It’s Michelin stars day in California. The Big Red Book, known as a guide for high-end (and often Eurocentric and Japanese-heavy) dining, is back after a yearlong pandemic hiatus to dole out stars to restaurants they feel are worthy of the honor. The stars are awarded based on a three-tiered scale and, for some chefs and restaurateurs, they can represent a lifetime of work and dedication wrapped up into a single achievement.
For a bit of context: the Michelin team (yes, the same ones as the tire company) originally conceived of the guide as a way to entice travelers to explore various regions by car, with three-star restaurants in France being worth a standalone trip just for the dining experience. Today, Michelin stars and Michelin guidebooks can be found across the globe, fueled by municipal tourism and marketing dollars (California paid to have Michelin move to a statewide guide in 2019). As for the Michelin inspectors themselves, they’re an anonymous lot that love refined service, white tablecloths, and fussy food.
So, knowing all that, who won around greater Los Angeles?
The biggest winners for Los Angeles are Hayato, the Downtown LA kaiseki restaurant at Row DTLA, and Mélisse, chef Josiah Citrin’s Santa Monica fine dining stalwart; both now have two stars, though Mélisse previously earned stars under an earlier version of the Michelin guide years ago. Addison in San Diego also earned its second star.
A bunch of new Los Angeles-area restaurants have also made the jump from discovery or bib gourmand status (lower tiers of recognition, unstarred, made by the Michelin team) this year. They include:
- Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Beverly Hills Italian restaurant from star chef Bottura.
- Knife Pleat in Costa Mesa by chef Tony Esnault.
- Morihiro, chef Morihiro Onodera’s eponymous omakase restaurant in Atwater Village.
- Pasjoli, the upscale French restaurant from Dave Beran in Santa Monica.
- Pasta Bar, chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s Encino restaurant.
- Phenakite, Hollywood’s upscale option from chef Minh Phan.
- Sushi I-Naba, by chef Yasuhiro Hirano in Manhattan Beach.
Up on the Central Coast, Bell’s in Los Alamos earned a new star, as did Six Test Kitchen in Paso Robles, and Sushi Bar in Santa Barbara/Montecito.
No restaurant was awarded three stars this year. 2019 two-star awardees for greater Los Angeles include Vespertine, Urasawa, Somni, Sushi Ginza Onodera, Providence, and n/naka. A number of restaurants previously given stars by the Michelin team, including Trois Mec, Urasawa, and Somni, have closed as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Strangely, Maude and Le Comptoir retained their one Michelin rating despite not being open since March 2020.