French Laundry, Meadowood take top Michelin honors

October 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every Bay Area restaurateur wants just two things: success and a star from the Michelin Guide. The 2011 San Francisco edition is out with some newcomers joining familiar favorites.

Northern California's restaurant reputation in part hinges on the recognition from the Michelin Guide, and being named in it means you've arrived.

"We're looking at the produce, consistency of ingredients. We're looking at how the chef prepares them, the technique," says the Michelin Guide's Jean-Luc Naret.

This is the 5th San Francisco edition which highlights 519 restaurants. Anonymous inspectors award culinary achievements. The highest ranking of three stars belongs to two Napa Valley restaurants -- The French Laundry in Yountville wins again, joined by newcomer Meadowood in St. Helena.

"Moving from a very good restaurant to an excellent restaurant, that's a lot of work," says Naret.

There are just 91 restaurants worldwide that have three stars. Coi in San Francisco, Cyrus in Healdsburg and Manresa in Los Gatos earn two stars again.

Frances in the Castro is one of 39 restaurants that earned one star. It's been open less than a year and has generated a lot of buzz. Owner/chef Melissa Perello named it after her grandmother.

"It's just like a family and I think that that's conveyed in the entire dining experience here at Frances," said Perello.

There are 74 restaurants listed as bib gourmands, otherwise known as editors' choice or good values. The Slanted Door at the Ferry Building is one of them.

"I didn't get any stars, but that's OK, being editor's favorite restaurant," says The Slanted Door's chef, Charles Phan. .

The Slanted Door has been around 15 years, six of those at the Ferry Building location. It started a revolution in family style Vietnamese dining with the classic spring rolls and two signature dishes: crab cellophane noodles and shaking beef.

Local restaurants feature fresh local ingredients and that's made the Bay Area a gourmet paradise. Diners have the inside scoop with guides like Michelin.

"They're great tools for a consumer to sort out, especially in this town, there are so many restaurants you can go to," says Phan.

It's worth noting that Chez Panisse has lost its single Michelin star. The Berkeley eatery -- commonly known as the birthplace of California cuisine -- has held a star since Michelin launched its San Francisco guide in 2006.


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