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New to SF. Perfect tasting menu at 5star place for 30th bday?

Hi folks,

My newlywed husband and I just moved from NYC and his 30th bday is the 12th.

Our favorite meal so far has been the tasting menu at Morimito's Philly location.

Can anyone recommend an amazing tasting menu in the city? Any cuisine type is great but fancy impresses him.

We've already done Faralon and Jardinaire; we want something new.

5 star prices are welcome.

Thanks in advance from your newest neighbor! :)

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      1. re: mariacarmen

        Service is wonderful at COI but food portions will leave you hungry. Not a good value IMHO.

        1. re: singleguychef

          really? we were absolutely stuffed. all in all, with amuses thrown in, and extra doo-dads at dessert time, we had 14 courses. it's definitely a special occasion place, not something i'd do often.

    1. In order of preference:

      Saison
      Attelier Crenn
      Quince
      Benu
      Coi

      1. Given the restaurants you provided (Morimoto, Farallon, Jardiniere), I would suggest Benu. Then Saison, Quince, La Folie.

        1. Try Ame, Japanese/French fusion.

          1. i don't think SF has a single clear winner. saison, coi, benu, crenn are the usual suspects. (all covered here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/795779) all of these have a personality / hipness you might like or might not like. commis is also very good, and i'd say the best value-wise.

            saison was probably my favorite, but it was very expensive, so i haven't been back. i like the counter seating in front of the fireplace. this is what a meal there looks like: http://www.alifewortheating.com/calif...

            la folie, acquerello, gary danko, masa's, fleur de lys are the more traditional upscale french / italian places. most international food bloggers don't rave about these places. all are good, but I definitely don't consider them "perfect" food-wise at least.

            manresa and french laundry are not in sf, but might be better than any of the ones in sf proper.

            sawa is my favorite very expensive restaurant in the bay area by far, but it is a casual sushi bar type atmosphere. nothing is fancy there except the fish and the sake.

            jai yun is also a tiny / expensive / weird place. i like the food there a lot.

            of any of those listed above, i'd probably choose manresa tasting menu for this occasion.

            1. The 18-course tasting menu I had at Atelier Crenn last night was easily the best high-end meal I've had in the Bay Area (I have not been to Saison or Manresa, but rank it over Coi, Quince, Benu, Ame, Gary Danko, and even French Laundry). She uses some molecular gastro techniques, esp foam, gels, liquid nitro, but ultimately what I remember last night was the pristine, glimmering seafood (the menu leans heavily seafood, with courses featuring prawns, oysters, mackerel, razor clam, and dungeness crab - the two "meat" courses were foie gras and squab). The quality of the seafood rivaled that of some of the best sushi I've had. I'll go out on a limb and rank Atelier Crenn over Le Bernardin, too. I've only been to Morimoto's Napa location, but AC was leagues better. There's quite a bit of Japanese influence in Crenn's work, and it's incorporated seamlessly.

              The food is fancy, but the room is not - no tablecloths, even.

              23 Replies
              1. re: daveena

                I second AC for a wonderful treat. In our foursome, was one person who thinks of food as fuel (and a meal at French Laundry as "long") and even he was completely smitten. The visual artistry dazzles and the taste is right up there with the best. In truth, I think any of the tasting menu places put considerable effort into their dining experience, and you won't go wrong in choosing any. But if you have a preference as to cuisine or environment, they are different in those ways.

                1. re: rubadubgdub

                  WHY are you going to places like AC & FL with a guy who things food is merely fuel??? Take ME???? ( :

                  1. re: rubadubgdub

                    You should have heard my partner's wails of distress when I told him we were going to a restaurant featuring foams, meringues, and almost no meat. He looked skeptical all through the amuses, was entertained by the kir breton, impressed by the prawns in hay, and smitten by the time we got to the oysters.

                    A couple of people downthread mentioned that AC's flavors can sometimes be challenging or odd - I've only been twice, but based on my two experiences, plus reviews from early on, I think she's moved away from some of the more envelope-pushing combos and can probably be considered accessible to most palates at this point (without being boring or cliched).

                    1. re: daveena

                      I must respectfully (but not majorly) disagree. I've only been to Atelier Crenn once, but it was somewhat recently, and I say about half the dishes are unusual ingredients/combinations. IMHO, this is a way higher portion of unusual than say Farallon or Jardiniere (the OPs reference points). For example, there were a a significant number of dishes (say 3 or 4?) that celebrated the more briny/funky/fishy/chewy aspects of seafood, and there was another couple that really focused on bitterness. I think Atelier Crenn is a big, significant jump in pushing the envelope in terms of ingredients, flavors and textures from the food at Farallon or Jardiniere or even say the French Laundry.

                      This is not a bad thing - but the menu is definitely not for everyone.

                      1. re: goldangl95

                        If you take Farallon or Jardiniere as the reference points, I definitely agree with you. I was thinking more about the pine essence and licorice flavors she seemed to favor early on, and were not at all present this time around. I saw a much stronger shift toward Japanese technique and flavors this time, in a way that felt really cohesive.

                        1. re: daveena

                          Do you think that may have to do with the season? I'm not disagreeing, just curious. I think my visits were last spring and then again in the summer.

                          Really enjoyed AC--I need to get back there!

                          1. re: Leely2

                            Wish I had the funds to properly answer your question :) With only two visits under my belt, I'm also extrapolating from reviews and other people's reports. Look forward to adding more firsthand data in the future!

                        2. re: goldangl95

                          Farallon and Jardiniere are sort of tourist / bridge-and-tunnel places, not really comparable to any high-end tasting-menu place.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            It was the OPs reference point - but fair enough. I would still say Atelier Crenn strives for more unique flavors/textures/ingredients with significantly more of its dishes than say the French Laundry or Manresa. (I must confess I am now running out of Bay Area tasting menus to compare it to as I've only been to French Laundry and Manresa once each).
                            French Laundry and Manresa would either take a somewhat unique ingredient (say frog or Uni ) but do a rather conventional taste profile, or take a standard ingredient (say steak or lobster or foie gras) and do an unconventional taste profile or use unconventional textures.
                            Atelier Crenn is unafraid to do both - take non standard ingredients and then do something highly unconventional with them. It mostly works, but for me, it didn't always. I actually think if she made the courses slightly bigger and did about 2/3 as many - she would have a much better hit rate. Granted I have only been to AC once.

                    2. re: daveena

                      High praise.
                      AC is now on the stack.
                      How long does it take to eat 18 courses?

                      1. re: steve h.

                        our tasting menu took 5.5 hours. granted, we were conversing a lot, so weren't hurrying to order, but nonetheless a meal that long tested my patience. but perhaps because of the length, the menu certainly felt like a very decent value.

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          I've never had a 5.5 hour meal. Well, hardly ever but that's a different story.

                          Would you do it again?

                          1. re: steve h.

                            probably would not do the tasting menu again, no.

                        2. re: steve h.

                          When we went we had the menu of 9 courses (now called "classic") and it was a perfect amount of food. It used to be that you could order a la carte too, but I don't see that on their menu now. We did end up chatting with our sommelier server (same person) a fair amount but the conversation was easy and our time spent leisurely. We didn't feel unduly interrupted. I think we were there 2.5-3 hours.

                          1. re: rubadubgdub

                            Ah, 3 hours is more my speed.
                            Would you do the nine-course menu next time or opt for the 18?

                            1. re: steve h.

                              18 was not available when I went, but I still would have picked 9 bc:
                              1- I really can't imagine sitting for 4-5 hours for dinner. I do fewer tasting menus these days because of their duration.
                              2- I think I would get palate fatigue and miss the delightfulness of later tastes.
                              3- If I forget to restrain my wine intake the later tastes are a blur too.

                              Truth is, I didn't think my group could last 9 courses even but they toughed it out (just kidding, they had a choice of a la carte but surprised me by picking the tasting format). I billed it as dinner as theater and AC lived up to it.

                          2. re: steve h.

                            High praise indeed. Guess that's top of the que now.

                            1. re: steve h.

                              It took us 4.5 hours, but we had an additional cheese course before dessert (the selection is limited - only 5 cheeses - but I hear they were all very good. I was too full to eat anything at that point). We thought the pacing was brisk, but we were also only one of three tables. Seriously, a restaurant this good should never be this empty, not even on a Tuesday night.

                              I feel very, very confident both you and Porthos would love this place.

                                1. re: daveena

                                  "I was too full to eat anything at that point"

                                  Who are you and what have you done with the REAL Daveena!?!

                              1. re: daveena

                                I really appreciated Atelier Crenn and the chef's vision. Some courses I absolutely loved and still dreamed about weeks later - say the venison or the dungeness crab, some did not suit my palate (which is my own failing not the chef's), and a couple didn't work. I thought the desserts/contributions of the pastry chef were out of this world amazing. It's definitely not a "safe" or "reliable" tasting menu, but I think if you are adventurous eater, you absolutely need to try it.

                                Note - It's not one that offers a lot of quiet/conversation time. Due to the size of the restaurant there tends to be always a server over ones shoulder, or a person edging by you to use the restroom. The dinner also will take 4 hours for the full tasting menu (which was an amazing amount of courses and small intermezzos - completely worth the price, and the perfect amount of food). Also, if you are into wine, the wine list goes well with the food, but is eccentric and rather young.

                                1. re: goldangl95

                                  Nice description of Atelier Crenn. I agree completely. And this is the place I'd choose for a 30th because it's simultaneously serious and fun, with the kind of soothing/neutral dining room that these types of restaurants sometimes feature--but that is offset by the warmth of the chef and her staff. Serious but not stiff food, flights of fancy, some dishes more delicious than others. Incredible desserts!

                                  I should say that of the places named on this thread, I've not been to Saison or Benu.

                              2. Atelier Crenn, Newish chef, Madeleiine Crenn - one star, Guide Michelin

                                2 Replies
                                1. In order of my experience and prefence
                                  Quince-love it ever time I've been
                                  Benu-excellent food, the place feels like an office
                                  Saison-also excellent but it feels too prentenious for my liking
                                  Altier Creen - very creative, some dishs work better than other but everything was fascinating

                                  fleur de lys or la folie if you want french or romantic.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tjinsf

                                    this is a great one-sentence summary of these places.

                                  2. I just had an amazing tasting menu at RN74. Perfectly paired with wines and flawless service. Also had one at Michael Mina which was great, but not as good as the prior.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: taboo

                                      I really, really wish I could like Mina's restaurants. I have tried three of them; Mina in San Francisco, his one in Vegas, and the one in Dana Point and I have been left wanting every single time.

                                      On one occasion, I took two bites of a pork belly which was less than inedible and even mentioning it to the waiter, no replacement was offered and nothing was comped in perpetuity.

                                    2. My vote is for Saison. I took my parents there this week and we loved it (one of the dishes was a foie gras toffee that I am still dreaming about). I thought it was better than Benu. It is expensive though. For four it came out to be around $250 per person with drinks and it can easily be more. The meal was very sea food focused - only 1 red meat dish. The meal was about 15 courses and took around 3-3.5 hours. Very easy to have a conversation with the people you are with.

                                      My second vote is for Commis - one of my favorite restaurants. Probably one of the best values in SF/Oakland. I just love eating here.