanty
La Toque
Dry Creek Kitchen
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
K&L Bistro

As you might guess if you read my post from late last night, several of these ratings strike me as completely inexplicable, wholly unjustified and/or plainly wrong.   First, the fact that only one restaurant in the entire Bay Area earned a three star rating is disappointing, to say the least.   Perhaps this makes perfect sense when comparing our restaurants against Europe's three stars, but I will never be convinced that New York's four three star restaurants find no comparable peers here in the Bay Area other than The French Laundry.   Likewise, I do not agree that The French Laundry is so far ahead of its nearest competitors here in the Bay Area, that it alone deserves to occupy the top category.   Second, to put Michael Mina and especially Aqua in the two star category while pushing The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Fleur de Lys and Masa's down to one star is, to put it bluntly, patently absurd.   So much so, in fact, that I think the credibility of the Guide itself is now seriously called into question;   no other serious critic has ever suggested, to my knowledge, that Aqua and Michael Mina are presently soaring high above these Michelin one star awardees, and there's a very good reason for that.

At any rate, these are just a few of my preliminary reactions -- I'm quite certain that I'll have more to say as the week unfolds.   For now, I will simply offer my congratulations to all of the winners in all three of the categories.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, your analysis yesterday wasn't entirely correct. Michelin does take factors other than food into consideration - wine list, service, the restaurant itself, etc. That's why they also have the "forks" in their european guides.

That said, that's the reason we only have 1 3***. Manresa would have made it on food, but the wine list is smaller, the service is casual (which i like), and the restaurant itself is very casual.

If you've been to France and eaten @ michelin-starred places; you'd see why NY has 4 3***'s. And you'd see why we have one.

I don't think Cyrus, Mina, nor Aqua deserve 2**'s and they certainly are not on the same level as Manresa *in terms of food.* However, they do eclipse Manresa in the other variables.

As for the 1*'s, i think the SF list makes *a lot* more sense than the NY list (which just seemed half-hazard.) Bushi-Tei, Range, Boulevard, Sushi Ran don't deserve 1*'s but the others on the list are pretty fair.

I think it's a pretty good showing.

October 02, 2006 4:49 PM  
Blogger NS said...

Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. You raise many interesting points, some of which I will further address in my next post. But let me respond briefly here as well.

First, as to what Michelin does or does not consider in awarding its stars, I was merely reporting what Michelin itself has said on the subject. If you check here, you will see the following quote: "Stars represent only what is on the plate. They do not take into consideration interior decoration, service quality or table settings." Now, maybe your point is that despite this representation, Michelin does, in fact, include non-food aspects in its ratings. But that itself is a major problem; if they proclaim that food is the only factor, then they ought to stick to that -- not substitute in some unknown mix of other factors.

Second, as I said in my posts above, I am not in a position to comment one way or the other regarding how our restaurants compare to the best in Europe. What I can say, however, is that I dined earlier this year at Jean Georges (one of NY's Michelin three stars), and while it was certainly excellent, I would never characterize it as better overall than Manresa or The Dining Room at the Ritz. (I'm excluding service when I say that; even if service is included, though, The Dining Room is still easily on par with Jean Georges.) The only conclusion that I can draw from this is either that NY was given more three stars than it deserves, or that SF was given too few.

I agree that Cyrus, Michael Mina and Aqua are not on the same level as Manresa for food, and I personally do not think that any of them (but particularly Michael Mina or Aqua) deserve two stars. But the biggest travesty is having these three at two stars and The Dining Room at one -- a result that is utterly ludicrous.

October 03, 2006 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think FL & Manresa are the only 2 bay area restaurants that deserve more than 1 star.

Michelin has said their criteria ranks food based on ingredients, technique, and execution (and probably other things). Most Bay Area restaurants rely on their ingredients - notice the controversy of patterson's article. This immediately prevents most Bay Area places from getting the additional stars.

Ritz could get an additional star but it seems like his cuisine has taken a step back since the days of Masa (no doubt thanks to the Ritz corporate controls.)

October 04, 2006 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Bacchus said...

Very facinating comments about the three start ratings. Once of my favorite resturants in SF is Acquerellos because I have been going there so long and like the consistency (no corporate moves to get rid of the chefs). Have not tried FL, but did stumble into Acqua during a business trip recently - and was I ever amazingly impressed.

So here is my story...I am not a chef, or an expert. I love wine and good food and have been blessed to tell which is and isn't. Just don't knwo all the right words to explain why one is versus the other isn't. But to the point of comparing SF resturants versus those in France, let me say that I just returned from a month in France, visting Lyon, Grenoble, Cannes, Monaco (had to stop in), St. Tropez, Annecy adn Mageve, and I can testify that the French are "gods" when it comes to food...particulary in the South (could not find a good meal in Paris). I think what the Michelin rating gets to is first, the freshness and selection of raw material, then (2)the simplicity of the meal...careful not to adulterate the fresh flavours, and then (3) preserving the texture, and last (4) the taste...which is a non-issue if 1-3 is done right. We "US Americans" (hope you enjoyed that too...) rush the meal to the consumer. That is what I see in the SF resturants. Often 1-3 gets lost and the resturants try to bank on 4. When you have eaten fresh organic from French farms....its hard to beat. I like that Michelin has given SF resturants to room to grow. Are we "US Americans" going to step up to the challenge?

Here's to good food and good company.
Bacchus (and yes...that's a real name).

September 11, 2007 1:58 PM  

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