After Michelin put a pandemic pause on its California restaurant awards in 2020, the long-awaited California Michelin Guide is back. The French media company recognized 27 new star recipients across California, including five new two-star restaurants and 22 new one-star awards. Chefs were notified during video interviews on the Michelin Guide Instagram channel. Earlier this month, Michelin also announced accolades for 45 new restaurants in the Bib Gourmand category.
Michelin introduced the first-ever statewide edition of the iconic global restaurant series in 2019, expanding coverage from the San Francisco Bay Area to include Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Orange County, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Sacramento.
“It is exciting to see the wonderful restaurant additions to this year’s guide,” says Alycia Harshfield, executive director at the California Restaurant Foundation, who likens the guide to a road map of delicious restaurants across the state. “Our vibrant food scene is worth celebrating, especially after such a long and challenging time. Food lovers from near and far have many tasty reasons get out there and enjoy all that California has to offer.”
Michelin inspectors added eight new entries at the star level, including two-star recipient Mélisse in Santa Monica, along with one-star honorees Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura in Beverly Hills, Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad, Morihiro in Los Angeles, Niku Steakhouse in San Francisco, O' by Claude Le Tohic in San Francisco, Sushi Shin in Redwood City, and The Shota in San Francisco.
The California guide also elevated the ratings of 19 restaurants—a testament to these establishments’ remarkable ability to rise above pandemic challenges. Among them is San Diego’s Addison, which gained an additional star in 2021 to reach an impressive two-star rating. San Francisco’s Birdsong, Hayato in Los Angeles, and Harbor House in Mendocino County also rose from the one-star level to two stars.
California’s Michelin-starred restaurants are scattered from Mendocino to San Diego, demonstrating that the Golden State’s culinary talent knows no boundaries. This year’s guide includes restaurants not only in Los Angeles and San Francisco—which garnered the highest number of new stars this year—but cities such as Elk, San Jose, Paso Robles, Encino, and Carlsbad.
Inventive restaurants serving farm-to-table cuisine—a staple in California, which grows much of the nation’s fresh produce—are joined by an array of diverse dining destinations, including nine new star awards for those specializing in Japanese cuisine and sushi. Notable among them are 10-seat Hayato in Los Angeles (two stars), omakase specialist Soichi in San Diego (one star), tiny and unassuming Sushi Inaba in Manhattan Beach (one star), and whimsical Sushi | Bar Montecito in Santa Barbara (one star). This trend is hardly surprising for California, which introduced the United States to real-deal sushi restaurants in the 1960s with the opening of Kawafuku in Los Angeles. Today, incredible Japanese cuisine can be found all over the state.
The 2021 California Michelin Guide also includes 45 new Bib Gourmand restaurants representing 37 types of cuisine, from Indonesian to Italian to Pakistani. The category recognizes restaurants that offer both good value and high-quality food. For a restaurant to qualify for an award, diners must be able to order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. Bib Gourmand award recipients are also eligible to receive Michelin stars.
California’s newest Bib Gourmand restaurants are located up and down the state, and include local favorites such as West Coast barbecue sensation Horn Barbecue in Oakland; Tony’s Seafood on Tomales Bay, which specializes in freshly shucked oysters; Yue Huang, Sacramento’s hidden gem for dim sum; Loquita in Santa Barbara, praised for its Spanish specialties; Tumbi in Santa Monica, known for its inventive Indian cuisine; and Dija Mara in Oceanside, with its authentic Indonesian cooking.
Below are the 27 restaurants that earned new stars in the 2021 California Michelin Guide, including those that received promotions this year. The full list of California Michelin Guide selections is available on the free Michelin Guide app for iOS and Android, which includes reviews and ratings for Michelin-rated restaurants across the globe.
Addison, San Diego
Birdsong, San Francisco
Hayato, Los Angeles
Harbor House, Mendocino County
Mélisse, Santa Monica
Adega, San Jose
Avery, San Francisco
Bell’s, Los Alamos
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Beverly Hills
Jeune et Jolie, Carlsbad
Knife Pleat, Costa Mesa
Marlena, San Francisco
Morihiro, Los Angeles
Niku Steakhouse, San Francisco
O' by Claude Le Tohic, San Francisco
Pasjoli, Santa Monica
Pasta | Bar, Encino
Phenakite, Los Angeles
Six Test Kitchen, Paso Robles
Soichi, San Diego
Sushi | Bar Montecito, Santa Barbara
Sushi I-NABA, Manhattan Beach
Sushi Shin, Redwood City
Sushi Tadokoro, San Diego
The Shota, San Francisco