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Please go to Atelier Crenn and La Ciccia

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Because both are seriously amazing. You may thank me later, preferably by inviting me to go with you to either restaurant! Pics here, skip through the breads and wood oven ones to get to the restaurant pictures. http://www.flickr.com/photos/58506765...

So I flew in for my shortest visit to SF ever(bummer!) but I ate incredibly well and had so much fun as always. Again, long winded as most of my report backs are. Sorry, I really can't seem to help it and I also apologize in advance for grammatical and spelling errors or just general nonsensical writings; I am exhausted. Here's what I accomplished%3

Sandbox Bakery - I would probably visit this bakery occasionally if I lived nearby. Very cute space, nice people and pretty good pastries. I got there right when they opened and I loved that all the goodies were taken warm from the racks, even with stuff in the case already displayed. I found their croissant based pastries to be too light, more puff pastry than croissant and not enough butter flavor.

Sightglass Coffee - I was in a bit of a hurry to make it to class, so I just got a cappuccino, didn't want to think or discuss the beans and pros and cons of the chemex vs V60(though I really wanted to!). The setup is totally like Blue Bottle cart at the FM or their kiosk. The space inside looks like it'll be cool when finished but it doesn't look like that's happening anytime soon. Anyway, the barista was sweet and the cappa was not bad. I'd still say Intelligentsia is tops for me in terms of cappuccinos with Ritual far 2nd. I'll have to come back for the individual drip.

La Ciccia - This place has been on my list forever and am feeling so stupid for letting so much time pass before going! Lovely lovely couple running this place, made me feel so welcome. I over-ordered since I had to try the stewed octopus, spaghetti bottarga and fregola with tuna heart. My waitress, who was fantastic, suggested a great wine by the glass which I cannot remember anymore, all I know is that it was from the Campagna region. The octopus was perfectly tender not mushy and I liked that slight hint of spice in the sauce, uber comfort food. And that spaghetti! Deservedly famous. Whilst enjoying my spaghetti, the chef sent out a complimentary dish of I believe one of the special apps of the day, a squid ink sugo on their flatbread, delicious. He said he just wanted me to try something not seafood! Next was the fregola which was great as well but much richer than anticipated as it appeared 50-60% ricotta! I also preferred the bottarga to the cured tuna heart though I ended up eating about half the plate and licking all the shaved tuna pieces. You wouldn't think I would be able to eat anymore but I pulled out the dessert stomach and ordered the assorted gelati. I was hoping to try the goat cheese and fig one I heard so much about but today's choices were marsala/raisin, chocolate hazelnut, and vanilla with some sort of sauce that I can't remember. What great gelato, texture was awesome and the flavors just the right balance, not overpowering and not too delicate. Everyone was so gracious and I cannot wait to return with backup so as to try more dishes.

Walked to Mitchell's Ice Cream just because it was so close to La Ciccia and while I'm glad I did it, I'm probably not coming back. It just seemed like a livelier, slightly more friendly Baskin Robbins with a few more interesting flavors. I'll stick with Bi-Rite, thank you very much.

telier Crenn - I almost considered canceling since I was exhausted and not starving. Plus, there was some sort of event going on that night because the traffic was pretty bad and there were a bunch of streets closed off-was this a sign? universe trying to keep me away? But I just called the restaurant to inform them of my tardiness and they completely understood and told me it was not a problem. Valeted($15??!! I've only seen one other place more expensive anywhere and that was at Urasawa in Beverly Hills) and slogged through boisterous crowds on every corner(is it always like this here? Craziness!) to a little unassuming storefront with minimal signage on the window. Stepping into the restaurant was an oasis. Quiet-ish but with the hum of normal conversation(definitely not library-esque), I was shown to my table. Loved the decor, stemware, silverware, service, everything. All the waiters and (especially)waitresses were all dressed up nattily as well. By the way, I noticed several other solo diners all enjoying themselves and I had such a comfortable time here, I can't imagine anyone having an issue at this place! It was perfect.

I had already decided I was going to do the Chef's tasting and wanted to do the wine pairing but was driving so I asked for a glass recommendation. My waiter suggested an Albarino which was really nice, tasted minerally, salty(in a good way!) and went well with the first bunch of plates. Chef Dominique came by and introduced herself and we chatted a bit about her popup in LA at Test Kitchen which I was dying to go to but unfortunately was unable to. She was super down to earth, charming, happy, just lovely. She stopped by every table to introduce herself and also checked in on every table several times throughout the night, busy woman! On to the food.......

First dish to come out I guess qualified as their bread service, it looked like a tiny dinner roll but with fleur de sel sprinkled on top. I don't recall if there was some sort of herb, either way it was tasty and I was actually grateful to not see more bread after all day of it at class.

muse Bouche - Frozen pea soup with mint. Delicious, and I don't like mint but it was really subtle and used as it should with this preparation.

Kir Breton - Thyme infused cocoa butter shell with creme de cassis inside. There was also a smear of raspberry sauce to keep the round from moving. Loved that pop of liquid once bitten into the sphere. Almost dessert-like.

Oysters - Two Seared(!) Kushi Oysters a la plancha, hidden inside the one shell with smoked sturgeon pearls; sea bean salad with prawn/lemon oil/sesame oil "puff" or "powder" I don't know how best to describe it but it was crazy fun and delicious. The powder was actually warm and seriously did taste of those ingredients. I also LOVED the oysters, never had them seared before.

22Broken" avocado - Supposedly nitro frozen avocado that was then smashed, grapefruit, tarragon, sourdough croutons and popcorn. There actual pieces of popcorn plus the white sauce underneath was pureed popcorn. I honestly couldn't tell if the avocado was previously frozen or not, it kind of just looked and tasted like fresh avocado. There were little drops of green sauce which I was told was a Little Gem sauce, my waiter even sounded incredulous at that. :) But the sauces(both popcorn and little gem) were great and the whole dish just worked.

Foie Gras "Log" - Foie poached, frozen, then shaved into log shape. Pickled morels, kumquats, vanilla, and almond praline. I love foie so I can't be unbiased here, it was awesome.

Morels "Soup" - Smoked buckwheat krispies and wild mushroom consomme. The consomme was poured tableside as is de rigeur these days. I believe they mentioned some bluefoot mushroom at the bottom which makes sense since there was definitely a few small pieces down there that weren't morels. Again, I love morels and these were delicious. The soup was really deeply flavored if a tad salty, but loved it anyway.

22Intermezzo" - as it was called. Fennel basil apple celery....I honestly don't remember what was what in the dish since I scooped everything together. But it was refreshing, I didn't taste too much fennel which was nice since I dislike fennel very very much.

rctic Char - Hazelnut, squid "rock", liquorices and uni. This was perhaps the only dish that didn't really do it for me. It seemed the most regular? pedestrian? dish on the menu, just meaning it seems it could've been on the menu of any nice-ish restaurant. But the char was beautifully and I mean BEAUTIFULLY cooked. Hazelnut was nice, I didn't really get the squid "rock" thing, licorice isn't my favorite(see comment on fennel above) and I got no uni whatsoever. The foam around was some sort of carrot, maybe it was supposed to give the illusion of uni since it is similar color?

(Turnip)"A La Thailandaise" - It was originally supposed to be pork but I don't really eat pork(as pork) so I mentioned this at the start of the meal. I was told not to think twice about it and let them take care of it. I'm actually glad I got this version because the turnip was great. I mean, it probably sounds boring but it was a perfectly cooked cube of turnip, scored, then seared to caramelize on one side. It worked very well with the "curry", cucumber kiwi sauce and lettuce which was poached and pressed with kiwi juice and the crunch of macadamia.

uck - Beet, brioche veloute and borage. There was beet "soil" plus pickled beet sheets, ramp sauce droplets which were so good I wanted a little bowl of it to just scoop onto bread, and the veloute was like the stand-in for mashed potato. You can see in the picture that the duck was seared to medium-medium rare which I like; all in all a delicious dish.

I was much too full to contemplate their cheese cart, though it did look very cute being wheeled to and from the center wait station.

Palate Cleanser - One of the two craziest presentations of the evening, I'll attach the pic at the bottom of the post. The Douglas Fir "popsicle" was just faintly tasting of tree, I think I mostly tasted the smell but it was really fun.

22Olives" - The only real dessert which was a tad disappointing to me since I've got a big sweet tooth. Also, I couldn't really catch what exactly was described, there was so much going on and the sous chef who brought it out was talking real fast. I just nodded along and dug in. The main focus of the dish I assume was the olive oil sorbet on the olive stem, it was actually really tasty. There was also some sort of lemon granita along the side which looked like ice on a log, beautiful. There was all sorts of stuff, jellies, powder, cake. It was pretty good, but I think I got more a kick out of the presentation than the taste for this course.

Mignardises - Salted Caramel, Raspberry and Cedar Pate de Fruits, Cherry marshmallow in the shape of a hershey kiss(snerf), something chocolate, and a chocolate nougat at the end. I'm pretty sure I had at least a bite of everything and my favorites were the raspberry pate de fruit and the nougat which was really good. Oh, and there was also a huge, but thin shard of 80% chocolate served as well. I was surprised that it was not shockingly bitter, I've had a lot more bracing tasting chocolate at lower percentages so this was a good piece of chocolate.

I cannot believe the price of the tasting menu, it's a steal at Atelier Crenn. I've had many much worse, less creative, less delicious meals all over. Plus, they comped my glass of wine! The last few years I really have come to appreciate the amount of work that is required to produce this type of quality product and I am more than willing to pay for it. I've read other complaints about portion size, but I was more than full and even if I were starving, I would have been full by the end. I don't think you come to a place like Atelier Crenn to get stuffed, you come for the experience and I am eagerly looking forward to experiencing it again as soon as I can get back to SF.

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Caruso Pizza
685 Main St, Melrose, MA 02176

La Ciccia
291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

Mitchell's Ice Cream
688 San Jose Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

Amuse Bouche
San Francisco, CA, San Francisco, CA

Sightglass Coffee
270 7th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Sandbox Bakery
833 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

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  1. Forgot to attach some pictures...sorry for the blur in some, I was trying to be quick and discreet.

     
     
    1. Wow, thanks for the writeup especially all the courses at Atelier Crenn. I ate there in early April, and it sounds like they've updated nearly all the menu since then. Better start saving to go back!

      Glad it worked out so well for you, and that you sought out such interesting choices.

      Mitchell's is better than Baskin Robbins, but you're there for the exotic fruit flavors like macapuno and ube and seasonal specials like peach and pumpkin. It's a beloved old school neighborhood spot, not high end ice cream or ingredients.

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      Atelier Crenn
      3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

      3 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        Oh, Mitchell's is definitely better, I guess I just had high expectations. We've all got our preferences, I guess I just like the Bi-Rite style more.

        I think you'll be pleased with Atelier Crenn when you go back! Please take me!

        Also, thanks for posting on the Manhattan board; it was fortuitous timing as I was looking for more interesting recommendations for my trip there in two weeks.

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        Atelier Crenn
        3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

        1. re: baloney

          I'll be there in two weeks too. See you at the Beagle and in line for lobster rolls :)

          1. re: Windy

            Indeed! My list of places to hit has expanded to......30+ and counting. Gonna be pritty pritty tough squeezing that into 3.5 days.

      2. I'm glad to hear you had a good time at Atelier Crenn. I ate there in April, and it's nice to see the variation of the dishes that they're presenting now. It looks like they've replaced about 50% of the tasting menu that I had in April.

        They served me a similar Artic Char dish (no hazelnuts or squid rock), and I had similar reaction as I too dislike liquorice. The uni is mixed with the carrot juice and turned into foam. I think the Char is prepared with the sous vide machine. The char is buried underneath the carrot/uni foam.

        If you like Uni, I can't recommend the Uni Flan at Skool enough -- they give you a small jar of uni custard with ikura and with some bread, which is just divine.

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        Skool
        1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        Atelier Crenn
        3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

        3 Replies
        1. re: mhuang

          That uni flan is amazing! Something about eating sea urchin with a spoon.

          1. re: mhuang

            OMG, that flan does sound amazing! I adore uni though I usually prefer it just straight. Do you happen to know(or if it's really noticeable in this preparation) where the uni is from? I actually prefer the Santa Barbara stuff to the Hokkaido.

            Ah, gotcha on the foam. Yeah, I still didn't taste it nor smell it, all I got was carrot.

            1. re: baloney

              There is some whole uni curled on top of the flan, so you can still enjoy a little bit of it straight. I'm pretty much convinced that most of the sea urchin served in California restaurants is sourced locally from either Santa Barbara or San Diego, as I've only encountered red uni and Hokkaido uni on limited number of occasions, and in those cases, it was specifically mentioned as such. The next time I visit, I'll be sure to ask.

          2. Thanks for your report! I am so excited that a friend is having a birthday soon, which means I will be returning to Atelier Crenn soon. I agree it's just a lovely restaurant in every respect. They hit all the notes right there.

            I used to live one block from La Ciccia and haven't been back since (just lazy), but it sounds like I need to get back over there.

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            La Ciccia
            291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

            Atelier Crenn
            3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123