The wait for the annual fall Michelin awards can be grueling for restaurateurs, so the restaurant guidebook dangles a few carrots in the months before, including “discoveries” under consideration for a star or Bib Gourmand.
Healdsburg’s Matheson restaurant was one of 17 recently-opened restaurants in California tapped for the honor this week and featured on guide.michelin.com. The Matheson, a years-in-the-making project from Chef Dustin Valette, opened in fall 2021 with a fine-dining restaurant, a private mezzanine and an upstairs lounge called Roof 106.
“Chef Dustin Valette’s latest venture is in a soaring complex, but that never takes the focus away from the menu that weaves seasonal products with California flair and Mediterranean elements,” said the Guide’s “Famously Anonymous” inspectors in a press release. This is the first nod for Chef Valette, whose namesake restaurant, Valette, has never been awarded a Michelin star despite its popularity and creative, locally-sourced menu.
Highlighting notable new restaurants enables food lovers to “enjoy new discoveries” and note “culinary gems,” according to writers of the California Michelin Guide. It’s also a chance for curious diners to avoid the mobs after restaurants are starred.
The Matheson is at 106 Matheson St. in Healdsburg, thematheson.com. Reservations are highly recommended.
Also included in the “new discoveries” list of California restaurants (with Inspectors’ notes) are:
Abacá, San Francisco: Chef Francis Ang, together with wife and co-owner Dian, have produced this ode to Filipino cooking in the lush Kimpton Alton Hotel.
Be.Stéak.Ă, Campbell: An elegant ambience complements an elevated menu of exceptional steaks and an array of dishes at Chef Jeffrey Stout’s newest restaurant.
Birch & Rye, San Francisco: At this cozy nook, Chef Anya El-Wattar combines her upbringing and restaurant chops to offer a unique, ingredient-focused interpretation of Russian cuisine that is in equal measure indulgent and fresh.
Dela Curo, Oakland: Located in Swan’s Market in downtown Oakland, this order-at-the-counter style of spot is brought to diners by Chikara Ono.
Donaji, San Francisco: Chef Isai Cuevas, who earned a reputation selling his excellent tamales at farmers markets across the city, now has a cheerful, neighborhood brick-and-mortar.
Ernest, San Francisco: Chef Brandon Rice’s hip, irreverent cooking style sets the vibe, exemplified in fancy-meets-comforting combos like Kaluga caviar with crème fraîche and tater tots.
Good Good Culture Club, San Francisco: The vibrantly flavorful cooking here highlights Southeast Asian flavors and unique Californian expressions in dishes like a signature adobo-glazed fried chicken wing stuffed with garlic rice.
Hawks, Granite Bay: The straightforward menu reflects the seasons, offering a small selection of familiar plates heightened with a touch of oomph.
Lane 33 Café, Napa: In the category of bowling alley eats, mole and quesadillas aren’t likely to spring to mind, but Chef Alex Soto’s skillful, flavor-packed Mexican cooking served Wednesday-Sunday will change your outlook.
Le Fantastique, San Francisco: Creativity and finesse are part and parcel of the cooking, and the too-cool vibe and vinyl soundtrack are matched by gracious hospitality.
Miller & Lux, San Francisco: Fine dining may seem an unlikely find in the shadow of the hulking Chase Center arena, but this stunning harborage from Chef Tyler Florence is worth a splurge.
Nisei, San Francisco: ”Nisei” refers to the American-born children of Japanese immigrants, which Chef David Yoshimura is; the synthesis of that heritage forms the basis of his cuisine.
San Ho Won, San Francisco: Combining the talents of Chefs Corey Lee and protégé Jeong-In Hwang, here it’s safe to expect the exceptional. The kitchen’s refined technique deftly combines traditional Korean tastes with a sense of novelty.
Sato Omakase, San Francisco : This stylish counter offers an ambience of restful tranquility, but more importantly, it serves up an indulgent tasting that highlights painstakingly sourced ingredients.
Sorella, San Francisco: The spirited younger sister to grande dame Acquerello; the family resemblance is nonetheless apparent in the thoughtful cuisine, which runs Californian by way of Northern Italy.
Stokes Adobe, Monterey: The small, ingredient-driven menu draws upon French and Italian elements, seen in hearty, satisfying dishes like the maltagliati pasta in prosciutto-parmesan broth.