Year first granted: 2021 (one star in 2019)
Despite being in a city with its fair share of haute Japanese cuisine, there’s something clearly special happening at Hayato. Tucked behind traditional noren that hang over the door, chef-owner Brandon Go prepares a multicourse, traditional kaiseki dinner every night of service. The space is intimate, the ceramics are handcrafted and imported from Japan, and Go’s precision and technique come by way of training under Michelin-starred Japanese chefs. Artful simplicity is the name of Go’s kaiseki game, by way of dishes like steamed abalone with an unctuous liver sauce, an owan course of delicate crab meatball soup, and fresh fruit coated in a salted sake jelly. Note: These stunningly artful kaiseki dinners typically fill up a month in advance after going live on Tock on the first of every month. Plan ahead
Let’s be real: Could a French tire company really encapsulate what good dining in Los Angeles entails? Apparently, they’re still going to try. After Michelin took a yearlong hiatus in California, the largely Eurocentric international guide is back in the state, and thus the City of Angels, with seven new Michelin starred restaurants in 2021—and the promotion to two stars for an eighth. With all its picks this year in the three dollar sign range and above, the nearly century-old red restaurant book is proving to us all that while age is just a number, culinary elitism is timeless.
For those blissfully unaware of what the Michelin Guide is, here’s how it all goes down: The star ratings, while controversial, are considered essentially the most prestigious award a restaurant could ever receive. One star denotes “a very good restaurant,” two signifies “excellent cooking that is worth a detour” and three stars, most coveted of all, translates to “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.” A new Bib Gourmand category, added to their 2019 guide to California, also recognizes more affordable spots, with 10 new L.A. area additions this year.
To determine these ratings, the guide’s anonymous inspectors visit and judge restaurants according to quality, atmosphere, service and even nominal details, such as how far apart the tables are spaced. With a clear bias towards fine dining and blatant roots in a culture of Western imperialism, the Michelin Guide is just one measure of excellence in food and hospitality among many—particularly in a city as rich in street food and multicultural cuisine such as L.A.
However, if you still have (French multinational tire brand) stars in your eyes, look no further: We’ve updated our list of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants for 2021. Eagle-eyed readers might notice the exclusion of now-closed sushi giant Urasawa. Of note: L.A. has zero three-star spots, the highest award the guide confers.