Michelin names 5 San Diego County restaurants as ‘discoveries’ for 2020

Nasi Goreng, a fried rice and egg dish at Dija Mara in Oceanside.
Nasi Goreng, a fried rice and egg dish from the Balinese restaurant Dija Mara in Oceanside.
(Courtesy photo)

Michelin Guide recognizes Tuetano Taqueria, Morning Glory, Dija Mara, Sushi Tadokoro and Soichi Sushi at online event


Although Michelin North America won’t be producing a California guide this year due to the state restaurant industry’s struggles, it singled out five restaurant “discoveries” Tuesday that its inspectors made during their undercover dining visits before the pandemic hit last spring.

Tuetano Taqueria in San Ysidro, Morning Glory in Little Italy, Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town, Soichi Sushi in University Heights and Dija Mara in Oceanside are among 25 California “discoveries” Michelin officials announced Tuesday afternoon during the ratings organization’s livestreamed “Family Meal” program.

The hourlong event was created to promote and support the state’s restaurants, which have been devastated by long-term pandemic-related closures, a downturn in tourism and wildfires. Only 17 of the state’s 90 Michelin-starred restaurants have reopened for onsite dining and 50 are only offering takeout.

Michelin’s inspectors work anonymously, but the chief inspector for North America talked about the five San Diego County honorees in a phone interview Tuesday morning. He said the strong showing of San Diego restaurants among the new discoveries was meant to reflect Michelin’s effort to “do a deeper dive into San Diego for the next book and try to represent what’s being offered there, which is really interesting.”

Bone marrow tacos at Tuetano Taqueria in San Ysidro.
(Courtesy of Tuetano Taqueria)

Tuetano Taqueria, opened in 2017 by chef Priscilla Curiel, has quickly become famous for her bone marrow tacos, which have landed on “best taco” lists nationwide. The chief inspector said California is jam-packed with taco shops, but having a such a unique product helped Tuetano — which is the Spanish word for bone marrow — stand out from others.

“It’s such a cute and quaint spot,” the chief inspector said. “To do something very unique and focused like what’s being done there is really commendable.”

 Morning Glory Japanese soufflé pancakes.
Japanese soufflé pancakes. at Morning Glory in Little Italy.
(Michele Parente / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Morning Glory, an eclectic and playful gourmet brunch spot opened by Consortium Holdings in spring 2019, was also prized by inspectors for its unique take on the mid-day meal trend that has exploded in the past five years.

“To have breakfast all day is a nice treatment and the way it’s done there with the varied menu, a lot of creativity goes into that, from fried rice to soufflé pancakes. It’s a worthwhile restaurant and worthy of recognition,” he said.

Nasi Goreng, a fried rice and egg dish from the Balinese restaurant Dija Mara in Oceanside.
(Courtesy photo)

Dija Mara, a Balinese restaurant opened in 2017 by Rob Jones and Simran Soin, was one of the first restaurants in San Diego to offer an all-natural wine program. Serving brunch and dinner only, its menu is a mix of Southeast Asian cuisines with a California influence.

“The Balinese theme was really interesting to us and that came over really successfully in the food, like the charred eggplant and the nasi goreng,” the inspector said. “This was a restaurant we felt definitely needed to be recognized.”

Takeaki Tadokoro of Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town.
Takeaki Tadokoro, chef-owner of Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town.
(Courtesy photo)

Sushi Tadokoro, which chef/owner Takeaki Tadokoro opened in 2012, is also a veteran on San Diego “best of” lists for its traditional Japanese-style (edomae) sushi service. The chief inspector said the restaurant serves “really great sushi, where the quality is so important” and the skill of its sushi chefs is “right on target.”

Soichi Sushi was opened in spring 2019 by chef Soichi Kadoya, who spent the previous five years honing his craft at Sushi Tadakoro. The chief inspector said the relationship between the two restaurants is that they both offer the same extremely high level of skill, service and product.

Soichi Kadoya at Soichi Sushi in University Heights.
(Courtesy photo)

With more than 76,000 restaurants and bars in California, Michelin inspectors have had their work cut out for them since launching their first all-California guide in 2019. To cover that vast culinary landscape, Michelin North America has a team of California-based inspectors, who do a tremendous amount of research to narrow down the places they visit, the chief inspector said.

“We’re constantly looking to see new places that are opening and following chefs who have moved on to something else. We’re following restaurants on Instagram and looking at local papers and blogs and lists,” the chief inspector said. “We cast a wide net.”

The other 20 restaurants that were named as discoveries are: Yue Huang in Sacramento; Booneville Hotel in Sonoma; Aziza, Tacos Oscar, Tony’s Seafood, Los Carnalitos, Shelby’s and Brotzeit Lokal, all in San Francisco; Bettina and Sushi Bar Montecito and Bell’s in Santa Barbara; WoodSpoon, Spoon by H, Jian Nan Spring, Tumbi, Pasjoli and Sweet Rice and Sushi I-Naba, all in Los Angeles; and Chaak Kitchen, Fable & Spirit in Orange County.

Also featured in Tuesday’s program was the announcement of the first green star sustainability awards in the U.S., a new category that Michelin introduced in France last year. The first six California chef honored with the green star are Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Michael Tusk, Nancy Silverton, Dominique Crenn, Matthew Kammerer and Kyle & Katina Connaughton.