Michelin no-stars are still pretty good


Every foodie worth their bamboo roasted sea salt knows that for three-star Michelin-rated dining in the Bay Area, there’s The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley. They probably know about our six two-stars, including Coi, Benu and Saison, and even the 34 one-stars.

But how much attention do they pay to my personal favorite category in the Michelin universe – Bib Gourmand, aka ‘good cuisine at a reasonable price’. Michelin states that: ‘Bib Gourmand restaurants offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included), and are often of most value to a city’s residents, who regularly dine in neighborhood restaurants.’ There are 70 of them in the Bay Area. You may know them as The Slanted Door in downtown, A 16 in the Marina, Burma Superstar in the Inner Richmond, or Delfina in the Mission.

As a fan of classic Indian fare, I used to enjoy the dozens of Indian restaurants that line El Camino in Santa Clara, until I discovered another entry on the Bib Gourmand list, Kabab & Curry’s. And to be honest, I was a little surprised when I learned my favorite Bay Area Indian restaurant was included. Nothing about the place says fine or fashionable. The interior is basic and not unpleasant, but no one comes here for the ambiance. In fact, most patrons don’t dine here at all, choosing instead to join the ever-present line of ‘to-go’ customers milling next to the long folding table stacked with take-out orders. And the prices – $20 for two – are not what you’d expect of international award recognition. But the food, well, since tasting Kabab & Curry’s perfectly creamy chicken tikka masala and expertly flavored palak paneer, it’s ruined all my old favorites in and around the city. None of them measure up.

I respect Michelin for looking past the pedestrian image and rewarding Kabab & Curry’s for doing traditional Indian fare better than anyone else around. So now I’ll just have to work my way down the Bib Gourmand list.

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