Did you know that California was the site where the first MICHELIN Green Star was awarded? The MICHELIN Green Star distinctions are given to restaurants that are champions of and highlight sustainable gastronomy; be it the world's first zero waste restaurant, collaborative community gardens, or breathing new life into leftovers. And yet, in a world full of directional dishes, each Green Star spot combats climate change through culinary innovation with California continuing to lead the way.
This year, four additional restaurants join the green brigade: Two MICHELIN Star Providence in Hollywood, One MICHELIN Star Aphotic in San Francisco, One MICHELIN Star Heritage in Long Beach, and MICHELIN Guide Recommended Pomet in Oakland. From conforming to traditional practices of fishery to a new "zero-waste" bean-to-dessert chocolate program, here's how these restaurants keep proving it's easy (and tasty) being green.
Aphotic (San Francisco)
Aptly named after the ocean's sunless depths, this vast, tenebrous space is leagues away from the mundane, offering a rarified pescatarian tasting menu that abounds with personality. Chef Peter Hemsley takes full advantage of California's coastal bounty, sourcing exceptional seafood from small sustainable purveyors and utilizing techniques like dry aging and fermentation to maximum effect. The kitchen’s creativity is displayed in dishes like thinly shaved Monterey abalone with swordfish “bacon” and citrusy dashi broth, as well as a warm bread course paired with a curry-scented hollandaise loaded with sweet Dungeness crab. Even desserts make judicious use of the fruits of the sea, as in a subtly briny oyster ice cream accented with herbaceous vermouth.
Heritage (Long Beach)
Set in a converted Craftsman in the historic Rose Park neighborhood, this inviting locale is removed from the hustle and bustle of Long Beach. Brother-and-sister duo Philip and Lauren Pretty run the kitchen and front of house, respectively, curating an experience that’s relaxed, but gets the details just right. On offer is a single multicourse tasting (priced quite reasonably) that highlights top-notch ingredients, including produce sourced from their nearby farm. The cooking has a California accent, and seasonal fruit may form a common thread, as in preserved kumquats paired with roasted beet and impeccably cooked dry-aged duck breast, and yet again in the guise of a frozen yogurt, in a summery dessert of charred strawberries and herbaceous yuzu granita.
The phrase "farm-to-table" is by now undoubtedly well-worn, but here the cliché takes on a literal dimension. Proprietor Aomboon Deasy is also a farmer, best known as the owner of K&J Orchards, a longtime darling of Bay Area farmers' markets thanks to its top-notch tree fruit. She tapped Chef Alan Hsu to lead the kitchen, and his menu is unsurprisingly ingredient-driven, proudly proclaiming the myriad local farms that supply it (in addition to Deasy's own). Whether it’s oysters with Niitaka pear and cider mignonette, or pasta filled with a puree of “ugly mushrooms” and sauced with a celery root miso butter, simplicity is a virtue when ingredients are this good. Case in point: the meal ends with a complimentary slice of whatever seasonal fruit is currently at its peak.
Purity and precision are the underpinnings of Chef Michael Cimarusti's California cooking, inspired by flavors from Asia and the Mediterranean. The tasting menu blends classic technique with a modern sensibility, and sources the freshest and most sustainable seafood, often wild-caught from American waters, and at no point during the meal will you doubt its impeccable quality. A Pacific oyster, gently cooked and served in its shell and finished with a luscious sauce of champagne butter and golden Kaluga caviar, is a signature item for good reason. Other high points include canapés, as in a delicate lobster mousse served on a cracker made of the same and topped with black truffle. Dessert is superb, boasting house-made chocolate and exquisite mignardises.
Previous Green Stars
Atelier Crenn (San Francisco)
Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
Chi Spacca (Los Angeles)
Le Comptoir at Bar Crenn (San Francisco)
Harbor House (Elk)
Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
Quince (San Francisco)
The French Laundry (Yountville)
The Restaurant at JUSTIN (Paso Robles)
Hero image: Sterling Reed/Heritage