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Atelier Crenn vs. Saison...

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Have one night in town and attempting to decide between the tasting menu at Atelier Crenn or Saison. Couldnt find any direct comparisons so thought I would attempt to get the thoughts of those that have been to both. Is Saison worth the extra money? Which venue is better for a family of four (all older, not kids)? Is one better with their wine pairings? They both seem to have unique seasonal menus and i keep switching on which one looks better. I appreciate the help....

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Saison
2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

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  1. I think the food at Atelier Crenn is very good and certainly very interesting, but the food at Saison is more straightforward delicious. I like both, but if I had to choose, I'd pick Saison with the caveat that the well-meaning-but-clueless service is not necessarily at the same level as the food.

    6 Replies
    1. re: nocharge

      Cant provide a review for Atelier Crenn, but I absolutely agree about the clueless servers at Saison. We did do a wine pairing, which was forgettable, and our waitress provided zero insight to how it would pair with the accompanying dish. She basically read the label like it was a script. Name, region, bottling date. Each and every single course! Felt very impersonable each time she approached our table.

      Food was fine, not mind blowing. Was rather disappointed to get 2 desserts that were very similar to each other - a sorbet and an ice cream, both with tart notes. Though their menu changes frequently, so you likely won't get the same desserts we had. The pricing is a bit high with Saison too.

      Atelier Crenn looks exciting though. Looking foward to dining their eventually.

      1. re: Keesey

        Thanks for the help guys. I think i am leaning towards Atelier Crenn since their pricing is more reasonable and just as interesting cuisine.

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        Atelier Crenn
        3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

        1. re: bparker

          Can't comment on Saison. Thought the food at Crenn was both interesting (particularly unique for SF) and delicious. Dessert was a highlight. Wine was great. However, I had trouble getting over the portion sizes. I left the five course tasting menu (which took about 3 hours) feeling peckish. The portions for what I had were just tiny (I'm by no means a huge eater, but I have a healthy appetite). I think I made nachos when I got home.

          Meal was on an expense account so the price was fine, but I feel that paying that much money and going home hungry would bug me if I had paid $150+/head for food and wine

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          Saison
          2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            How long ago did you eat there?

            1. re: Windy

              About a month ago. If they have increased portion sizes that's great to hear, even if prices also went up.

        2. re: Keesey

          Y'all come on down to Manresa and have a great meal with great service.

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          Manresa Restaurant
          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

      2. The price for Atelier Crenn just went up (today apparently). The tasting menu is now $115. Will report back on the food.

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        Atelier Crenn
        3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

        19 Replies
        1. re: Windy

          Thanks for letting me know. I wonder if they raised their wine pairings as well? I will be curious to hear your report....

          1. re: bparker

            Wine pairings are $65. Not sure what they cost yesterday.
            http://www.ateliercrenn.com/menus/Spr...

            Looking at their list, the bottles are a better value than glasses.

            1. re: Windy

              When I ate there the tasting menu was $95 and "beverage pairing" $53.

            2. re: bparker

              One of the best meals I've ever had: inventive, beautiful, delicious, and surprising, all presented with warmth and enthusiasm. The setting is minimalist if a bit bland. Not so the food.

              Because we didn't all want to order the tasting menu, we each got 4 courses, which allowed us to share 9 appetizers and entrees and taste all three desserts.

              Unlike other tasting menus, this was not overwhelming, despite how elaborate each dish was. The food is flavorful and light, but portions were ample. We did not leave hungry; none of us will have to spend the next week detoxing. I really appreciated a menu that wasn't full of bacon and butter.

              Highlights: crostini (which smelled "like earth, but in a good way"), the bonzai jardin with its yogurt snow, pigeon, the best foie gras ever, a crazy rocks and ice cream dessert, and the previously mentioned coconut tapioca basil parfait. But even tiny bits of other dishes were deliriously good: a dollop of pureed carrots or a candied walnut or pickled ramps.

              We did envy the steaming pine tree dessert as it was delivered to another table. This is not food like you cook at home.

              Dominique Crenn is very much in evidence, checking in and welcoming diners, and our many servers were knowledgeable without being intrusive.

              Such a wonderful special occasion menu! I can't wait to return.

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              Atelier Crenn
              3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

              1. re: Windy

                pigeon, potatoes, coco tapioca heaven, jardin

                 
                 
                 
                 
                1. re: Windy

                  I was at Atelier Crenn on Wednesday night; the dessert chef came around later that evening and asked me how I enjoyed the pine tree dessert because it was the first night he was trying it -- the pine trees are a project of his, and he has several. The dessert was an olive oil and green olive ice cream popsicle, served on a tiny pine tree branch.

                  The "fog effect" is created by dry ice.

                  I had the ten course tasting menu; this was definitely one of the best meals I've had in my life. I was stuffed enough that I turned down the cheese course. Almost every dish I had was fantastic; the exception being the dish that I had looked forward the most -- the artic char with uni and liquorice. I love uni, so I was a bit shocked when the uni had become a foam.

                  The Kir Breton is this little globe of champagne in a little apple shape. Simply amazing.

                  I loved the Oyster and Prawn appetizer; the oyster is served with with a bit of smoked sturgeon, and the prawn was served almost sashimi style with a saffron sauce, atop a warm rock.

                  The springtime garden with the yogurt snow and the wild rice crisps is both wonderful to look at, and tasty as well.

                  The foie gras was served frozen thinly at 30 Celsius. I thought this was a really creative way to present foie gras -- the creamyness of the foie gras was so wonderful.

                  I really enjoyed the slow cooked egg with the various vegetables.

                  Each dish is sort of a miniature art piece. Dominique Crenn came out a few times to talk to her customers at the tables. I admit being a bit starstruck because it is somewhat rare for the chef to speak with me.

                  I was disappointed a bit with the wine pairings; I felt the wines could have had a little more explanation to them, instead, the server just read the names of the wines, region and bottling year. Some of the pairings did not complement the food well. The beer did not go well with the egg, sadly, nor did the chianti go well with the desserts.

                  The Chef's Tasting Menu is $115, $65 for the wine pairings; the next time I return, I'll probably skip the wine pairings and select the wines myself.

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                  Atelier Crenn
                  3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                  1. re: mhuang

                    Interesting. Our foie gras Thursday wasn't frozen. In fact there's almost no overlap between the tasting menu and a la carte.

                    So how was the pine dessert?

                    It sounds like they've increased portion sizes along with the prices. Four courses for $72 was more than sufficient. We debating adding a cheese course right before dessert but decided against it. If anything, I'd have liked another bowl of the tapioca dessert.

                    1. re: Windy

                      The olive oil meringue popsicle on the pine was very creamy and the olive oil flavor was very subtle, but only really a two-bite dessert. I definitely wanted more of it than two bites.

                      The green olive ice cream was a much bigger portion, and very good, mixed with some lemon verbana and sugar crumbs.

                      Both were very mild desserts -- not very sweet at all, which is why their choice of pairing the overly sweet chianti was very surprising.

                      The desserts on the ala carte menu are much more sizable, and I was given an opportunity to order additional dessert, but I was pretty much full at that point.

                      The mignardises were also very good, though for the life of me, I cannot remember what the gelee or the marshmallow was made of.

                  2. re: Windy

                    Finally giving Atelier Crenn a try tonight. Thanks for your review, Windy. I randomly made an internet reservation and then thought, I wonder what Chowhounders think of this place? Now I am especially looking forward to it.

                    Is parking a nightmare in that area? I never go to that part of town.

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                    Atelier Crenn
                    3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                    1. re: Leely2

                      Parking's not awful--just walk a little uphill or west, away from the busy-ness of Union Street. They do have valet too, if you can find the place. Hope you enjoy.

                      Jonathan Kauffman listed the chocolate pistachio forest dessert in the SFoodie 92.

                      1. re: Windy

                        We really enjoyed Atelier Crenn. Did not have the tasting menu, just the four courses and yes, they were not large by any means, but I felt everything was well worth the cost. Favorites for me included the potato, the duck and that coconut-rhubarb dessert. My dining companion loved her foie gras, pork and the pistachio/chocolate dessert.

                        I felt like I was at a serious restaurant, and by that I mean a restaurant where the kitchen and front of the house take the pleasure and delight of the guests seriously. The chef is doing a great job and has, I think, a lot to be proud of.

                        I know this kind of place is not for everybody, many do not care for modernist cooking, but the meal and service far exceeded my expectations. I look forward to returning when I can get my pennies together.

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                        Atelier Crenn
                        3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                        1. re: Windy

                          Ate at Attelier Crenn last evening (full write-up later), but think parking is ATROCIOUS.

                          Not sure why Windy believes they have a valet - they certainly did not have one at 10:00 p.m.on a Saturday night.

                          I was coming from the symphony and wearing a long dress, having to park four blocks away and walk in the rain -- trying to grab a spot when the hipsters were doing the same thing for the local bars -- is a huge inconvenience.

                          1. re: CarrieWas218

                            Yikes, that sounds bad! We ate early and got a spot on Lombard with no problem. The website says they have a valet but the stand is a block away at Balboa Cafe. As it turned out we didn't need it. I can imagine later it would indeed be a nightmare, though I don't consider anyone hanging out in that neighborhood a hipster.

                            Looking forward to your opinion of the restaurant--and hoping your evening wasn't a total washout.

                            1. re: Leely2

                              Well, I consider "hipsters" to be the 20- and 30-somethings that hang around bars; generally I have found that neighborhood -- because of Matrix and Comet and Mauna Loa bars -- to be unpleasant due to the rowdiness, volume, and drunken behavior. Not sure what other adjective to describe them but to me (late 40s), they are "hipsters."

                              When I lived on Fillmore (on the other side of the hill), I would do all I could to avoid that stretch of the Marina because of that atmosphere and the number of altercations I personally witnessed.

                              The experience was far from a total wash-out; just a major inconvenience that I arrived promptly at 10:00 p.m. for our reservation, but I didn't get seated until 10:15 because it took me that long to drive up and down the streets, looking for a parking spot. There was a point where I thought I was going to be a full six blocks away...

                              1. re: CarrieWas218

                                Hipsters don't spend much time north of Market, let alone on Union. On a Saturday at 10, they're on Valencia. But Saturday night bar hoppers don't usually live in the neighborhood.

                                And yes, the valet is at Balboa Cafe, as per the website. We didn't need it, but we weren't there at 10 on a Saturday.

                                1. re: Windy

                                  yes, it's more bros/fratboys with a bit of cougar mixed in up by union street

                                  1. re: vulber

                                    Define the crowd as you will -- it is a detriment to Attelier Crenn's clientele's ability to get a parking spot and the valet is not clearly marked or indicated.

                  3. re: Windy

                    Seems like there is a trend here. I compared the prices at Saison and Quince back in February. I believe Saison was $107 then. It's $128 now. Quince was $95. It's $105 now.

                    1. re: nocharge

                      I think it is a trend. Not sure if it was Bauer I heard it from, but with the economy picking up and oil prices up and food prices up, tasting menu prices will follow!

                  4. Michael Bauer's review of Atelier Crenn is in tomorrow's Chronicle. 2.5 stars.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: nocharge

                      It's a very confused review. I'm amazed it still got 2.5 stars. He clearly didn't like the food much and hated the wine.

                      FWIW, I'm not impressed by most minimalist cuisine (Commis left me cold). This worked because it was both joyful and delicious. And very beautiful to look at.

                      1. re: Windy

                        I appreciate what Crenn is doing. It's a creative and unique and you have to give a lot of credit for that -- especially given her talent as a chef. On the other hand, I can understand critics who think that the focus on artistic presentations is a little over-the-top pretentious. Apparently, Bauer is one of them and I can see his point. (And then there issue of portion sizes.)

                        Hence, my earlier remark about Saison being more "straightforward delicious."

                    2. I'd like to revive this thread.
                      Since the last comments, both these restaurants now have michelin stars (1 for crenn, 2 for saison). Both have had a little more time to 'settle in', and both have raised their prices.

                      We're considering both for an upcoming birthday. There will be 4 of us, so the chef counter at Saison is an option. Long or short menus at each, with or without wine pairings. What would you say is the best choice?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: pauliface

                        100% Saison, especially if you are looking at the chef counter. I ate at both Saison and Crenn two weeks ago and Saison chef's counter was the best meal I've had in my life. Crenn was also great and as mentioned below had some interesting dishes but Saison was just at another level in every way. Not a single course in the 24 courses or so was less than perfect. Maybe Skenes and I just have similar palates.

                        For sure get the wine pairings (unless you are going after April 10th I don't think you have a choice at the counter anyway) but keep in mind it is 15 - 20 glasses of wine so you'll want to take a cab.

                        Service at the counter was great, better than Crenn. Can't speak for the dining room service though.

                        1. re: pauliface

                          With the optional beverage pairings, I believe Saison's chef's counter will be $601 on the new system.

                          1. re: pauliface

                            Well, there was some chatter today about Saison's ticket-only system going on line today.
                            When last I checked, that chef counter was going to be $498 per person, including tax and tip.
                            Now it appears to be $651. So, for our group of four, the price just went up $600. I think we're done here.

                            Atelier Crenn, here we come!

                          2. Depends on how much you like more modernist, more adventurous food. I thought the food at Atelier Creen had more misses but I thought it took more risks. I found the service at Atelier Creen to be better than at Saison. I found the dishes I had at Saison to all be excellent but as memorable. I don't drink so I can't speak to the wine pairings. I haven't been to Saison since they got rid of table tops so you probably will have plenty of elbow room at both.

                            Atelier Creen is also able to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences where I don't think Saison was able to accommodate all the ones I've asked about in the past.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: tjinsf

                              What dietary restrictions did you ask about for Saison?

                              1. re: nickis

                                I've asked them about numerous ones on different occasions , basic ones like simple food allergies like tomatoes and aubergines and more complex things related to crohn's and celiac. They were able to do some simple allergies substitutions but didn't think they could handle more complex dietary needs (nor did they think they could) and also were unable to commit completely to the meal being totally free of some ingredients until the night of the meal so I've just gone elsewhere.

                              2. re: tjinsf

                                I do prefer more adventurous attempts by the kitchen, so long as there are not too many clinkers.

                                And there are no dietary restrictions for any of us.

                                1. re: pauliface

                                  I agree with tjinsf when it comes to Atelier Crenn. Some of the dishes, and all the pastry/dessert options were incredibly memorable. There were a a fair amount of dishes that didn't work for me, so it all depends on your tolerance.

                                  For me, I remember leaving and thinking I cannot safely recommend Atelier Crenn to friends. I have caught myself, however, describing in blissful detail a particular dish or dessert to friends months later.

                                2. re: tjinsf

                                  i completely agree with tjinsf. Atelier Crenn is more adventurous and has some really high notes, but some misses too. i don't remember any bad dishes at Saison (everything was excellent) but i found Atelier Crenn to be more memorable.

                                3. another vote for saison, if we're not taking price into consideration.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                    one enthusiastic vote for Atelier Crenn; I love the very interesting and delicious courses, and dessert is excellent. I think they've also lowered their price on the non-chef's tasting menu side.
                                    One tidbit about Saison (which I've not been to). They could not accommodate a garlic allergy (a family member has it). They literally said that they could not serve us. Every other restaurant I've been to -- from The French Laundry, to an average, chain restaurant -- could offer alternatives. Not Saison. Really disappointing.