Michelin stars are shining once again for California restaurateurs tapped for inclusion in the much-coveted 2021 lineup. Twenty-seven restaurants from San Diego to Mendocino County, including Healdsburg’s Barndiva and SingleThread, were awarded the coveted honor Tuesday.
The Michelin Guide canceled its 2020 awards because of the pandemic and California wildfires, making this year’s recognition even more notable and much anticipated.
The French tire company’s decisions on which restaurants have earned or lost stars is a closely watched annual ritual that can make or break the reputations of restaurants and chefs. This year’s honorees were appreciative of the attention after a difficult 2020.
“We know how hard it’s been just to open the doors for so many, so to receive this attention is humbling,” said Lukka Feldman, Barndiva’s General Manager. The restaurant has been open for 17 years, and this is its first Michelin star. The restaurant had previously won the “Plate Award,” which recognizes “good cooking.”
“It’s just a testimony to how hard everyone has been working,” said Feldman.
Like so many other local restaurants, it’s been a bracing 18-plus months as lockdowns, mask mandates, and a challenging hiring environment put a damper on restaurant dining. Feldman said that the restaurant never closed but simply pivoted to comforting takeout meals in the early days, a jarring welcome to newly-installed chef Jordan Rosas. The Southern Californian chef arrived just weeks before health mandates closed both indoor and outdoor dining. Pastry Chef Neidy Venegas also started working at Barndiva during the pandemic.
The reopening of Barndiva’s outdoor gardens allowed Rosas and Venegas to spread their wings, creating signature dishes that pull from nearby farms, ranches and waters that captured the attention of Michelin’s “Famously Anonymous” inspectors.
“The cooking, as conceived by chef Jordan Rosas, hones in on prime local produce and sustainability. There is a tangible deftness in such aromatic flavor combinations as seared day boat scallops with kohlrabi, grapefruit and lemongrass-ginger butter sauce. Of course, it should be unlawful to forgo the creative goodies from pastry chef Neidy Venegas,” said the inspectors for the 2021 Michelin Guidebook.
Nearby SingleThread retains the elusive three Michelin-star designation, the highest award a restaurant can achieve. Only five other restaurants in the state have the same honor — The French Laundry (Yountville), Atelier Crenn (San Francisco), Benu (San Francisco), Quince (San Francisco) and Manresa (Los Gatos).
“We are so incredibly proud of the team. They have persevered this past year with so much integrity and creativity We really have been so thoughtfully supported by the community and this is a much-appreciated recognition of both our team and for where we draw both our ingredients and inspiration,” said Kyle Connaughton, chef-owner of SingleThread.
Most of the two-star designations were in Southern California, except the far-flung Harbor House in Mendocino, climbing from one to two Michelin stars. Inspectors honored the hyperlocal and foraged ingredients that Chef Matthew Kammerer sources from coastal waters and farms.
“We are delighted to celebrate 19 promotions for restaurants that elevated their quality and consistency despite the challenges of the health crisis and welcome eight new entries to our selection at the star level,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides.
Notably missing from the stars lineup in Sonoma County are Farmhouse Inn and Madrona Manor, both longtime Michelin favorites. Farmhouse was demoted to a Plate Award. Madrona Manor has been closed for remodeling for months, though a handful of San Francisco restaurants did receive stars despite lengthy closures.
Sonoma County now only has two restaurants with Michelin stars, down significantly from years past as the guidebook expands beyond its traditional favoritism of French cuisine and major metropolitan cities. Sonoma County has no two-starred restaurants.
This year sees far more diversity with the inclusion of new Japanese and Southeast Asian restaurants, among other cuisines. It also goes further afield to oft-overlooked restaurants in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange County, Paso Robles, the South Bay and Los Angeles.
Last week, the guidebook announced its newest Bib Gourmand winners, restaurants recognized for value and high-quality food. In Sonoma County, Khom Loi in Sebastopol and Sonoma’s Folktable and Valley Bar + Bottle — all opened during the pandemic — were tapped for the culinary honor.
Check out the full list here.
Here are the other California Michelin Star winners for 2021.
Three Michelin Stars (no changes)
The French Laundry (Yountville)
Atelier Crenn (San Francisco)
Benu (San Francisco)
Quince (San Francisco)
Manresa (Los Gatos)
Two Michelin Stars
New for 2021
Harbor House (Elk -promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Addison (San Diego – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Birdsong (San Francisco – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Hayato (Los Angeles – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Mélisse (Santa Monica – New two MICHELIN Star)
See list for those retaining 2 stars outside of the North Bay
One Michelin Star
New for 2021
Adega (San Francisco – Promotion to one MICHELIN Star)
Avery (San Francisco – Promotion to one MICHELIN Star)
Bell’s (Santa Barbara – Promotion from New Discovery)
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura (Los Angeles – New one MICHELIN Star)
Jeune et Jolie (San Diego – New one MICHELIN Star)
Knife Pleat (Orange County – Promotion from New Discovery)
Marlena (San Francisco – Promotion from New Discovery)
Morihiro (Los Angeles – New one MICHELIN Star)
Niku Steakhouse (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
O’ by Claude Le Tohic (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
Pasjoli (Santa Monica – Promotion from New Discovery)
Pasta | Bar (Los Angeles – Promotion from New Discovery)
Phenakite (Los Angeles – Promotion from New Discovery)
Selby’s (San Francisco – Promotion from New Discovery)
Six Test Kitchen (Paso Robles – Promotion from New Discovery)
Soichi (San Diego – Promotion from New Discovery)
Sushi | Bar Montecito (Santa Barbara – Promotion from New Discovery)
Sushi I-NABA (Los Angeles – Promotion from New Discovery)
Sushi Shin (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
Sushi Tadokoro (San Diego – Promotion from New Discovery)
The Shota (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
See list of those retaining one stars