(Reuters) - The San Francisco Bay Area's reputation for great food got a boost as Michelin awarded four of its restaurants with its highest rating in its 2015 eating guide, to be released on Wednesday.
Benu and Saison, whose acclaimed menus have Asian accents, joined the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood in the top three-star category for "exceptional cuisine."
This doubled the number of three-star restaurants in the San Francisco area from the prior year. Benu and Saison sit in the city's SoMa district, while the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood are in the wine-producing Napa Valley.
"Northern California has a unique cuisine that has really come on the world stage because you have this really interesting Asian and American flavors and techniques are that being mixed with absolute world-class products," said Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides.
Dining at these three-star establishments won't be cheap. The tasting menu excluding wine at Benu starts at $195 and goes up to $295 at the French Laundry.
Michelin praised Benu's head chef Corey Lee for "applying a precise culinary technique to dishes that are a combination of contemporary American, various Asian and, most notably, Korean inspired flavors and influences."
Saison's Joshua Skenes has created "a dazzling and prolific menu of seafood with a clear respect for Japanese cuisine combined with a creative nod to Northern California gastronomy," it said.
Lee worked at the French Laundry under Thomas Keller before opening Benu, while Skenes worked for another three-star Michelin chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Michelin rates restaurants in 24 countries and its stars are an internationally recognized sign of quality dining. There are just over 100 restaurants worldwide with the three-stars distinction.
Michelin handed stars to a record 40 restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area after its reviewers sampled 46 types of cuisines at 474 eateries.
Michelin placed six establishments in its two-star "excellent cuisine" category with Acquerello joining the roster in its latest guide. It said Acquerello's chef and owner Suzette Greshem "delivers superb Italian cuisine that has a unique contemporary touch."
The other two-star restaurants included Atelier Crenn, Baume, Coi, Manresa and Quince.
Two sushi restaurants, Kusakabe and Maruya, were newcomers on the one-star roster for being the best restaurants in their category, bringing the total to 30 in the latest guide.
Editing by Mary Milliken and Marguerita Choy