Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday Wishlist: Michelin Star Restaurants (2014 Edition)

This is the 5th time I am doing this post. Each year it is more or less the same... we need to start getting some Michelin-starred restaurants in San Jose! The Michelin guide is the most renowned rubric for measuring culinary greatness, and for the most part San Jose restaurants have been excluded from its pages. However, I think the foodie culture is growing here and I have high hopes for 2015.

Michelin has three different star categories:

One Star - A very good restaurant in its category with cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard. A good place to stop on your journey.
Two Stars - Excellent cuisine, skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality. Worth a detour.
Three Stars - Exceptional cuisine with distinctive dishes and superlative ingredients. Worth a special journey.

I created a Google doc listing all of the star recipients for 2014, along with tabs for all previous years and some general statistics. Below is an image capture from the doc. This year there were a total of 38 restaurants on the list, which is down from 42 in 2013 and the peak of 47 in 2012. 50% of the restaurants are locating in SF, 26% in Wine Country, 21% in Silicon Valley (split evenly between the South Bay and the Peninsula), and 3% in the East Bay. The only new restaurant on the list this year is State Bird Provisions (an American dim sum-style eatery).

I will also mention that there are some restaurants in the Michelin guide that do not get a star, but are considered "Michelin Recommended." Within this category San Jose scored a total of 8 restaurants:

  • Downtown
    • Vung Tau
    • Back A Yard
  • Santana Row
    • LB Steak
    • Pizza Antica
  • North San Jose
    • Smoking Pig BBQ
  • East San Jose
    • La Costa
  • South San Jose
    • Bun Bo Hue An Nam
    • Thien Long
  • Willow Glen
    • Fratello
  • Japantown
    • SJ Omogari

Source: Michelin Guide


  1. Don't forget the Bib Gourmand list too! With the Michelin Recommended list buried into the guide itself, it would be awesome to get some restaurants on the Bib Gourmand list.

  2. Thanks for this, Josh! Will be trying out a couple of these places !

  3. What is their criteria for "Michelin Recommended"? I've been to about half of the ones listed in San Jose, and the results are so hit or miss that I can't really say that whoever categorizes them as "recommended" knows what he/she's doing.

    Vung Tau - edible (though not great, or even good) Vietnamese food. Just about every other Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose is going to be better and cheaper. Excellent ambiance and service though.

    Thien Long - Now this one is good, although not outstanding. However the nice thing about this place is that it offers virtually everything that most other Vietnamese restaurants in the area offer, and it does them all reasonably well. This one is nice although doesn't have the ambiance that Vung Tau does. It's more like an upscale cafeteria, kind of like most Vietnamese restaurants. (Not that that's a bad thing, but I'm not really sure what Michelin is going for here.)

    La Costa - Great food, especially the ceviche, and everything is way cheap -- although there are better Mexican restaurants/taco shops in San Jose, this one is up there. However as far as ambiance goes it's a complete pit. Don't get me wrong -- I'll take food over ambiance any day, but comparing this one to Vung Tau makes the Michelin recommended list lack consistency.

    Backayard: Meh, it's ok. The meat is seasoned well but has a strange texture. The side dishes are just ok. This is the only (or one of the only) Caribbean restaurants in San Jose so I'll give it props for that, but what it has going for it is that it's unique, not necessarily better.

    SJ Omogari: Another one that's "just ok," this Korean specializes in nothing, doesn't have that big extensive of a menu, and what it does have it does decently but not stellar. Side dish selection is staid. Almost all the Korean restaurants on/off El Camino in Santa Clara are much better.

    Haven't been to the others, but Bun Bo Hue An Nam is on my list.

    1. Oh wow, you're the first person I have heard call Back-a-yard okay. I can't think of any better Jamaican food in the Bay Area. Their jerk chicken + corn fritters are amazing. I really like Vung Tau and Thien Long as well, have not been to La Costa yet and in fact had no idea it existed until I read the guide.

    2. I will give the corn fritters a try. The sides I had were the rice and beans (which tasted like they were instant and/or from a can) and the slaw (generic).

      What other Jamaican or Caribbean restaurants have you tried in the Bay Area? They seem to be few and far between.

    3. I forget the name, but there's one in Berkeley near the corner of San Pablo and University, maybe two doors down from a coffeeshop called Local 123.

  4. Well, not many I'll give you that =). Coconuts in Palo Alto and the original Back-a-yard in Menlo Park are a couple for comparison. I did have someone who lived in Jamaica for years try out Back-a-yard Downtown and it became one of his favorite restaurants. You might have been there on a bad day, I would give it another shot. My wife hates spicy food and even she couldn't get enough of the jerk chicken.

    1. Oh, and there's that place inside Jack's Bar in Japantown on Fri/Sat (?) nights. Fitzroy's Caribbean or something like that. Haven't been.

    2. Spicy Roy's inside Jack's appears to be closed. Too bad, it looked good & I live nearby.

    3. Well, I guess I won't get a chance to go. :-(

  5. I've been to Back-A-Yard too and wasn't at all impressed. It actually seemed cruddy to me. Bung Tau is trying to be fancy or something. Service was totally awkward, prices high and food pretty boring. Sigh.

  6. Hachi Ju Hachi in Saratoga is in this year's bib gourmand list (2 entrees and a dessert/wine for less than $40). I believe Kabab n Curry's in Santa Clara used to be on that list too.

    1. They are, but I only listed places in San Jose proper.