Once again, Oakland’s Commis was the only East Bay restaurant to receive Michelin stars, according to the newly released San Francisco Bay Area list by the Michelin powers-that-be. The restaurant, owned by James Syhabout, received its first star in the 2010 guide, and received its second star last year. Berkeley’s Chez Panisse held one star for four years, but lost the star in the 2011 guide.
As in years past, the East Bay has performed slightly better in Michelin’s un-starred Bib Gourmand category. This list is made up of generally more affordable restaurants — they must serve two courses and a glass of wine or a dessert for $40 or less (before tax and tip) — that the anonymous Michelin inspectors say serve “high quality food” and that they often “frequent themselves when off the clock,” according to a press release.
As with Michelin-starred restaurants, Bib Gourmands are picked by inspectors who “are trained to scrupulously apply the same time-tested methods used by Michelin inspectors for many decades throughout the world,” according to a press release. “This ensures a uniform, international standard of excellence. As a further guarantee of complete objectivity, Michelin inspectors pay all their bills in full.”
This year, 11 East Bay restaurants made the cut, two down from last year. The only newcomer is Berkeley’s Tacos Sinaloa, which joins China Village in Albany; Comal, Corso Trattoria, FIVE, Great China and Ippuku in Berkeley; Michel Bistro, Millennium and Wood Tavern in Oakland; and Thai House in Danville.
The most noticeable absence is downtown Berkeley’s Gather, which had been included in the Bib Gourmand list for five years. Gather has gone through a number of chef shuffles in the last year: This spring, chef Charis Wahl took over for Tu David Phu, who had, himself, taken over the kitchen after Wahl left in fall 2015. Wahl had originally replaced opening chef Sean Baker. Since Wahl’s return, the restaurant has increased its focus on nose-to-tail butchery, in-house fermentation and “farm-to-cocktail” beverages.
Rivoli was also cut from the list, as was Lafayette’s Chevalier Restaurant, which closed last December.
The Bay Area as a whole commands 75 Bib Gourmand picks, 41 one-star restaurants, seven two-star restaurants, and six three-star restaurants in the 2017 Guide, which is the 11th for the Bay Area.
While congratulations are certainly in order for all recipients, it is worth noting, as Luke Tsai in the East Bay Express has, that the number of honored Oakland restaurants, in particular, is strikingly low. As he writes: “We’re talking about a city that embodies “excellent food at a reasonable price,” perhaps more than any other city in America. … Where is Hawker Fare or Miss Ollie’s or FuseBOX? And those are just the no-brainer picks that everyone already knows about, and that have already gotten a slew of national press.”
These omissions are one reason Nosh chose to publish its own dining guide earlier this year. With the Nosh Guide, we hope to keep the conversation going throughout the year about the best places to eat in our dynamic East Bay cities.