Considered the ultimate achievement for chefs, Michelin stars are the Oscars of the culinary world. Michelin awards the stars to the best of the best, and California celebrates the addition of 18 new starred restaurants to the list for 2022.
There are 89 restaurants in California that have achieved MICHELIN-Star status, including 7 with three stars and 12 with two-star status. Addison restaurant in San Diego received the only new three MICHELIN Stars this year and joins the elite three-star California club of Atelier Crenn (SF), Benu (SF), French Laundry (Yountville), Manresa (Los Gatos), Quince (SF), and SingleThread (Healdsburg.) Nine restaurants have lost stars and there have been six closures since last year.
I spoke exclusively with Gwendal Poullennec (International Director of the Michelin Guides) as well as one of Michelin’s anonymous inspectors, and they explained the new California selections this year. “California can definitely be looked at as the culinary powerhouse,” says Gwendal. “The unique California food scene also has a distinct flavor, and you have a real, local culinary identity. The California chefs are also world influencers and trendsetters in terms of sustainable gastronomy.”
“That’s why we have added two new Green Stars to award to frontrunners of sustainable practices,” he adds. “It says a lot about the growing influence of the California food scene. We now have 14 three-star restaurants in the USA, including seven in California. The USA is the third destination in the world in terms of three-star restaurants, following France and Japan. It is evidence of the growing influence of the California food scene that is also adding a fabulous voice into the world kitchen.”
“There is a really strong pool of local talent in California that is spreading and emerging,” says the inspector. “As the pandemic is easing a bit, it’s great to see the resiliency and perseverance of the restaurant industry as a whole,” he continues. “We started this selection in 2019 and here we are in 2022. The pandemic has been going on, but chefs have shown that they can be adaptable and resilient and continue to elevate the local market to where we are today, which is astounding.”
The 2022 additions to the guide range from steakhouses to sushi bars while celebrating amazing cuisines worldwide. Many of these restaurants are near impossible to get reservations for, most require advance deposits, and prices can often be outrageous, but these are the ultimate culinary experiences for foodies.
Here are the 18 new California Michelin-starred restaurants for 2022 including inspector comments.
*715 (Los Angeles, Japanese/Sushi cuisine)
Originally from Osaka prefecture, Chef Seigo Tamura came to the U.S. dreaming of becoming a pro basketball player. Thankfully for Los Angeles, the only points he’s scoring are with diners savoring his sushi. Together with his younger brother, the two have followed in their sushi chef grandfather’s footsteps. They source all seafood from Japan and age larger fish, such as tuna, in-house. Their blend of Hitomebore and Koshihikari rice is distinctive, and while Edomae-style sushi dictates using red vinegar for the rice, they add a little bit of sugar in a nod to their Osaka roots.
*Camphor (Los Angeles, Contemporary/French cuisine)
Headed by uber-talented Chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, Camphor plates seriously good French fare with a sprinkle of spicing from Southeast Asia. Creative cocktails, including the refreshing Saint-Germain, complete the experience. Bubbling hot rigatoni stuffed with artichokes, Swiss chard, and Comte delivers one satisfying bite after the next, and steak au poivre arrives resting in a pool of perfect sauce.
*Citrin (Santa Monica, Californian cuisine)
Although located in the same building as Chef Josiah Citrin’s sister restaurant Mélisse, in lieu of its sibling’s tasting menu-only format, the offerings here afford more choice, with a modest prix-fixe alongside à la carte options. Chef Ken Takayama’s cuisine sends forth signature combinations of French technique with an abundance of California’s seasonal produce, focusing on updated takes on classically rooted flavors with modern, global touches.
*Gwen (Los Angeles / Steakhouse)
During the day, this enticingly arranged butcher shop sells humanely raised meats from local partner farms. By night, Gwen opens into a glowing dining room showcasing the same upscale cuts à la carte and on its multicourse tasting menu. Named for their beloved grandmother, this collaboration between Chef Curtis Stone and his brother Luke conjures Art Deco glamour with crystal chandeliers and a roaring fireplace. The menu is concise and stars house-made charcuterie and wood-fired grilled steaks.
*Hatchet Hall (Los Angeles / American cuisine)
This cool Culver West spot is a delight, thanks to the talented team behind it and Chef Wes Whitsell’s work in the kitchen. This is open-flame cooking, rendered with a Southern twang and seasonal focus, thanks to an abundance of local products. Rolls and biscuits should not be missed, while vegetable-based items, like collard greens with smoked turkey, speak of quality ingredients and delicious balance. Nuanced flavors and creativity unite in the likes of kampachi collar and pork belly. In short, there’s no going wrong here.
*Kato (Los Angeles; Asian/Contemporary cuisine)
Chef Jonathan Yao steers the ship at Kato, deftly drawing from his Taiwanese background to create contemporary food that is at once simple and complex. He is unafraid of change and often tweaks the menu based on availability or just his own whim. No matter, since you’re in for a consistently creative and often quirky experience. The dishes (some of which are made by a local artisan) are as elegant as they are inventive.
*Manzke (Los Angeles; Contemporary cuisine)
This eponymous fine dining concept from Walter and Margarita Manzke is in the same building as their more casual Bicyclette Bistro. Here, you’ll settle in for a 10-course tasting menu boasting a contemporary style that blends French techniques with Californian influences and Asian notes. Ingenuity is everywhere. The vintage cocktail program is a unique delight and a highly recommended start to any meal here. (also awarded the 2022 Michelin Exceptional Cocktails Award)
*Sushi Kaneyoshi (Los Angeles; Japanese/Sushi cuisine)
This clandestine (read: frustratingly difficult to find) sushi counter is in the most unexpected of places, but step inside this serene, minimalist showpiece and be transported to Japan. Great care is taken with every detail, whether it’s the quality of ingredients or the artful plating — some of the pottery is even handmade by Chef Yoshiyuki Inoue. Highlights include stunning seared ocean perch tucked between a sheet of crisp nori, West Coast oyster braised in soy and served warm, and slightly smoked prawns coated in a lush egg yolk and soy sauce.
Orange County and San Diego
***Addison (San Diego; Contemporary/Californian cuisine)
Chef William Bradley has helmed the stoves at Addison since 2006, transforming this Southern Californian oasis into a world-class dining destination. Global inspiration and Californian sentimentality are at the heart of his approach, and no dish captures this better than sesame-seasoned Koshihikari rice finished with applewood-smoked sabayon and crowned with Regiis Ova reserve caviar. From chicken liver churros to a riff on chips and dip, dishes are playful yet polished. Opening bites such as Kumamoto oysters with pickled green strawberry or Iberian ham folded over a gloriously golden potato display finely tuned flavors. Shellfish-studded chawanmushi exemplifies masterful control over technique, flavors and textures. Meals conclude with a selection of stunning small bites.
Northern California and Wine Country
*Cyrus (Geyserville; Californian cuisine)
Celebrated wine country chef Douglas Keane has returned to the fore with his re-launch of Cyrus in Geyserville. Dinner is an ebullient experience that progresses from canapes and Champagne in the lounge, to small bites in the kitchen, and concludes with substantial compositions in the dining room. Farm-fresh crudité to be dipped in umeboshi emulsion; Sonoma duck with turnips and hoisin; and black sesame financier with shaved plums are just a few examples of the impressive, globally accented cuisine.
*Localis (Sacramento; Californian cuisine)
Together with his tight-knit team, Chef/owner Christopher Barnum-Dann brings unusual warmth to this intimate setting. His enthusiasm is instantly palpable as he happily explains his inspiration behind particular dishes and even solicits feedback. This is especially true for diners who sit at the spacious counter. The cooking has a clean, modern simplicity, and its commitment to carefully sourced ingredients is thoroughly Californian. It also offers no shortage of personality, combining flavors while also drawing from various global cuisines.
*Nisei (San Francisco; Japanese/Contemporary cuisine)
“Nisei” refers to the American-born children of Japanese immigrants, which Chef David Yoshimura is; and the synthesis of that heritage forms the basis of this cuisine. The kitchen employs both boldness and subtlety in their cooking, which abounds with personality and technical finesse. The tasting menu is equal parts tradition and invention, where a classic matsutake broth sits in harmony with a wholly original dessert of Okinawan purple sweet potato. (Also awarded the 2022 Michelin Young Chef Award.)
*Osito (San Francisco; Contemporary cuisine)
Chef Seth Stowaway puts his heart, soul and even his nickname (osito means “little bear”) into this rustic, lodge-like spot where live-fire cooking takes center stage. The multicourse tasting menu is served at an expansive communal table and changes with the seasons. The food is both elemental and elevated, with a subtle perfume of smoke wending through the various courses, seen in dishes like a lightly cooked king salmon with fennel and porcini, or a slow-cooked brisket brushed tableside with an intensely savory mussel BBQ sauce.
*Press (St. Helena; American cuisine)
This modern American dining room exudes all the wine country vibes, and just so happens to boast the largest collection of Napa wines in the world. Chef Philip Tessier is equally inspired by the location, delivering contemporary, Californian dishes such as Kusshi oysters with whipped horseradish, citrus-cured snapper with yuzu curd, and white truffle risotto that is simply sophisticated.
*San Ho Won (San Francisco; Korean cuisine)
Combining the prodigious talents of heavy-hitter Chefs Corey Lee and Jeong-In Hwang, here it’s safe to expect the exceptional. The kitchen’s assiduously refined technique deftly combines traditional Korean tastes with a sense of novelty, using impeccable ingredients to make for dishes of surpassing depth and purity of flavor, whether it be the humble kimchi or a rarefied cut of beef.
*Ssal (San Francisco; Korean cuisine)
Hyunyoung and Junsoo Bae have ample fine dining experience but were inspired to strike out on their own to fill what they saw as a void in San Francisco’s Korean restaurant scene. The result is this tasting menu that draws upon familiar flavors, but sets itself apart with a sense of refined simplicity. Meticulously prepared seafood shows a dedication to craft, as in black cod partially dried before being grilled to achieve a skin so crunchy it can be heard from across the room. Beef short ribs are something of a signature, gently cooked sous vide, then seared to form a sweet-savory crust.
*Caruso’s (Montecito; Californian cuisine)
The Rosewood Miramar Beach is its home, and contemporary Californian food with Italian leanings is the kitchen’s dictum. Housed in a separate structure and set back on the water, make the small walk to arrive at this elegant retreat. The dining room is beautifully attired with leather booths, linen-robed tables and white chairs, all of which afford views of the crashing waves. But make no mistake, the seasonal prix-fixe takes center stage along with a focus on regional products like California wheat milled in-house, and sea urchin procured from a local diver. (Also awarded MICHELIN Green-Star for sustainability)
*The Restaurant at JUSTIN (Paso Robles; Californian cuisine)
Make your way through winding roads to land upon the lush retreat, nestled within the JUSTIN Winery. This restaurant champions local product, sourced nearby and from the property’s own 150-tree orchard, edible flower fields, vegetable and herb gardens and apiary. Chef Rachel Haggstrom and her team flex their creative skills on a single tasting menu. Imagine asparagus with a soft quail egg, blood orange and duck prosciutto or artichoke tortellini with truffle and peas. As expected, theirs is an impressive wine list, replete with their own labels among other unique selections. (Also awarded MICHELIN Green-Star for sustainability)
The MICHELIN Guide inspectors also added 15 California restaurants to its Bib Gourmand list, which recognizes eateries for great food at a great value: All Day Baby, Caboco, Chulita, Flavors from Afar, Good Good Culture Club, Hilda and Jesse, Ipoh Kopitiam, Jo’s Modern Thai, Lalibela, Moo’s Craft Barbecue, peasants FEAST, Pijja Palace, Pizzeria Bianco, Ramen & Tsukemen TAO and Saffy’s.