David Kinch at Manresa wins three Michelin stars

Michelin_Man_SF_2016_CoverCalifornia earlier this month welcomed one new three-star, and two new two-star restaurants, as the 2016 Michelin guide to San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country was released.

Michelin made the official announcement at a gala event in San Francisco, which saw industry heavyweights, including Thomas Keller (The French Laundry), Christopher Kostow (Restaurant at Meadowood), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn) and Michael Judge (Saison), gather to celebrate the guide’s new additions.

David Kinch’s Manresa in Los Gatos in the Santa Cruz Mountains, about 60 miles south of San Francisco, joined the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, as well as Benu and Saison in San Francisco, in California’s three-star echelon.

Manresa reopened at the beginning of this year following a six-month closure after a devastating fire destroyed much of the restaurant. At the time of the reopening Kinch said that one of the silver linings of the disaster had been that it had given him and his team the opportunity to be introspective and revisit and re-evaluate things. Following the reopening Manresa appointed former three-star Grace and Saison sous chef Mitch Lienhard as chef de cuisine and tweaked “a lot of little things” to become more efficient.

Manresa.DavidKinch.CREDIT Eric WolfingerAnd it paid off. Speaking to me exclusively for this article, Michelin’s head inspector for the US said: “It’s difficult to identify one specific improvement [at Manresa] as rather it was a matter of all the pieces of a very intricate puzzle coming together. Chef Kinch has always been brilliant, but the creativity wasn’t always as solidly impressive as we have noticed of late. The meals experienced over the past year were the most consistent display of excellence thus far and there is no question this team has continued its upward trajectory after many years of focused creative evolution.”

Michelin also promoted two restaurants to two stars this year. They were Campton Place at the Taj Hotel in San Francisco’s Financial District, where chef Srijith Gopinathan serves a menu of Indian and South Asian influences, which “over-deliver on taste and flavour”; and Commis, the first two-star restaurant in Oakland, where James Syhabout delivers “elegant and creatively complex seasonal dishes”. California now has a total of seven two-star restaurants.

Fifteen restaurants celebrated winning their first Michelin star, including Mourad Lahlou’s eponymous Moroccan eatery Mourad, Melissa Perello’s Octavia, former pop-up The Lazy Bear and Kin Khao, a Thai Bib Gourmand that went up one star. Other newcomers include All-Spice, Al’s Place, Aster, Californios, Commonwealth, Lord Stanley, Nico, Omakase, Rasa, Sushi Yoshizumi and Wako.

Commenting on Northern California’s dining scene, Michelin’s US head inspector said it is “quite different from New York or Chicago, and substantially different from Southern California”, including Los Angeles. “Northern California has a very distinctive culinary expression that is of course very product-driven, which is notable in that it is reflected across all cuisine types. In addition the respect for product is so intense and intrinsic to the cooking in Northern California that the level of respect and appreciation comes through in an entirely unique style.”

The full list of Michelin stars in San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country:

Three stars:
Benu, San Francisco
The French Laundry, Wine Country
Manresa, South Bay
The Restaurant at Meadowood, Wine Country
Saison, San Francisco

Two stars:
Acquerello, San Francisco
Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Baumé, South Bay
Campton Place, San Francisco
Coi, San Francisco
Commis, East Bay
Quince, San Francisco

One star:
All Spice, San Francisco
Al’s Place, San Francisco
Ame, San Francisco
Aster, San Francisco
Auberge du Soleil, Wine Country
Aziza, San Francisco
Bouchon, Wine Country
Californios, San Francisco
Chez TJ, South Bay
Commonwealth, San Francisco
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Wine Country
Gary Danko, San Francisco
Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco
Kin Khao, San Francisco
Kusakabe, San Francisco
La Toque, Wine Country
Lazy Bear, San Francisco
Lord Stanley, San Francisco
Luce, San Francisco
Madrona Manor, Wine Country
Michael Mina, San Francisco
Mourad, San Francisco
Nico, San Francisco
Octavia, San Francisco
Omakase, San Francisco
Plumed Horse, South Bay
Rasa, Peninsula
Solbar Wine, Napa Valley
Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
SPQR, San Francisco
Spruce, San Francisco
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Sushi Yoshizumi, Peninsula
Terra, Wine Country
Terrapin Creek, Wine Country
The Village Pub, Peninsula
Wako, San Francisco
Wakuriya, Peninsula

This is the latest posting in my monthly series of LA-focused food articles for The Staff Canteen website.

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