Innovative and imaginative, the city’s chefs are constantly refining their gastronomy, with the result that San Francisco boasts many Michelinstar restaurants. Here are Elite Traveler’s top recommendations.
Cuisine: Contemporary Californian
Style / Ambiance: Everything about Coi is peaceful; from the simple, minimalist interior design to its name (old French for ‘tranquil’), the restaurant exudes a calm and welcoming vibe.
Possessor of two Michelin stars, Coi has consistently drawn praise from critics for head chef Daniel Patterson’s attention to detail. Patterson’s menu takes you on a taste journey that explores a range of different flavors and styles. Every ingredient is geared towards improving the taste of the meal; there’s no molecular gastronomy here, but the food is still highly innovative and, of course, exceptionally tasty. Coi attracts the elite of San Francisco, so dress to impress if you want to dine here and make sure that you book ahead.
Cuisine: Japanese / French
Style / Ambiance: The Michelin one-star Michael Mina is a restaurant with an awards list longer than its wine list, and that’s saying something; Rajat Parr, the sommelier, is well respected around the world, and has written several books on the subject.
Gayot Restaurateur of the Year 2011 and Food Arts Silver Spoon Award winner May 2011 are just two of the awards that restaurateur Michael Mina has on his mantelpiece, and the celebrity chef has created a menu fully deserving of the accolades. The style is a mixture of Japanese and French cuisine and the dishes arrive as trios; three different versions of the same dish. Guests can then enjoy a range of different flavors and styles, all of which are beautifully presented and taste divine. And when it comes to refreshment, just ask Mr. Parr for an expert pairing recommendation.
Style / Ambiance: With food as delightful as the setting, Acquerello is fully deserving of its Michelin star.
Recently renovated, the restaurant sits in a former chapel and brings a little of the magic of the Mediterranean to San Francisco; a rustic wood-beamed vaulted ceiling and warm colors of gold and terracotta offer diners a relaxed yet sophisticated ambiance. The refined menu created by co-owner Suzette Gresham-Tognetti is packed full of delicious Italian dishes, with the chef’s own tasting menu a particular highlight. Co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini has a talent for wine pairings and ensures a high level of service is maintained throughout the restaurant.
Style / Ambiance: Quince may well have the honor of being the smallest restaurant in San Francisco; with just 15 tables the restaurant has become one of the hottest tickets in town.
Chef Michael Tusk, winner of the prestigious 2011 James Beard ‘Best Chef-Pacific’ has created a menu that blends the delicacies of Italian cuisine with the spirit of California. The food makes no attempt at pretention; the fare is simple, but of exceptionally high quality. Wine Director David Lynch provides a program of 800 wines to complement the ever-changing menu. Remember to book ahead; the size of the restaurant means that tables need to be reserved well in advance.
Cuisine: California Cuisine
Style / Ambiance: Frances only opened for business in 2009, but already the restaurant has received rave reviews and been awarded a coveted Michelin star.
Head chef Melissa Perello, one of the most well-respected chefs in San Francisco, has created a restaurant that focuses on combining high-class dining in a more accessible and casual setting. The food remains excellent, but the relaxed atmosphere gives the restaurant a neighborhood-dining style that has attracted praise from San Franciscans and critics alike. The carefully chosen wine list features more than a hundred different selections from around the world, many of which have been paired with the dinners. Be prepared to book ahead; the restaurant is a cozy affair with only 48 seats in total.
Cuisine: New French
Style / Ambiance: Masa’s has become something of an institution in San Francisco.
Opened some 25 years ago, the restaurant’s extraordinary cuisine, impeccable service and elegant atmosphere have remained a hit with critics, despite the passing of legendary founder Masataki Kobayashi. Chef Gregory Short now calls the shots and has created a menu that consists of New French cuisine; traditional French dishes which have been given an innovative twist from this talented chef. One particular highlight is the Sautéed Breast of Paine Farms Squab, considered ‘divine’ by several critics. Executive Pastry Chef Maggie Leung has created a dessert menu to rival Chef Short’s for its quality, and with more than 900 vintage wines to choose from, customers are guaranteed to find a wine of their liking.
ONE MARKET RESTAURANT
Cuisine: Modern American
Style / Ambiance: The lively and entertaining One Market Restaurant has been providing San Franciscans with high-quality cuisine since it first opened in 1993.
In recent years, the appointment of head chef Mark Dommen has led to the restaurant receiving a Michelin star for the fourth consecutive year. Dommen has created a menu that takes contemporary American fare and gives it a modern twist; particular highlights are dishes such as Lightly Smoked Tasmanian Trout Mi Cuit with potato rösti, organic chicken egg and pancetta vinaigrette and Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with dandelion ‘persillade’, salsify and natural jus, all of which are made with locally sourced produce.
THE SLANTED DOOR
Style / Ambiance: You might be wondering what attracted stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Quentin Tarantino to this obscure little Vietnamese eatery in the Mission District.
It’s really quite simple; honest, quality food and impeccable service. Since relocating to its new home in the restored Ferry Building, across the Embarcadero on San Francisco Bay, The Slanted Door has become one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Head Chef Charles Phan delights with the attention to detail of his modern, contemporary Vietnamese fare and has locals returning again and again. It’s always best to ring ahead; the best booths overlooking the Bay get snapped up very quickly.
Cuisine: New American
Style / Ambiance: Set in the magnificent St. Regis San Francisco hotel, the distinctive ‘L’ shaped diner with the signature red tables has been wowing critics for several years.
The possessor of a Michelin star, Ame offers a wonderfully mixed cuisine, full of new American, Italian, French and Japanese delights and includes highlights such as grilled Wagyu beef with fried Miyagi oysters and rémoulade sauce. Your only problem will be deciding what to have; with so many excellent dishes on offer, it’s probably best to go for the Taste of Ame, created by restaurateur Hiro Sone. Popular with locals and visitors alike, it’s always best to book ahead at Ame.