Los Angeles to Michelin: Delete Your Account
The dining guide either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about what makes Los Angeles the greatest food city in America.
Bestia, Bavel, Ma’am Sir, Cassia, Majordomo, Republique, Felix, Otium. These are eight restaurants that serve some of the most wonderful and coveted food in Los Angeles. These are also eight restaurants that don’t have Michelin stars. So we totally understand if L.A. doesn’t care much about the stars that were announced for California’s first statewide Michelin Guide on Monday night. L.A. dining has its own unique pulse, and Michelin has fumbled in its attempt to find it.
Before Monday’s announcement (here is the full list of starred restaurants), a lot of people in the L.A. restaurant industry were worried that the list was going to be bad and not representative of the city’s diversity and breadth. It turns out their concerns were valid. It’s good to see a star for Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza (which already had a star in 2009, the last time the Michelin Guide was in L.A.), but it’s crazy that no Italian restaurant (like Bestia or Felix) that’s opened in L.A. since then is worthy of the same status. This reminds us of when the guide went to Las Vegas and snubbed the inimitable Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare. Maybe a French tire company isn’t the best judge of pasta.
Or tacos. Or galbi. That’s right: There isn’t a starred Mexican restaurant or a starred Korean restaurant in L.A., a city where the Mexican food and Korean food are as vibrant and vital as any other cuisine. (At least Taco Maria in Orange County got a star, even after chef Carlos Salgado shared his view that Michelin is “Eurocentric fantasy fiction.”) There isn’t a starred Thai restaurant, despite L.A.’s formidable Thai Town plus all the excellent Thai food in the San Fernando Valley. There’s just one starred restaurant, Bistro Na’s, in the entire San Gabriel Valley, where the Chinese food rivals any other place in North America. Despite being icons of L.A. dining, A.O.C.’s Suzanne Goin and Gjelina’s Travis Lett don’t have stars. It makes us sad that Jonathan Gold isn’t here with an appropriately withering response to all this.
We don’t mean to diminish the accomplishments of deserving L.A. restaurants that got stars: Kato’s 27-year-old Jon Yao earning a star at a tasting-menu restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol is the latest reminder that the Food & Wine 2018 Best New Chef is a wunderkind. A star at Trois Mec, Maude, and Orsa & Winston is sweet validation for veteran chefs Ludo Lefebvre, Curtis Stone, and Josef Centeno, respectively. Two stars for Somni, n/naka, Providence, Vespertine, and other L.A. restaurants is great.
The Michelin Guide should drive tourism that helps the Los Angeles dining industry overall. But we can’t help but ask one more time: If a Singapore hawker stand or an inexpensive Hong Kong dim-sum spot can receive a star, why can’t something like L.A.’s Mariscos Jalisco food truck have the same honor? If Michelin is about the quality and consistency of food above all else, the shrimp taco at Mariscos Jalisco deserves more than the Bib Gourmand nod it got last week.
Bib Gourmand, of course, is a list of establishments that don’t have Michelin stars but serve “high-quality meals which include two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less.” It was nice to see restaurants like Burritos La Palma, Salazar, Dha Rae Oak, Jitlada, and Sichuan Impression on that list. But it was totally strange to have Bib Gourmand restaurants like Cassia and Majordomo, where a typical two-course dinner with a glass of wine easily surpasses $40. The entrées in the seafood and meat sections of Cassia’s menu, for example, range from $31 to $47. Michelin seems to be as bad at math as it is at understanding L.A. Go home, Michelin, you’re drunk.