In the Bay Area, with one exception, the two- and three-star places are all tasting-menu-only. That creates a pernicious feedback loop discouraging the most ambitious chefs from offering a la carte or whatever. It’ll be interesting to see if the LA stars reflect as narrow a slice of the diversity of the LA scene.
The Bib Gourmand and The Plate lists are much more representative and include places with just as good food.
Thankfully Chef Zone ain’t like that. Seeing the way he runs Howlin’ Ray’s and the way the whole staff pours their heart and soul into putting out great comfort food without any pretension and all casual, we should be good.
I think Howlin’ Ray’s is a great litmus test: If Michelin comes back here and just drops a bunch of stars on Tasting Menu / fancy places and ignores Howlin’? We’ll know they have failed again.
If they gave Howlin’ Ray’s a Michelin Star (due to how legit, delicious, awesome their food is), they might actually be recognizing the L.A. food scene, and there might be some usefulness to the Guide for those that don’t know the area.
One more comment, between now and October, watch out for restaurants that are already starting to prepare for this, rather than staying true to form. You can sense the pretentiousness and smell the BS when you go into the restaurant, especially if you see a very formulated tasting menu that is not innovative (e.g. add on truffles or upgrade to wagyu) but yet a segment of the chasers are falling for and fawning over…it can be purely subjective though but those are some tell tale signs. Or if you are sensitive to pretentiousness and snooty attitudes by even the floor manager/master somm…it’s one thing to be confident, it’s another to come across arrogant. Delivered in the wrong manner it’s very off putting. No need to mention names right now, but be on the lookout…
I saw this happen in Northern California with one place…I think they already knew they were in the running due to their pedigree and former staff credentials. Watch out for new places that have say, cough cough $50 corkage fee and then up it to $75 right before October. And these places may or may not have thought of a beverage pairing program, or failed to take into consideration (and instead recommend by the glass options which were terrible to begin with and bad markup, steer clear or tread carefully). They already had a lot of hype and a bit of a local following before, so things already went in that direction from the start.
I ask this sincerely and without an ounce of snark.
Do you eat at Michelin starred places very often? And are you generally not wowed or at least very pleased? To my knowledge I’ve only eaten at two and both were due to CH recs and didn’t have those stars at that time. It’s so subjective but if my memory serves (dicier and dicier these days) they remain the two best meals we’ve ever had.
The Michelin Guide used to be a very reliable source where their definitions of 1, 2, and 3 stars actually meant something at some point. Perhaps to this day it is still worthwhile to use for France where the standards are higher. There are places that still truly deserve them, but subjectively there are many that don’t, or are over valued.
Quite a few of us have dined at different Michelin star restaurants across the world, and several FTC folks have already reported on the varying quality and satisfaction levels. At times it is a matter of perception. But I would trust certain folks here more than Michelin Guide, those who align with my tastes. Not all Michelin star places are equal, some are more worthy than others.
Michelin (and Pellegrino guide) has evolved to become playing political games, drama, currying favors, and a certain number of people have far too much influence in deciding who gets what (and some of these people can’t even judge certain food properly, and they are on the voting panels of one or the other, some are the culinary jetsetter types on top of that, far too much influence into the hands of a few).
Restaurants are thus at their mercy and have to cater to them, which comes at great risk and cost. To the extreme, look at the French chef who committed suicide because he lost his star(s). Or those who got 0 to 3 stars in less than a few years…really makes you wonder… There are chefs in Japan who refused Michelin, they felt they didn’t know their cuisine, or had no heart and passion. Some refused to bend their philosophy in cuisine and passion to cater to an international crowd and want to do their own thing and cater to customers who really appreciate their food and have no other hidden agendas, which to me is far more commendable.
I’ve seen a few restaurants change once they got to 2 to 3 stars and not for the better.
They have to raise prices, and to make it seem like there is more value, they add on unnecessary high end ingredients, and don’t do it right. Seriously, why not stick with what they had before, but suddenly there’s caviar on top of sea urchin on top of wagyu and then gold foil?
It is what it is, and it is sad, but this is essentially what it has come to. Like a high school drama or beauty pageant. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
This holds true even within the 3 star realm, but then all the 3 stars that I’ve been to do, at the very least, execute at the highest level while combining the highest quality ingredients with a personal touch.
The narrow-mindedness of the star selection varies from place to place. There’s a somewhat fancy but moderately priced Sichuan restaurant in Hong Kong that has two stars. Maybe they’ll take Jonathan Gold’s criticisms to heart on their return to LA.
I’ve never tried these places, so any FTC’ers who have please chime in. Perhaps it’s more of a gimmick than anything. At least we’ll know (and laugh or cry) when we see what they award for L.A. later this year.
In my experience with several 1 star HK hole in the wall, their 1 star is only applicable within the realm of their own highly specific specialty…namely wonton noodle and Chinese BBQ.
On the other hand, I just read an Eater article where they claim:
“Certainly that’s a possibility if the guide chooses to ignore some of Southern California’s greatest restaurants: the taquerias from Los Angeles to Baja, the entire range of Chinese cuisines available in the San Gabriel Valley, or the Indian restaurants of Artesia.”
IMO, it would truly be a travesty for the guide to include any Cantonese restaurants in the SGV.
I so appreciate your spending the time and energy to go into this in detail. When I first started reading this it made me wonder if yelp used Michelin as a mentor . I guess I’m perhaps lucky that my two Michelin experiences were in Europe (Barcelona and Budapest) Thanks so much. I learned a lot - something that I love doing
It would be bizarre for the guide not to include some SGV Cantonese restaurants. There’s more in the book than the places with stars, The Plate, or Bib Gourmand. They list 150 restaurants in San Francisco alone.