Think Michelin is all about fine dining from pricey menus? Think again. The Michelin Guide has a tradition of honoring restaurants that provide good value and its California edition announced Bib Gourmand recipients today, Sept. 22.
There are 45 thrifty newcomers to choose from, even in upscale communities in Orange County, where six restaurants received recognition. Southern California’s list ranged from pit barbecue to Pakistani cuisine.
“Bib Gourmand restaurants offer a full menu of a starter, main course and dessert, making it possible to order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for around $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included),” read an announcement released to the media.
Although this designation does not come with a star, local restaurateurs were thrilled to be chosen.
“Our aim was to open a restaurant that represented how we eat at home, with honest ingredients, with the care and attention of you coming to eat at our home,” said Humberto Leon, Chief Marketing Officer and an owner of Chifa in Los Angeles. “To be part of this group is mind blowing.”
“Chefs work their whole lives to have some sort of recognition from Michelin,” said Daniel Castillo, pitmaster and a founder of Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano. He explained that his executive chef, Nicholas Echaore, is very aware of the process, having worked in Napa, Las Vegas and Martha’s Vineyard but this was unexpected for the staff which includes in-house butcher Lennon Gunter. “I think it’s kind of cool because barbecue restaurants don’t normally get recognition from Michelin. So, we as a team, me and Nicholas and Lennon, are very honored,” Castillo said.
“I truly can’t ask for more than this recognition, as it is the highest caliber of restaurant ratings,” said Chef Imran “Ali” Moohki, of Khan Saab in Fullerton, who distributed free meals during the height of the pandemic.
Last year, because so many restaurants were closed and restricted, the Michelin Guide California edition awarded no stars but a virtual gala in October honored sustainability in the industry and highlighted outstanding restaurants deemed “new discoveries.”
This year Michelin has been pre-announcing restaurants that will receive “new additions” designations and some of these received Bib Gourmand titles. Stars will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
“By revealing some of the new additions made by our inspectors throughout the year, we enhance our digital tools to further strengthen the ties that bind us to food lovers,” Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin guides said in a message about the new additions on its website. The new selections will also be available on the Michelin Guide iOS and Android app.
In 2019, Michelin made a glamorous entrance into inspecting the entire state with its first Michelin Guide California, announced at a splashy seaside gala in Huntington Beach.
Michelin uses the same standards for reviewing restaurants whether they are in Manhattan Beach or Manhattan. “We use exactly the same methodology and to ensure the value of our ratings; we also make inspectors travel a lot,” Poullennec, told the Register in 2019, adding that international inspectors were required to visit California.
Here’s a list of the new Bib Gourmand recipients along with some notes from the inspectors.
Bee Taqueria, Los Angeles
This casual taqueria with serious focus and creative style arrives courtesy of the talented chef Alex Carrasco. Tacos, ceviche and tostadas reign supreme on the menu, which draws culinary inspiration from the chef’s childhood in Mexico City.
Chifa, Los Angeles
Chifa is the term used by Peruvians to refer to “Chinese restaurant.” The succinct menu pulls from family recipes and childhood memories to pack in flavor at every twist and turn.
Colapasta, Santa Monica
Nestled into a breezy locale just a few blocks from the Pacific, this modern trattoria packs a big culinary punch, thanks largely to the considerable talents of chef Stefano De Lorenzo.
Jiang Nan Spring, Alhambra
This spot’s Shanghainese focus makes it a valuable addition to the San Gabriel Valley. Sweet vinegars and fresh seafood figure prominently, most apparent in plates like an irresistible platter of tilapia fried in a tempura-like batter flavored with seaweed.
Kazan, Beverly Hills
The name is Japanese for “volcano” and conveniently, this soba-focused spot blows the lid off its competitors. The menu offers many a choice, including a vegetarian option, but the #7 (lamb in lava) is a clear winner.
Konbi, Los Angeles
Konbi is the brainchild of chefs Nick Montgomery and Akira Akuto, who present a unique menu of Japanese sandwiches, product-focused small plates and Proustian pastries.
La Azteca, Los Angeles
This modest counter-service operation has been serving hefty burritos in East L.A. for many years now. Flour tortillas are made in-house every day in full view of the dining room and boast a kind of richness and chew that others don’t.
Luscious Dumplings, Monrovia
It’s hard to order poorly at this delightful retreat. The menu is concise, with half of the items dedicated to the eponymous specialty.
Tumbi, Santa Monica
Just a block from the bustle of the Santa Monica Promenade, Tumbi feels worlds away, offering inventive Indian cooking in an industrial-chic setting.
WoodSpoon, Los Angeles
It’s clear that hospitality runs through the veins of chef and owner, Natalia Pereira, who originally hails from Brazil. The cozy dining room is lined with framed photographs and wine bottles. The chef’s careful and skilled hand is also evident in her food, which tastes of pure passion.
Chaak Kitchen, Tustin
The team behind these stoves swimmingly brings the vibrant smoke-and-spice-focused cuisine of the Yucatán Peninsula to life.
Fable & Spirit, Newport Beach
The room is packed with an unmistakable hum of happy diners diving into delicious pub grub. You’ll want to order the Guinness brown bread, which is an absolute delight, especially paired with plump P.E.I. mussels bathed in a thyme butter.
Heritage Barbecue, San Juan Capistrano
Punctuality is of the essence as everyone is here, early and eager, for chef and owner Daniel Castillo’s food. His creations draw inspiration from central Texas, so when that sweet scent of California white oak gets going, find yourself transported on a riotous journey, starting with slices of glistening brisket.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen, Fullerton
Originally from Pakistan, chef Imran “Ali” Mookhi displays a certain deftness with spices, flavors, and in his handling of red meat at this South Asian gem.
Oliver’s Osteria Mare e Monti, Laguna Beach
Set just minutes from the Pacific Coast Highway, this Italian gem makes a delightful sight. Chef Erik De Marchi’s menu has something for everyone. He takes a range of familiar dishes and enhances them with an authentic flair.
Pho 79, Garden Grove
If you are no stranger to the slurp, then Pho 79 is likely already on your circuit. After all, this place is an institution. Opened in the early ’80s, it’s widely considered to ladle some of the best and most praiseworthy pho in Southern California.
Other California restaurants
Callie, San Diego
Cesarina, San Diego
Ciccia Osteria, San Diego
Dija Mara, San Diego
Morning Glory, San Diego
CENTRAL COAST AND SANTA BARBARA
Bettina, Santa Barbara
Corazon Cocina, Santa Barbara
Loquita, Santa Barbara
Mentone, Central Coast
ASA South, San Francisco
Dumpling Home, San Francisco
FOB Kitchen, San Francisco
Horn Barbecue, San Francisco
Khom Loi, Sonoma
Los Carnalitos, San Francisco
New Dumpling, San Francisco
Range Life, San Francisco
Routier, San Francisco
Spinning Bones, San Francisco
Tacos Oscar, San Francisco
iTalico, Palo Alto
Taquería El Paisa, San Francisco
Tony’s Seafood, San Francisco
Top Hatters Kitchen, San Francisco
Um.ma, San Francisco
Yue Huang, Sacramento