Skip to main content
Food & Drink

San Francisco’s new Michelin-starred restaurants: How to snag a reservation

A dish of oyster ice cream from newly minted Michelin-starred restaurant Aphotic, a seafood-centric restaurant in SoMa | Source: Kelly Puleio

The James Beard awards—the Oscars of the food world—snubbed the Bay Area this year. But thanks to the Michelin Guide, things were looking up for the region’s fine-dining scene this week, as several Northern California restaurants won accolades. 

San Francisco restaurants Aphotic and Nari were both awarded their first stars

Northern California’s other star winners were Calistoga’s Auro at the Four Seasons and Carmel’s Chez Noir. Chef Harrison Cheny of San Francisco’s Son & Daughter; Josh Schafer, director of operations at Healdsburg’s SingleThread; and John Haffey of Carmel’s Aubergine were also recognized for their work. Oakland farm-to-table restaurant Pomet received a Michelin Green Star for excellence in sustainability practices. 

Aphotic's uni ice cream | Source: kelly puleio photo

Also recognized for its outstanding achievement in sustainable seafood sourcing was SoMa seafood eatery Aphotic, which is named for the ocean layer that never sees sunlight. It earned a double distinction, earning not only its first star but also a Michelin Green Star

In an announcement on its website about the winners, Michelin wrote of Aphotic: “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.” 

After years of sitting on Michelin’s value-driven Bib Gourmand list and living in the shadow of its Michelin-starred sibling, Downtown’s Kin Khao, beloved Thai restaurant inside Japantown’s Kabuki Hotel, Nari, finally has a star of its own. The upscale restaurant is already a favorite for special occasions or to impress a date, but its Michelin star status is sure to make it harder to get a table.   

Aphotic's seaweed salad with carrots and sesame | Source: Kelly Puleio

“Our guests don't usually have much trouble snagging a reservation unless they are looking for primetime seating on Friday or Saturday,” said Michael McDonald, Aphotic’s general manager. “That being said, we have seen a huge boost in reservations since last night's announcement.” 

McDonald recommends booking out at least two to three weeks in advance. As of today on Tock, the first available reservation for the restaurant’s 10-course tasting menu at the chef’s counter ($135 per person, plus tax and tip) is Aug. 1. But if you act fast, reservations are still available in the main dining room as soon as tonight, with more available bookings on weeknights through Aug. 17. 

Aphotic's Tsar Nicoulai Caviar with spot prawn | Source: Kelly Puleio

If you aren’t able to snag a seat in the main dining room, McDonald suggested booking a reservation at the bar, where you can nibble on à la carte menu items, like Tsar Nicoulai Caviar ($50-$100), spot prawn mortadella ($22), trout rillettes ($20), rockfish crudo with wasabi and garum ($18), octopus with udon and szechuan ($26), or your choice of raw or wood-fired oysters ($19 to $22). 

“We just recently rolled out a seafood charcuterie menu there, which is something you won't be finding in many restaurants,” McDonald added. “The tuna saucisson sec is delicious!” 

Aphotic also offers a cocktail tasting menu ($85 per person) “inspired by different bodies of water from around the world” that’s served only at its 15-seat bar. Seats are bookable ahead of time. 

Aphotic offers an $85 cocktail tasting menu | Source: Kelly Puleio

As for Nari, a handful of bookings were available for as soon as this weekend on the online dining reservation platform Resy, though that could change fast. 

The “chef’s pick menu” costs $125 per person. First courses range from seasoned beef tartare with black rice crackers ($28) to an extravagant 50-gram tin of Kaluga caviar with scallion roti and salted duck egg ($125). Choose from five dishes as a second course, including a variety of curries ($39-$56) and a stir-fried crispy chicken in a sweet & spicy curry paste with dried shrimp ($36).

Christina Campodonico can be reached at