Michelin, which publishes one of the most respected dining guides in the world, has released its 2023 list of the top restaurants in California, including those earning its coveted star ratings. Six restaurants in the state have been awarded their first stars, including two in Southern California, one of them in Long Beach. Last year, eight L.A. restaurants newly earned at least one star.
At a ceremony in Oakland, guide representatives announced that California’s 2023 edition features 614 restaurants, with 87 of them garnering stars, plus additional categories for environmentally friendly restaurants and “value” destinations. Four additional awards for categories such as cocktail program and service were also awarded.
Though the company’s global guides have continued to evolve since their founding in 1900, Michelin stars — begun in 1926 — remain the most sought-after award. They are occasionally controversial but widely considered one of the highest benchmarks in the culinary industry and are determined by anonymous inspectors that fan out to dine around the world. One star signifies “a very good restaurant in its category,” two stars marks “excellent cuisine, worth a detour,” while a three-star rating translates to “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
Long Beach’s Heritage, from sibling team Philip and Lauren Pretty, is the only Los Angeles-area restaurant to newly earn a star this year. Heritage previously earned Michelin Plate nods, denoting quality food, but never a star. Now, it has one. The California-cuisine restaurant opened in 2020 in a re-imagined Craftsman-style home in Rose Park and serves a six-course tasting menu with dishes informed by twice-weekly visits to the farmers market and the bounty of the Prettys’ nearby farm. Chef Philip Pretty’s offerings include courses such as six-hour-smoked pork belly with peas and buttermilk, line-caught sea bass and pavlova with parsnip pastry cream and cherry port, changing often.
The farm, which now offers weekly drinks and live music, also helped Heritage garner a Michelin green star award this year, an accolade for businesses that “hold themselves accountable for both their ethical and environmental standards,” eliminate waste and work with sustainable producers. The eco-friendly mind-set makes its way into the dishes too: A spring dessert transformed what would have been discarded corn husks into an ash to top a corn cream made from a stock that used the cobs.
Valle, a Mexican restaurant in Oceanside, is the only other Southern California spot to be awarded a new star this year. Aphotic and Nari in San Francisco, Auro in Calistoga and Chez Noir in Carmel-by-the-Sea also won their first stars.
Chef Michael Cimarusti’s tasting menu at Providence in Hollywood, which retained its two-star rating, was also awarded a green star this year. The seafood-forward fine-dining restaurant has long employed practices of sustainable sourcing for its fish and shellfish but recently launched a no-waste, in-house chocolate program that turns ethically sourced cacao into pastry, confections and even an end-of-service chocolate tea made from leftover cacao husks. San Francisco’s Aphotic also received a green star this year, as did Oakland’s Pomet. California is currently home to 15 of the country’s 17 Michelin green stars.
Addison in San Diego remains the only Michelin three-star restaurant in Southern California.
For 2023, no L.A. restaurants were newly awarded two stars, although Hayato, Mélisse, n/naka, Providence and Sushi Ginza Onodera all maintained theirs from 2022.
L.A.-area restaurants with one Michelin star include 715, Camphor, Citrin, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Gwen, Heritage, Kali, Kato, Manzke, Maude, Morihiro, Nozawa Bar, Orsa & Winston, Osteria Mozza, Pasta Bar, Q Sushi, Shibumi, Shin Sushi, Sushi I-Naba and Sushi Kaneyoshi. Hatchet Hall and Phenakite did not retain their one-star rating from 2022; the former is still marked as “recommended” by Michelin, and the latter closed but is set to return in 2024 under the new umbrella of PKite Studio.
Michelin’s exact scoring criteria remain as elusive as its inspectors’ identities, although qualities such as consistency are always part of the equation.
“When we’re looking at a restaurant at the star category, we are evaluating the restaurant on five very specific criteria,” a chief inspector of more than one decade told The Times last year. “We’re looking at the quality of the products that are featured, we’re looking at the harmony of flavors, we’re looking at the mastery of cooking techniques, we’re looking at the personality of the chef as it comes through in their cuisine, and we’re looking for consistency between each visit.”
Last week, Michelin unveiled its 2023 Bib Gourmand awardees, or restaurants deemed “a good value.” The 2023 California guidebook includes 143 Bib Gourmands with 10 of them new, and four in L.A.: Cobi’s in Santa Monica, Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez in Lincoln Heights, Eat Joy Food in Rowland Heights and Villa’s Tacos in Highland Park. This year, the company also bestowed four special awards, with Kato’s Austin Hennelly winning the Exceptional Cocktails Award. In Carmel-by-the-Sea, Aubergine’s John Haffey won the Sommelier Award, while Harrison Cheney of Sons & Daughters in San Francisco took the Young Chef Award, and John Schafer of Healdsburg’s SingleThread won the Outstanding Service Award.
Michelin’s full California guide can be found online.