Chronicle Lists Top Restaurants Splurge, Snubs French Laundry, Manresa and Quince

Chronicle restaurant reviewer Soleil Ho has spent much of the past three and a half years on the job spreading the wealth, so to speak, when it comes to reviewing lesser-known and less gimmicky spots in the area – and it was a bit refreshing! But a big-city newspaper critic finally has to deal with the Michelin-starred big names, and it seems Ho’s tour of the Bay Area’s most acclaimed and expensive spots is finally over.

“For most people, a meal in a fine dining restaurant is a heavy investment – so it better be good,” Ho writes. “This is where a reviewer is most valuable, I would say, because ‘It’s a lot easier to laugh at a bad slice of pizza than a bad $200 meal. So true!

But so far in the food section of the Chronicle, since Michael Bauer left, there hasn’t been a ton of attention to food, because Ho has devoted magazine articles to things like cart noodles at Beyond Cafe in SoMa, vegan pork banh mi at Lee’s Sandwiches and the pop-up Gumbo Social stand at the Outer Sunset Farmer’s Market.

As of this week, however, we’ve had Ho’s (albeit brief) take on some of the heavy hitters of the Bay Area restaurant scene via this list of the best Splurge restaurants – which is another way of saying the best fine dining restaurants . Mixed in are less sophisticated places, but still splurges like Animo in Sonoma and Rich Table. But the majority of the list consists of names well known to foodinistas and Michelin Guide readers alike, like Saison, Benu, Californios and SingleThread.

But there are some big omissions. Three restaurants that all have three Michelin stars – The French Laundry, Manresa and Quince – were all omitted from the list. And unlike the old Top 100 Days, we get no explanation for the snubs. (SFist has contacted Soleil Ho for details, but we have yet to hear back.)

It should come as no surprise, given the opening review Ho posted in early 2019 when he took over, that Chez Panisse isn’t here either.

About Saison, Ho writes, “Imagine you’re in a lodge on a snowy mountain while your friends and family ski outside, your only companions being the crackle of the fireplace and the soothing warmth of hot tea. spirit of the season…

Of Atelier Crenn and its now $410(!) tasting menu, Ho writes, “Dominique Crenn’s flagship restaurant, originally from France, adopts a cheerful narrative culinary style,” noting the 14-line poem that accompanies your meal with lines corresponding to each of the 14 courses.

Ho says Nightbird’s food is “simply breathtaking” and SingleThread’s $425 10-course tasting menu is “acrobatic.” And if you want a laid-back but high-octane experience involving caviar in Palo Alto, head to Protege.

In place of the old Top 100, the newspaper and website now have very many lists that have been published and updated over the last year or so – there was a long break in 2020 for obvious reasons. But the intersection of all the Chronicle lists is now confusing.

For example, Atelier Crenn, Lazy Bear, Mister Jiu’s, Nari, and Rich Table all appear on both the “madness” restaurant list and this other list of SF’s best restaurants that was last updated in June. But Benu, Saison, Birdsong, Merchant Roots, Nightbird, and Californios are all splurge-worthy, but aren’t they on the list of top restaurants in SF? And don’t even get me started on this Top 25 Restaurants thing, which is a totally confusing, quarterly updated snapshot of new, old, big and small restaurants in the Bay Area that’s a poor replacement for the Top 100 to say the least. , apparently modeled after the Eater 38, and not very useful.

That’s probably not the case for Ho – the food section editorial team knows lists are good for business, so why not make a lot of them? It’s just that, for a city’s official newspaper that should aim to be an authoritative source on things like fine dining, conflicts between these lists raise more questions than answers and do many a disservice. great restaurants like State Bird Provisions. , Mourad and Nightbird when they are on one list and not the other, maybe they will never be found when Google “sf best restaurants list” if that brings you to that weird Top 25.

Anyway, I’m now extremely curious to read Ho’s review on French Laundry, if they ever publish one. And I guess Quince (which is currently closed for a summer renovation) didn’t impress much either!

Congratulations to everyone who made the cut.

Related: Soleil Ho asks “Who is Michael Mina and why is his name treated like gold in this town”?

Top image: The Quince’s private dining room. Photo via Instagram

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement