Atelier Crenn [San Francisco]
My wife's 35th is coming up next weekend (Sept. 20/21) and I wanted to treat her to a special dinner at Crenn. Unfortunately, I didn't plan ahead and it looks like reservations are full for the Saturday evening.
I was wondering if it's worth visiting on another night and if it's possible to get the same experience on a Thursday or Friday? I ask because it's my understanding (according to details posted on the website) that the seasonal Chef's Tasting Menu is only available on Saturdays, which is undoubtedly why it's so difficult to get a reservations as all dates are booked through to the new year!
Can anyone tell me what the main difference between the Saturday chef's tasting menu and the regular degustation menu is? Why would Crenn only be offering their full course tasting menu on a Saturday night; I can't think of any other Michelin restaurants who do anything similar?
Assuming it's impossible for us to get into Crenn, could you please offer some other similar alternatives? She was at French Laundry with friends several months back; I was considering Meadowood perhaps?
I'm looking for a very special ocassion dining, either destination or within the Bay Area and price is not a factor or consideration.
Our best (Stateside) meal to date has been Eleven Madison Park in NYC this past June. I'm not sure that there's anything in Northern California that can come close to replicating such an experience, however that's been her benchmark ever since.
Which of the Michelin ** dining rooms in the city are as strong as Crenn and offer as unique an experience in terms of innovation inside the kitchen while maintaining a balance with end results (over pretense and experimentation) and with equally interesting plating and great atmosphere to match?
Thanks for any and all suggestions!!
Atelier Crenn is excellent. A very enchanting experience with a strong emphasis on narrative. The menu reads poetically, but more importantly the dishes reflect a seasonal narrative (in Fall, it focused much on root vegetables opening with beets and ending with a beet sorbet with a chocolate "stem" above a bowl of "soil." It does indeed feel like special occasion dining, and certainly one of San Francisco's very best. Chef Crenn has paid a lot of attention to creating a cohesive aesthetic from the food presentation to the decor, and it feels very "class" without being old-world stuffy. As for the food, she uses temperature and texture to interesting effects without getting gimmicky. The one dish I did not care for was the "walk in the forest" mushrooms with a douglas fir meringue, although it could be personal taste (i found it too sweet), because i know others consider it a very good dish. Flavor combinations were largely very successful. For me the standout dish has always been the grains with warm dashi, trout roe, and salmon (this dish has changed slightly through different seasons). I had the chef's grand tasting menu at Atelier Crenn on either a Tuesday or Thursday night, so it certainly is not only for Saturdays. I had a great meal and a very memorable experience at Atelier Crenn - not only is the food enjoyable, but the presentation of the food and aesthetic of the whole restaurant feels special. It is solid 2-star Michelin in my opinion, all things considered.
Manresa is also fantastic. You get the sense that Chef Kinch is a master in control of his talents and the ingredients. Flavor combinations are very well-thought out and there's some astounding dishes there. I remember the raw milk panna cotta with abalone and abalone jus-dashi gelee (like a chawanmushi), and the duck with honey, milk skin, and fig. I think the food is actually a bit better at Manresa than Atelier Crenn, but it's different of course. Manresa's cuisine feels like a delicate and nuanced mix of French, Japanese, and Catalan that speaks very much of the time (season) and place of California. Manresa does not seem to be too concerned about creating a narrative for the menu like Crenn was, not that it's a good or bad thing. Manresa feels like classy fine dining, in a slightly different way then Crenn, but both make for excellent meals. To me, Manresa should have 3 Michelin Stars - it is heads and shoulders above any 1-star Michelin restaurant in the Bay Area and 2 is not enough distinction. It is destination dining for sure. Note: Manresa is a bit of a drive from San Francisco - it took me about 1 hour.
For me, the strongest meal is at Saison. Saison is absolutely destination dining, it of all places must be a 3-star Michelin restaurant in my book. I did this right back-to-back after Manresa, and I found Saison to be the very best in terms of food - Manresa is excellent all around with a few incredible dishes, but Saison hits higher highs continually. For me, in terms of flavor, you have all very good to excellent dishes at Atelier Crenn, at Manresa you have excellent to maybe 2-3 incredible dishes, but at Saison you have all fantastic and maybe 8-9 incredible dishes. I felt that at Saison, I was tasting the very purest expression of each ingredient, amplified or distilled to its maximal flavor. The only way I can describe the food at Saison is that the flavors are very pure but incredibly nuanced and complex. I had a hard time choosing a favorite dish, there's just so many high points that become reference dishes for me.
Saison feels a bit more casual than Manresa (80's music + no dress code) but it's still very much a special occasion restaurant. Saison is more expensive than Atelier Crenn and Manresa, but in my opinion, it's worth it. You cannot go wrong with any of the 3. With that said, I would be very happy to return to any of the 3, but I am saving up for Saison.
Did you call the restaurant to check this?
I've never heard of the limitation that you can only get the chef menu on Saturday.
I think you can get it all nights, and there's no indication of the limitation on their web site.
I'd go with Crenn if you can, it's delightful.
If that won't work out, I'd go to La Folie, or possibly Saison...