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Michelin just added 10 restaurants to its California guide, and nine are in L.A.

A small bowl of uni-topped summer-corn chawanmushi at Sushi Sonagi in Gardena
At Sushi Sonagi, a new Michelin addition that's tucked into a Gardena strip mall, the courses center "micro-seasonal" fish and produce such as a summer-corn chawanmushi. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

California diners are awaiting the release of Michelin’s full 2024 guide, but today the global restaurant compendium released another preview of its top restaurants in the state. Out of 10 restaurants newly added to the California guide, nine are located in the Los Angeles area.

“I think for me, I'm more proud for the city of Gardena,” said Daniel Son, the chef-owner of new addition Sushi Sonagi. “It's where my parents immigrated to first, and I feel like it's my hometown. So I feel like it's very great for the city and obviously L.A.”

After nearly a quarter-century in the restaurant industry, which began with Son bussing tables and washing dishes in his parents’ restaurant, the inclusion of his own sushi bar marks his first Michelin nod.

Additions — previously released last December — are highlighted as new and notable picks, though they could also garner the coveted Michelin stars or the award of Bib Gourmand, denoting value.

Of the Michelin Guide’s accolades, the most prestigious awards are the star ratings. One signifies “a very good restaurant in its category”; two translates to “excellent cuisine, worth a detour”; three stars, highest of all, means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”

Daniel Son holds a piece of grilled fish coated in puffy rice crackers at Sushi Sonagi in Gardena
Sushi Sonagi's Daniel Son displays a course of grilled kuromutsu that's been coated in puffy rice crackers. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Son introduced his high-end omakase in a Gardena strip mall last summer, and said that debuting any sushi restaurant — especially one located in a prolific sushi region such as L.A. — was daunting, especially considering his own Korean American twist. He wondered whether customers would understand his vision. Seeing the mention in today’s Michelin guide, however, helped confirm his decisions.

“To be a Korean American and do something that's very Japanese but also expressing myself through my heritage, it's been amazing,” he said. “Michelin acknowledging or including us in the guide, it just feels so relieving and I’m just really thankful.”

While a Michelin star would be nice, Son said it’s all out of his hands; he’s simply thankful for the recognition and that he’ll be focusing on spring ingredients in the coming months.

Other L.A.-area Michelin additions are Koreatown’s new, sunny Chinese and Taiwanese restaurant and teahouse Liu’s Cafe; Echo Park pizzeria and cake destination Quarter Sheets; downtown edomae-style omakase spot Sawa; Evan Funke’s Beverly Hills ode to handmade pasta and other regional Italian classics, Funke; longtime Koreatown Peruvian chicken roastery Pollo a la Brasa, a favorite of Jonathan Gold’s; West Hollywood Japanese-French bistro Amour; Echo Park’s daytime-only, seafood-focused cafe Little Fish; and kaiseki newcomer UKA, which is housed inside Hollywood cultural center Japan House. Today’s only non-L.A. Michelin addition is San Francisco’s 7 Adams, which offers a budget-friendly, five-course tasting menu in addition to a chef’s counter tasting.

“We're so proud of our food and what we make, but we also are serving food on paper plates, and we're just doing breakfast and lunch,” said Anna Sonenshein, co-owner of Little Fish. “It's just not something that we even really considered.”

A closeup of a cured-trout tartine, decorated with mustard seed and shaved fennel, in a cardboard dish
When Little Fish opened in Echo Park's Dada Market, new items hit the menu such as house-cured-trout tartines, fish congee and a full coffee program. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Sonenshein and her partner, Niki Vahle, began their operation with a pop-up centered around a light-as-air fried fish sandwich, but their new Echo Park location has allowed them to expand their menu and their vision. In late 2023 they opened within Dada Market serving fish congee, cured-trout tartines, fried-tofu sandwiches, cottage cheese pancakes and more.

They said they’ll be watching for the release of Michelin Guide’s full 2024 list amid running Little Fish and readying a new restaurant that’s planned to open in Melrose Hill later this year.

“We're so stoked to be included with the other new L.A. additions — there's so many of our friends on there,” said Vahle. “Rather than to see our name alongside Michelin, I think we're more more lucky to see our name alongside all of the other places that we love and respect so much.”

The reveal date and location for the 2024 Michelin California guide have yet to be announced. The California guide, including today’s new additions, can be found here.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.