What the Michelin Guide has good (and bad) in Los Angeles in 2021

The Michelin Guide is back (again) in greater Los Angeles, after a year-long hiatus due to the ongoing global pandemic. Still, those anonymous diners must have managed to make it to many California restaurants over the past year and more, as the Michelin team awarded a slew of new stars across the state today. For the full list of new star winners, go here. Below, find the Eater LA editorial team’s discussion of what the Michelin Group has right and wrong for 2021.

Top of the range still matters … for Michelin

One thing is clear: Small, intimate sushi and kaiseki restaurants are basically the highest form of dining for Michelin. That, and decadent French or Italian cuisine; they are often the only players that Michelin allows to compete for its star designations. It’s inherently a European and Western take on what good food is, and I think at this point most seasoned Angeleno diners know that the best kind of dining doesn’t rely on these restrictions. That being said, I’m happy for the winners here. Let’s take a look at each of the new local star designations.


Hayato: An esteemed Japanese destination in the ROW of downtown LA gets a second star. Well deserved it seems, and it will be even more difficult now to get a reservation at the Brandon Go Culinary Temple.

Lemon Balm: Josiah Citrin has been smart to split his Santa Monica space into two sections – one for the more laid back Citrin, which isn’t exactly laid back but still retains much of the chef’s stellar execution, and the Lemon Balm more. formal and intimate that only serves a tasting menu. It is a two-star gastronomic destination that seems to live up to Michelin’s sensibilities, with the corresponding price tag. It’s great to see a former fine dining restaurant like this continue to adapt and serve irresistible food.

Gucci Osteria by Massimo Bottura: I haven’t eaten here yet because I haven’t allocated two months of my catering budget for the possible bill, but I can totally understand why it gets a star here. A restaurant owned by a luxury European fashion brand and operated by a world-famous Italian chef receives one star. But its Michelin designation shows a complete lack of understanding of what matters to Angeleno diners. Michelin never really bothered to represent the local culinary culture, contenting itself with seeing which places fit their own conceptions of good food. Gucci Osteria barely has a cultural impact on the Los Angeles food scene, but this star is proof of it.

Sushi I-Naba.
Sushi Inaba website

Phenakite: Fantastic award for a chef who has won all accolades. A great story for LA.

Pasjoli: Definitely one of the best new entries to the LA food scene since opening in 2019. Dave Beran focused on Pasjoli after the closure of Dialogue, which won a star in the first year of the Michelin Guide in Los Angeles. Well-deserved.

Sushi I-Naba: This is Manhattan Beach’s very first Michelin star, and it fits into a little omakase that, when it opened a few years ago, went almost completely unnoticed. The prototypical Michelin spot.

Pasta Bar: No one on the planet wanted a Michelin star more than Phillip Frankland Lee, and now he has two: one for his Encino pasta tasting menu and another for Sushi Bar in Montecito. Now the mountain has been climbed.

Morihiro: Morihiro Onodera gets a star in his first year of activity, which is no small feat. His old restaurant, which still bears his name, also retains its Michelin star.

Knife Pleat: Former LA chef Tony Esnault is taking the high-end French-style formula to Orange County, and it works.

Question marks

Why do Maude and Le Comptoir still have stars when they have not been open essentially throughout the duration of the pandemic?


Three Dudes, Somni, Urasawa. The Three Dudes and Somni shutdowns were well documented, but it’s interesting that no one (including Eater) really covered the sudden, silent shutter of the enigmatic and semi-hidden Urasawa, one of the most beautiful temples of Japanese cuisine in LA, and a strewn with legal problems. The Over $ 400 of experience in Beverly Hills had a long history, previously operating as Ginza Sushi-ko under the direction of Chef Masa Takayama. Hiroyuki Urasawa was Takayama’s apprentice before taking over in 2003. – Matthew Kang

A new goal

While it remains true (and probably still) that Michelin overlooks some of the best dining destinations in Greater Los Angeles – from street food to Korean restaurants – I’m encouraged to see Inspectors diversifying a bit, if only geographically. . Congratulations to Pasta Bar, located in a shopping center in Encino; kudos to Phenakite from Minh Phan, hosted in a creative coworking space in Hollywood; and a round of applause at Knife Pleat by Chef Tony Esnault, who plies his trade in an Orange County mall.

In a similar vein, I am truly delighted to see some of the liveliest restaurants on the Central Coast gain the recognition they have long deserved. Bell’s in tiny Los Alamos has been drawing Angelenos on weekends for a few years now, enticing them with big spaces and fine French bistro cuisine (plus some of California’s best barbecues that pop up on weekends). The Bell team, foodie veterans from New York, certainly know how to become a winner, and they’ve just turned on the lights for their second project, Bar Le Côté in Los Olivos. Now they have their own star to add to the open sky over the coast.

Bell's crackers and anchovies.

Bell’s crackers and anchovies.
Farley Elliott

It is also easy to root Six cooking tests, the small gourmet restaurant Paso Robles by chef Ricky Odbert, himself from Arroyo Grande, nearby. The 12-seater is aligned with Central Coast flourishes and luxury ingredients, a nod to Odbert’s past experience cooking at a high standard across San Francisco. It is a rare day when a restaurant that started as an experience inside a literal garage can earn a new home and a new star, all in a city with a population of less than half of Redondo Beach. (Of course, the two Michelin stars Port house in Northern California is located in Elk, California with a population of approximately 200).

For the rest, well … Michelin will do what it thinks is best. There is certainly room in LA for more diversity (of cuisine, people, price, and location) when it comes to these annual guides, but year after year asking the tire company to address its issues. own inequalities is not likely. amount to a lot. Instead, kudos to everyone who earned a star or two today for hard work and accomplishments, assuming they even worked towards this moment as a goal in the first place. For the rest of LA, it’s all about doing what we do best – eating well, without worrying too much about awards from above. – Farley Elliott

Dear Michelin guide,

I feel like we’ve been in a complex relationship. You ghost me. In fact, you’ve ghosted all of Los Angeles for over a decade, awarding restaurants in the Bay Area, Northern California, or even outlying areas for a long time, pretending we don’t exist. But now you’re back. And this time, just like the last one, you’re playing well and not really offering an explanation as to what happened. Why did you leave us so suddenly, to come back to Los Angeles with a bouquet of Michelin stars and a smile?

I am grateful to you for having honored this year Knife Pleat, Sushi I-Naba, Hayato, Melisse, Pasjoli and Phenakite. These restaurants maintain the loyalty of regular diners who adore their food. But each winner is either Japanese, French, Italian, in addition to the fine cuisine of chef Minh Phan. Italian chef Mossimo Bottura is barely two years old in his rooftop osteria in Beverly Hills (mostly during the pandemic), while Morihiro’s new menu is an expensive and unusual addition to Atwater Village. It is also unusual to maintain Le Comptoir’s Michelin status, but no one to our knowledge can make reservations at this acclaimed restaurant. From my point of view, this is all a largely Eurocentric view of what you consider notable.

While this is a formidable list, the 2021 winners barely scratch the surface of what Los Angeles stands for. I always watch what is missing as well as the rebuffs, which match the qualities and kinds of food that cover Mexican, Taiwanese, Thai, much of the Middle East, Korean, Black and Latino, Chinese, plant-based restaurants. , and many other cuisines in which this city excels.

Grilled meats, rice, beans, farofa and Wood Spoon salsa on a plate decorated with flowers.

Grilled meats, rice, beans and farofa from WoodSpoon in downtown LA, recently awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand designation.
Wonho Frank Lee / Eater LA

We could reconcile, but that would mean a lot of couples therapy. But before we have our first session, I would recommend analyzing the vastness of Southern California. In fact, the whole state is huge, but not three stars awarded to a restaurant in a state of 40 million people? Is it impossible for Los Angeles or a California restaurant to earn Michelin recognition for the coveted award of “Exceptional Cuisine, Deserving of a Special Trip?” “

Speaking of California, why the high concentration of Michelin awards in the Bay Area? No one is saying the awards in San Francisco, Oakland, and Wine Country were undeserved, but you’ve been focusing on the Bay Area for some time. Los Angeles needs the same kind of rigorous exploration and focus.

As for Bib Gourmands (“a good quality menu for a low price”), Los Angeles embodies it. It is quite possible to find an incredible meal for under $ 40 all over the county. You announced the LA winners earlier this month, with amazing choices like Bettina, La Azteca, and WoodSpoon, but you managed to rule out all the ramen restaurants in the U.S. Capital from ramen.

We’re nice people, we 10 million Los Angeles County residents live in our separate neighborhoods. These areas are teeming with dining destinations by restaurant owners, chefs and experienced staff who create conversations around food and impact culture beyond our borders.

I’m glad you’re back. But we have groundwork to do. – Mona Holmes

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