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Sep 1, 2011 09:41 AM

Luce after Crenn

Anyone been to Luce since the departure of Dominique Crenn? Is it still worth going to?

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  1. The former executive sous chef at Luce, Daniel Corey took over as chef de cuisine at Luce in late June. His menu was in place in mid-July, so someone would have to had eaten there in the last month and half to really get a sense of his cooking.

    Dominique Crenn stayed on as a consultant to Luce up until around the end of March.

    1. I went there a few weeks ago and while I remember enjoying it, I'm having trouble remembering WHAT I enjoyed.
      Let's see:
      - heirloom tomato/compressed melon salad. Nice flavors. Peeled cherry tomatoes (if I recall) made it interesting, but not very special.
      - sweetbreads ravioli: this was a starter and really good. The flavors were very rustic and delicate at the same time. i would get this again.
      - Foie gras. really, is it ever bad? I remember this being a good representation with two different preparations -- both quite good.
      For an entree, I had the lobster. While it was perfect for me (portion-wise) it may have disappointed others. I LOVED this. It was steamed chunks of lobster (so very light tasting) served with a foam and some incredibly fresh garden vegetables. I l would go back to order this.

      I liked Luce when I went several years ago; I think now the menu may be more accessible (it may have gotten that way over time anyway).

      Ahh, I wish you'd asked 2 weeks ago.. My memory would have been much sharper :)

      3 Replies
      1. re: margieco

        Thanks for the report. Sounds good but not very memorable. I'm going to try it tomorrow night and will report back.

        1. re: johnq

          Went to Luce Friday night. Overall impression: quite expensive, excellent service, good but not spectacular food, but not quite memorable enough for the price.

          A couple of non-food notes. First, the place was only about a quarter full at 8:00 on a Friday night. Not a good sign. Second, the staff is clearly very experienced, and the service was as good as at any restaurant in the city. Knowledgeable, helpful, but not obtrusive. Third, they’re pricey. After tax and tip, the tasting menu and wine pairing will run you close to $200 a person. Not the most expensive in the city, but definitely up there.

          The food. We had the summer tasting menu and wine pairing. Nine courses, plus a couple of additions. Excellent wines, in my opinion, but be warned: they pour relatively heavily, and if you drain your glass with all nine courses you’ll definitely walk away drunk.

          The best dish, in my opinion, was a “sweet and sour” foie gras, with maple syrup and sherry vinegar. One of the better foie gras I’ve had anywhere.

          There were a couple of quite good dshes: sea scallop and a vegetable dish featuring beets. Not out of this world memorable, but solid contributors to the overall meal.

          I suppose my real problem with the menu came with the last three non-dessert plates: steelhead trout, slow-cooked egg and herb-roasted chicken. Egg isn’t really my thing, though this particular dish was done well. The trout was melt-off-the-fork tender. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and very subtly flavored.

          And that’s more or less the problem: three subtle dishes in a row, two of which (trout and chicken) could have been excellent stand-alone entrées. By the time I got to the chicken, however, I wasn’t thinking “subtle,” I was thinking “bland.” Not fair to the individual dishes, but there just wasn’t enough taste or texture variation to keep me interested.

          I often find the red meat dish in a tasting menu to be one of the less interesting dishes. But in my opinion the Luce summer tasting menu could have used a bold red meat dish, or something else equally contrasting with what went before. The absence of that kind of dish left me feeling vaguely bored at the end of the meal, but also thinking I really shouldn’t have been, since the dishes were all good to excellent when taken one at a time.

          So, my overall impression was that the overall menu just didn’t have the pop to it that leaves me walking out thinking that I’ve just had an extraordinary experience. And for $200 a person, that’s what I’m going to be looking for.

          This was kind of the mirror image to my experience at Atelier Crenn, which also had very good food, but in my opinion was all pop, to the point that it interfered with the actual dining. This reminds me of the old Star Trek episode where the transporter malfunctions and spits out two Captain Kirks: one with the good parts of his personality, and one with his evil traits. Following Dominique Crenn’s exit from Luce, both Luce and Atelier Crenn serve very good meals, but Luce is a little too stable to be memorable, and Atelier Crenn is a little too gimmicky to be a first-class food experience. As I recall, in Star Trek they ran the transporter in reverse and got back the old Captain Kirk, with the right blend of good and evil. If only we could do the same here.

          Atelier Crenn
          3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

          1. re: johnq

            Love your Captain Kirk analogy! Thanks for a thorough update on Luce.

            Luce - InterContinental San Francisco Hotel
            888 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

      2. Me and my gf used to come here for brunch. It was pricy but the huevos rancheros was so excellently presented and super tasty that we rationalized that it was worth it. Today we came back for our first brunch since Crenn's departure. The verdict? The presentation took a huge nose dive. Flavor wasn't terrible but nothing special. Same prices, which are now officially way off the chart for what you get. Steer clear of the brunch.

        1. went last week for business dinner. The prices are still quite high, the dishes less creative but more consistent. I would go for a business dinner, not on my own dime.