Michelin stars for 2021 are returning to California on Sept. 28

Two chefs raise their glasses in a toast while standing in front of a group of people and the white Michelin tire mascot.
N/naka chef Niki Nakayama, center, and her partner and sous chef Carole Iida-Nakayama, center right, raise their glasses with the Michelin mascot and fellow chefs after her restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars during a live reveal of the 2019 Michelin Guide California selection.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Michelin Guide, known for its star-based rating system, anonymous inspectors and unpredictability, paused awards in California due to the pandemic, but on Sept. 28, Michelin stars will return to the state.

On Wednesday, the Michelin organization revealed a selection of eight notable “new discoveries” in Orange and San Diego counties. The announcement — part of a recent, ongoing plan to tease accolades and attract interest across the United States throughout the year, as opposed to announcing winners all at once — also included the release date for the guide’s full return. The eight restaurants join 10 Los Angeles “new discoveries” announced earlier this month.

On Sept. 22, the guide will announce Bib Gourmand nods, which denote high quality and value in a restaurant. Six days later, the coveted stars — awarded on a scale of one to three and typically given to fine dining establishments in the U.S. — will be announced for the first time since 2019 when Michelin awarded stars to 24 restaurants in the L.A. area, and to 90 across California in an inaugural statewide guide.

Recently opened establishments, including today’s picks in Orange and San Diego counties, might end up being star-rated restaurants or Bib Gourmand nods or they could simply be new and notable. According to Michelin Guide’s anonymous chief inspector for North America, all newly opened restaurants in the guide will receive a “new” denotation on both the Michelin app and the website.

Today’s announcement spotlights Brian Malarkey’s Animae in San Diego; Brenda and Daniel Castillo’s Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano; Yassmin Sarmadi and Tony Esnault’s Knife Pleat in Costa Mesa; Imran Ali Mookhi’s Khan Saab in Fullerton; Travis Swikard, David Cohn and Deborah Scott’s Callie in San Diego; David Spatafore and Matt Sramek’s Little Frenchie in Coronado; Brad Wise and Steve Schwob’s Fort Oak in San Diego; and Takashi Endo’s Menya Ultra, with locations in Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa and Hillcrest in San Diego.

The Michelin Guide announced 10 notable new restaurants in the Los Angeles area Sept. 1: Minh Phan’s tasting menu concept, Phenakite, which is also the L.A. Times Restaurant of the Year; Jeremy Fox’s Birdie G’s in Santa Monica; Ryu Isobe’s Kazan in Beverly Hills; Philip Camino’s Fellow, in Westwood Village; Josiah Citrin’s Citrin in Santa Monica; Thomas Kalb and Vanessa Tilaka’s Agnes in Pasadena; Andrew Son and Jaeyong Son’s Jeong Yuk Jeom in Koreatown; Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee’s Pasta Bar in Encino; Nick Montgomery and Akira Akuto’s Konbi in Echo Park; and Sara Gabriele and Adam Aro’s Gabi James in Redondo Beach.

There are 104 Los Angeles restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide, which can be found online at