The Bay Area now shines even brighter in the dining universe.
The much-coveted Michelin stars were bestowed upon restaurants Tuesday afternoon, and with the results came new bragging rights:
We are now home to more two-star restaurants -- seven -- than any region in the United States, beating both New York and Chicago for that honor. And that's a record, according to Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin guides. Never has a U.S. region had more than six two-star honorees.
It was Quince that put us over the top. Michael and Lindsay Tusk's San Francisco restaurant was elevated from one star to two stars in the 2014 edition of the "Michelin Guide: San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country," which goes on sale Wednesday.
Retaining their two-star status were all six of last year's honorees: David Kinch's Manresa in Los Gatos; Bruno Chemel's Baumé in Palo Alto; and four San Francisco restaurants: Atelier Crenn, Benu, Coi and Saison.
And the Napa Valley restaurants that occupy the rarefied "three star" air still do. Both Thomas Keller's French Laundry and Christopher Kostow's Restaurant at Meadowood were again awarded Michelin's highest honor, signifying "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." Only about 100 restaurants in the world hold that distinction.
New to the one-star ranks was the ultra-popular State Bird Provisions, another husband-wife success story in San Francisco. Stuart Brioza is the chef, and Nicole Krasinski the pastry chef.
Most Bay Area one-star restaurants retained their status, including All Spice in San Mateo, Chez TJ in Mountain View, Commis in Oakland, Madera in Menlo Park, Plumed Horse in Saratoga, the Village Pub in Woodside, along with 21 San Francisco/Wine Country restaurants.
But four lost their Michelin honors, and one (Masa's) closed, reducing the overall number of honored restaurants to 38. Stripped of their single star were Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino; La Costanera in Montara; Redd in Yountville; and Frances in San Francisco.
Restaurants can lose a star "when we find that the cuisine is not up to par," when there are consistency issues, Ellis said. "It's not about the service or the decor. The stars are only about the food."
Regarding Alexander's of Cupertino, "it was a tough call," Ellis said.
"That doesn't mean Alexander's cannot ... get its star back," he said, citing the case of Mario Batali's Babbo in New York, which just regained a star.
(For a list of Michelin's Bib Gourmand awards, which honors affordably excellent restaurants, go to www.mercurynews.com/food-wine.)