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Feb 8, 2011 09:46 PM

Atelier Crenn - My New Favorite Place

I finally got to Atelier Crenn tonight, a couple weeks after it opened. It may sound strange to say that I felt Dominique Crenn was underrated, given her Michelin stars, Iron Chef appearances and Esquire Best Chef awards. But due to the Luce location, I felt she wasn't as recognized as she should be. This should change all that.

My friend and I had the Prelude to a Winter Night In fact, the website (which doesn't reproduce the menu clearly) and the font size of the menu were my only criticisms. We couldn't read the menu clearly enough to see the prices.

I can't comment on each course but they were spectacular. Perfectly realized in almost every instance. The Truffle and Egg, for me, was perfection. My friend said that she would be content eating the Foie Gras, and nothing but the Foie Gras, for the rest of her life. The Walk in the Forest salad was spectacular and I usually eat salad as obligation instead of thrill.

Dumb Yelpers have complained about portion size. All I can say is, we both are completely full, satisfied but not sick. And the tastes will remain with me for a long time. I think this is cooking at an adventurous, yet earthy and authentic level. The atmosphere is lovely -- we could hear each other despite a full room -- and I plan to have a private party in the back room the next time I am celebrating something.

I have eaten at almost all the top restaurants in San Francisco, and there is no one cooking more interesting, personal and high-level food than this chef. I am thrilled to write the first Chowhound review, and if I'd had less wine perhaps I could give more details. :)

Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

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  1. dumb yelpers, quality over quantity when it comes to that type of dining. Did you do wine pairings? oops just read the wine comment :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Justin L

      Actually, Justin, we didn't do the pairings. But they pour generously enough that two glasses did me in! Enough so that I forgot to mention the dessert in my review. I'm not usually a dessert fan, and my friend is not usually a coconut fan, but there was some sort of bowl full (huge, really) of coconut foam, winter rhubarb, mint and other stuff TBD...we both stopped short of licking our plates, but just to appear refined.

    2. Agree that the layout of the menu is less than great. It is probably my major point of criticism so far as well.

      On the topic of those damn Yelpers, I haven't read any Yelp review for this place, but if they complained of a serving sizes, I can see a point. You had the Prelude to a Winter Night, which is like 9-10 courses, so you should be full. Not wanting to spend 2-3 hours on dinner, we ordered a la carte and there is no way their choices of two savory courses plus one dessert for 59 dollars could satisfy any but the lightest of appetites. To their credit, they made that clear to us before we ordered, so we ordered more dishes, but I can well see how people could have an issue with the size of the servings.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nocharge

        59 bucks for two courses and a dessert is a bit steep, in this case portion size is definitely a concern. I was just commenting for the tasting menu. How much was it for additional entrees?

        1. re: Justin L

          You could get one more course and cheese for a total of $75. Some of the dishes have $10 surcharges and extra cheeses are 10 bucks a pop. For instance, you could get the abalone, the foie gras dish, and a dessert for $79 and it would be a pretty light meal. Big eaters should definitely go for the tasting menu.

          1. re: nocharge

            The tasting menu is priced the same as, say, that of Quince, and I think the cooking is far more interesting and inventive. The two- and three-course menus also seem comparable in price but since I didn't try them (yet) I can't judge portion size.

      2. Thanks for the report! Looking forward to trying.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. Couldn't agree more, goingoutagain. Just visited Atelier Crenn for the first time, had the chef's tasting menu, and I loved every beautiful, tenderly prepared, crazy-ass dish. If Rene Redzepi merged with Wylie Dufresne and then went to art school and had an affair with Gabrielle Hamilton, you might get a cook like Dominique Crenn. Starter: frozen white chocolate balls with cider inside, garnished with a reduction of cassis (a tribute to a non-alcoholic kir.) Smoked oysters: dark with smoke but briny and tender, served with two large and stately sous vide shrimp. Sous vide char: delicate, flaky texture that melts in your mouth, surrounded by uni foam. Foie gras: a crazy miniature log with pickled morels growing out of its knotholes (and a little bit of melting vanilla snow around it...springtime!). Pigeon: perfectly prepared, a hint of game and a whiff of the campfire. Pork belly: crisp and tender, served with poached iceberg lettuce to make a BLT-like salt-and-crispy combo. Oh, and a dessert of douglas fir popsicles served in a foggy miniature forest of fir needles and liquid nitrogen. And there's more!

            What I loved was that this was a rare menu that was not just tasting, but eating. The ingredients were chosen with a theme in mind (springtime), the presentation was gorgeous, the preparation was arduous, and there were all kinds of liquid nitrogeny tricks, but the dishes that resulted didn't feel like stunts - they felt like real nourishment. And it didn't seem like I was being subjected to the ego of an over-achieving chef, but that the chef made something wonderful and I got to enjoy it.

            Okay, enough. This is starting to sound unbelievable. Anything wrong? Well, I wish it was in another neighborhood.

            It's an expensive menu ($115 per person), but there are real treasures being bestowed on you, so it seems appropriate.

            This was a great meal.

            Atelier Crenn
            3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123