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I'm sorry...I think I jumped the dining shark

Maybe it was the day, maybe I was tired of eating out after being on vacation for 10 days already (*sob I know*) but I had the tasting menu at atelier crenn last week and I felt...sad at the end. The food wasn't bad. The service was lovely. The chef was charming and kind of like an approachable rock star. But nearly every course of the 14 courses felt hollow. They described everything very nicely and I would put a salty/fatty/sweet something in my mouth and have no idea what I was actually supposed to be eating. For the most part. There were a couple of dishes that I felt like I understood - the "onion soup" part. This isn't my first tasting menu experience. I've eaten at Per Se in new york, french laundry a long time ago, gary danko... but this is the first time I felt this way. Not sure if it was me or the restaurant. It wasn't that I was hungry at the end, far from it, but I was far from sated emotionally. I'm wondering if it was me so this might be the last time in a long while that I drop that amount of money on that kind of experience. Has anyone else felt that way? perhaps this belongs in general topics instead, but I put it here if anyone feels the same about the restaurant as it depresses me to think it was me instead. All of the reviews I found here and the michelin star indicate it may be me but perhaps I am not alone?

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  1. As someone who tries to write carefully about my eating experiences, there's an art to figuring out when "sometimes it's me".

    That feeling that "it just didn't come together", a particular feeling of out-of-sorts --- give yourself some space, take a little time out, eat simple foods, it'll come back.

    1. I felt that way after eating at Aramburu in Buenos Aires a few weeks ago. The food was pretty, the service was pleasant enough, and the food lacked soul.

      1. I felt that way about Atelier Crenn and The French Laundry, but I don't think it's that I'm burned out after years of destination dining. Just last week I was wowed by the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, and to a slightly lesser degree at Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernadin.

        I'm sure my standards have changed: I thought my first experience at Alinea, when I hadn't been to as many Michelin starred places, was much more amazing than the meal I had a few months ago. But there's always something new that surprises me: like the underground Sous Rising dinner I had the night after Alinea (soon to become a full restaurant). More likely is just that we enjoy some places more than others.

        1. kayo - was it your last night of vacation? that night (esp at the end of a long break) is usually best saved for trashy comfort foods. it's always bittersweet. I'm always conflicted between "NO I wanna stay!" and "oh crap can we just wrap this up already and pour me onto the plane?"

          1. I've never been to Atelier Crenn, so I have no business saying boo on this thread. But I do think it's important to respect a diversity of aesthetics around food.

            I am drawn to unpretentious, ingredient-as-opposed-to-concept-or-technique driven fare (I always say it's my "mill-town-girl" origins--or the influence of a mother for whom the worst thing in the world was being "ungepatchked"--Yiddish for fussy).

            If you offered to take me to dinner, I'd likely pick Chez Panisse or Frances, rather than Commis or Atelier Crenn. There's many a food-lover who'd do just the opposite (Reader, I married him....).

            The main thing: you shouldn't second-guess or feel bad about your "take." Michelin gave Atelier Crenn a star. But you're not Michelin.

            1. I'd guess it's a combo of vacation, eating out every day and the tasting menu. For one, you have to be ready for a tasting menu experience because it's different and it's not a normal/regular meal. It's sorta a combo of art/food appreciation, special occasion, dropping a wad of $$$ and sensory overload. If you're off on one of those, it could be less than great. (And isn't that the expectation, great?)

              Also along the idea of eating out every day, chefs will tell you they can't do that or their taste buds and brains burn out.

              That said, I think I understand what you're saying, or I've had a similar revelation. About a year ago I had a short but insightful conversation with a good friend. The gist: restaurants, dining out, the saturation of online food media, the explosion of food as an interest and mainstream obsession (is there enough food TV?) and the crazy SF food scene (from high and low) has turned dining out into SPORT and less of an experience you enjoy for the sake of it. And yes, it's completely within the American character, i.e., more and better is always better no matter what it is.

              After I realized this and agreed, that was my jumping the shark moment. There were other factors, and I'll still enjoy a multi-star Michelin place but it's only one type of food, very specific in many ways. There's plenty of other good food.

              10 Replies
              1. re: ML8000

                very well put
                sometimes i find myself wanting to go someplace just to eat something i am "supposed" to enjoy

                "The gist: restaurants, dining out, the saturation of online food media, the explosion of food as an interest and mainstream obsession (is there enough food TV?) and the crazy SF food scene (from high and low) has turned dining out into SPORT and less of an experience you enjoy for the sake of it. And yes, it's completely within the American character, i.e., more and better is always better no matter what it is."

                1. re: ML8000

                  I think ML8000 really sums it up. Many of the current crop of chefs in SF, and I think there is some major talent here, are cooking more to impress than to connect with their customers. I find much of this food interesting and even exciting but it does nothing to satisfy my basic connection to food and eating. I have often described this food as soulless, not meaning to be negative, just descriptive. And yes, the food media in this country feeds on the spectacular, the new and the daring. So it's hard to be told "we just don't get it" when we complain about the latest in a long series of new restaurants that is doing much the same thing that the last ten new openings have done. Yes, we don't get it. But it's not how great the restaurant is that we're not "getting", but the feeling that we are being cared for and nurtured by the act of someone cooking us food that they have a deep and soulful connection to.

                  1. re: bdl

                    "I'll still enjoy a multi-star Michelin place [once in a while] but it's only one type of food, very specific in many ways. There's plenty of other good food."

                    I agree with this the most from ML8000. Added "once a in while" for myself.

                    "Many of the current crop of chefs in SF, and I think there is some major talent here, are cooking more to impress than to connect with their customers"

                    Can't blame the chefs entirely. They are just catering to what the public is asking for these days. Just look at top honors around the country and the world these days: el Bulli (before closure), Noma, Alinea, etc.

                    On the other hand, I sure am happy about the pizza and fresh pasta boom that's also occurring/occurred. Now these places I don't tire of and keep going back to.

                    1. re: bdl

                      Which places are soulless? I go to new places all the time and can't recall such an experience.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I think the word 'soulless' here is maybe a little unfair.
                        Some of these chefs are putting their heart and soul into what is being called soulless here.

                        I think it's more like 'formalism' in the arts. Putting the stress on form and technique and looks and even 'flavor profiles' -- the formalistic aspects of the art. And less on the feel and content and emotion. Something like that. I don't think I've said it quite right, but I'm trying to... Someone who knows more about art terminology may be able to put this a little better...

                        1. re: pauliface

                          I think it's far more characteristic of the Bay Area that chefs use modern techniques sparingly and then only to make the food more delicious, or eschew modern techniques entirely.

                          I haven't gone to Atelier Crenn precisely because from all reports and photos it sounds to me like she gets carried away in the wrong direction. That's not very common around here, since it's a good way to go out of business.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Well, I felt Crenn did this stuff well.
                            But I can just as easily imagine them having off nights because the stuff does use modern techniques and hence if they don't fix the menu (and who wants that) there is risk involved.

                            It's Benu a little and Coi in particular that lost me. Coi especially just felt like they were throwing flavors in a blender with cool techniques to see what landed...

                            1. re: pauliface

                              there was nothing soulles about our experience at AC. You can tell she cares about taste above all. there is no sacrificing deliciousness for beauty, or technique.

                              Coi - which I loved - i might agree a bit with you about that... particularly the grapefruit-essence-rubbing-on-the-wrists. my favorite thing at Coi was a simple shot of vanilla bean milk shake with grassy-green olive oil.

                          2. re: pauliface

                            Yes, I tried to use the word "soulless" and avoid negative connotation but was obviously unsuccessful. I like the sentence "the formalistic aspects if the art". This is most likely fodder for another discussion but for ME (and I realize that tastes are different and that, as alluded to above, the success of these places proves that they're "connecting" with many people) cooking is not, nor should it be, an art. It is a craft, it is an act of nurturing, it is a way to connect with people on a profound level. There is a place for "artistic" cooking, just as there is a place for haute couture. It is great to "experience" but I wouldn't want to wear it. This doesn't just go for tasting menus and molecular gastronomy cooking. My least favorite dining experience in recent memory was at Camino. I thought there was a forced rustic aesthetic and such an intellectual approach to simple cuisine that nothing moved me. I promise you that if the food I ate that night was served in France or Italy to people who actually live and eat that way, they would scoff.

                            1. re: bdl

                              Your comment about Camino/Oakland is very interesting to me. We have friends who adore Camino. But we class it with Gaumenkitzel/Berkeley. There is a deliberate austerity which is admirable but not especially welcoming. We like both restaurants and have gone multiple times.

                              But we don't love Camino and Gaumenkitzel...we only like them. We want to love them, because we love great quality ingredients, careful execution, and good waitstaff. But they don't "speak" to us, as much as they obviously do to others.

                              To put it in perspective, I'd rather go to Camino than Homestead, but I'd rather go to Fifth Floor or Etoile than Camino.

                              I''m not against tasting menus. I'd happily go for a tasting menu by Brian Anderson/Bistro 29 or John Marquez of Artisan Bistro, or any place Ravi Kapur or Chris Jones (formerly Girl & Fig and Brix, who has disappeared and no one knows where he went) are cooking.

                              The joys of living in the Bay Area are that no matter what you like or don't like, there's a long list of restaurants that will make you happy. But you don't know whether a place will work for you unless you actually go and try it.

                              Reviews and advice help, but we've all hit restaurants on a bad night (I wouldn't want to inflict upon my worst enemy what a lousy meal Boulevard last served us, after 70+ great ones!). You know what they say about how make a small fortune...first start with a large fortune, and invest in "xxx" (restaurants, in this case).

                    2. Don't overthink it. Maybe you and/or the restaurant had a bit of an off night. And it is possible to overdose on fine dinng.

                      I just returned to my small East Texas home town from a week and a half in the East Bay. I can't wait to hit my favorite local soul food restaurant tomorrow in fried chicken day!

                      1. You're not alone. I too am also over the fine dining destinations be it in SF, LA, NYC, Paris, etc. I still do Joel Robuchon in Vegas once or twice a year more for the wine list and the bread cart than the actual food. My favorite "high end" restaurant these days is Shunji in LA. Part of it is the use of high end ingredients used to create homey and comforting dishes (eg. summer truffle gohan). Aside from that it is probably 75% low end 20% mid-tier, and 5% or less high end.

                        Oddly enough, it was also after Atelier Crenn a year or so ago that I realized that my fine dining days are done. It was good and I "got it" (I think) and I appreciated the creativity, buuuuut...the porchetta at Cotogna was much more satisfying to me that weekend.

                        It's easy for me to overdose on fine dining. On the other hand, the mid to low end doesn't ever get old for me. Guess that's why they call it comfort food.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Porthos

                          I'm certainly eating a lot less "fine dining", and my last two were Baume and Chez TJ... and I was really "meh".

                          I'm still looking forward to AC and probably Commis .... but I'd rather do a place like Traife in Brooklyn where I can eat 4 interesting apps at the bar.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            We've moved a discussion of summer truffles to the General Topics board, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/920740

                          2. The last time I went home to visit, we went to AQ and had the tasting menu, and yes, I had the exact same feeling you described. I just felt...deflated afterwards. My brain knew the food was good, my stomach said it was full, my eyes knew the platings were beautiful, my tongue and my nose told me the drink pairings were perfect. But...yes, the experience felt hollow.

                            1. With the high end experiences/menus, I feel the same away about them as about film - I have to feel "transported" e.g. I am no longer aware of the restaurants machinations,

                              I had some very memorable dishes at Atelier Crenn the two times I've been (almost two years later I can still practically taste the sous-vide venison rolled in pepper and the pear on snow dessert). I've also had some that really really didn't work for me.

                              I've never felt transported - however. The food is so beautifully presented that it almost works. But somehow the room and the service the tight space - I can't say quite what - but I haven't been able to get there.

                              1. thanks everyone, it's good to know I'm not alone both from a burnout standpoint and even from an AC experience standpoint. I did compensate by eating cheesy enchiladas at La Penca Azul in alameda (my hometown favorite) and a lot of sushi at Angelfish (my other hometown favorite) the subsequent nights. Both of which were deeply satisfying. I think I will just take a break from the high end tasting menus and see if I reset after awhile. I'm sure DH will appreciate this on our bank account.

                                1. I had a sort of similar experience with WD-50, so have never been tempted to have another molecular-gastronomy meal.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4839...

                                  1. When I was writing and reviewing restaurants professionally, I was dining on the likes of AC at least once a week -- and, yes, I started to get serious burn-out on the ├╝ber sleek, molecular-themed tasting menus.

                                    When I started dating seriously, the guy I ended up getting engaged to apologized that he couldn't give me that lifestyle that enabled us to eat like the way I used to and I tried to explain to him how I didn't miss it...

                                    Now, he and I eat at AC about once a year and when we travel, instead of seeking out these types of over-the-top restaurants in other cities, I tend to find us the hidden gems that are less over-the-top or pretentious.

                                    I certainly got jaded when I was eating multi-course tasting menus every week and don't really miss that life at all!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                                      I thought I was over nine-and-up-course tasting menus in general, but I really enjoyed Saison and Commis. I think the main difference was that their menus gave some consideration to the limitations of the human digestive tract.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        The Commis comparison is interesting. I had eaten there a year and a half ago and I felt very different about the experience that time...like I was invigorated and there were so many new taste experiences to be had and discover...part of me wonders if it was the subconcious (or not) sense of good "value" too, because as far as tasting menus are concerned it was significantly less cost than AC. I think there was also some mild distraction too with people sitting around us "pornifying" the food or even worse, the person who was dutifully taking notes like she was in an organic chemistry lab. They weren't doing anything wrong and I wasn't offended at the time (or now even) but in retrospect that does have an effect on my dining experience too. This thread feels like therapy but is also really interesting to me to read! I appreciate everyone's input and point of view.

                                        1. re: kayowinter

                                          the person who was taking notes might have been a chowhound
                                          :)
                                          or worse, a yelp eliter
                                          :0

                                      2. re: CarrieWas218

                                        wow, I wasn't really sure how I felt after having tasting menus every week, but I think you nailed it. lol!

                                      3. I totally understand. My last meal at Cyrus was my last high end, multi-course, extravaganza meal. Not only did I not "get it", I left angry, tired, and hungry. I enjoy reading about and seeing the food porn pix of these places but I no longer feel the need to go. Four well done courses and at most 2 hours is all I have the stomach or bottom for.

                                        1. I think you just need to get reintroduced to your base. Or at least mine.

                                          Day 1 MacDonald's for all three meals.

                                          Day 2 Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. All you can eat buffet for no more than $10 pp. Skip the other meal.

                                          Day 3 Diner for biscuits and gravy with generic coffee. Use pink or blue packets if needed. Lunch or dinner at Cracker Barrel.

                                          Day 4 Splurge. You get all 3 meals. Bagel and schmear with generic coffee. Lunch at Pizza hut. Dinner at Long John Silver's.

                                          Day 5 Instant coffee. Lunch is a Wendy's salad. Dinner on your lap at the movie theatre.

                                          Day 6 Burger King breakfast. All You Can Eat sushi not to exceed $20 pp.

                                          Day 7 Splurge. Starbuck's unlimited. Lunch Olive Garden soup and salad. Supper Kentucky Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.

                                          For any meals substituted at home milk is 2% or skim, cereal is HFCS sugar bombs. Fruit is out of a can. Wonder Bread for all like uses. That includes flour tortillas. All pasta is Barilla with sauce out of a can. All veggies out of a can. Limit of $3/lb. for all fish and meat products. All cheeses, yogurt, etc. has to have the name Kraft someplace on the plastic.

                                          Mix and match for the next month or so and I guarantee you will look forward to your next Chowhound worthy experience.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                            oh IRFL don't be so rigid as nothing is everybody's cup of tea.

                                            besides re #3: we all know you go to Bob Evans for biscuits and gravy. Cracker Barrel is for chicken fried steak. sheesh.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              Almost next door to each other on Palm Bay Road.

                                              And my B&G fix is at Roman's Bakery on New Haven. But thank you for thinking of me.

                                              The new rival to CB is our new Cheddar's.

                                          2. Crenn attempts food as poetry, or some such conceptualized approach, and that means whatever the message, it simply didn't resonate. I personally avoid a lot of these tasting menus because they're like 1000 trick ponies. They just overwhelm the senses, but nothing sticks. Chances are, on the random day I'm set to go, I'm not even in the mood for whatever "story" or "journey" they're going for. It's a lot like buying tickets to a major sporting event, or theatrical show, and halfway through your eyes glaze over, as you're struggling to stay present. It's often about saying you did it, or creating an activity for yourself intended to be exciting. In the end, on that day, you might have been better off getting a burger.

                                            1. I totally get what you've written kayowinter: I have felt the exact same way. The cure for me is a bowl of jook/congee/porridge with maybe some pork & preserved egg...

                                              1. My spouse likes to call it "frou-frou food". To him it means ego and artistry, rather than a passion to cook satisfying food that makes your guests (which is what we all are, just paying ones) happy.

                                                I don't deny Dominique Crenn's talent, but I'll wager she puts more soulful passion into the roast chicken and ratatouille she makes at home for her long-time partner.

                                                I love great food and have had some amazing experiences over 45 years of fine dining. But I did not care for Commis. The food was good, only two courses out of nine (seven regular, two amuse-bouches) were great. And being with three other people I don't get to see often - one of whom had just gotten engaged - I intensely disliked that we could not have a conversation without being rudely interrupted by waitstaff all evening long.

                                                We constantly had to admire this and laud that, and it frankly got tiresome being interrupted every 3-5 minutes. We finally finished the meal and stood outside on the pavement, where I got the three-minute crash update on her engagement, tentative wedding plans, and family's reaction, before we all got in our cars and drove home.

                                                Great food and great service help set a wonderful experience, but they should always be secondary to the guests having a good time together. Some people are there for the trophy-chef-hunting; others are there to celebrate something special; still others are there to enjoy BOTH good food and good company. It's a poor value IMHO to be forced by a restaurant to dine not on your terms, but on somebody else's.

                                                There are chefs I would happily go to for tasting menus. But there are way too many for whom I would not pay a dime.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: jaiko

                                                  I went to Commis by myself and ate at the chef's counter. I would not go there for a social occasion.

                                                  1. re: jaiko

                                                    yeah back in 2003 or 2004 before it went white-hot (talk about jumping sharks) my SO and I went to Mini-Bar in DC but after maybe an hour of puffs and foams and experiences, which WERE all amazing, I was thinking "can we maybe just take 5 and have a bathroom/cigarette break?"

                                                    1. re: jaiko

                                                      At the risk of being persnickity and slightly off topic, I find the statement that " Great food and great service help set a wonderful experience, but they should always be secondary to the guests having a good time together. " and " To him it means ego and artistry, rather than a passion to cook satisfying food that makes your guests ... happy. "

                                                      The reality is that, for some people, a hyper intellectualized experience with interruptions and exhortations can make them happy and satisfied.

                                                      Live and let live, I say. Perhaps I'm a bit touchy - so many restaurants (you've seen my rants about Chinese and Thai in particular) "dumb down" their vision and concept or bold ethnic tastes to "satisfy" the local palate. Some of that is fine. There is a long discussion about the flexibility of the Chinese approach, and the authenticity of melding these techniques with the local palate (authentically non authentic!), but it should be OK for some places to be bold, artistic, ego-driven restaurants, for those of us who like that kind of thing?

                                                      There's some burden on the diner to accept the premise and story of an individual restaurant, and NOT say that the restaurant needs to bend to the will of every patron all the time.

                                                      If you don't like tasting menus, don't go for a tasting menu restaurant.

                                                      Asking a restaurant like AC to be a relaxed casual place where you can hang out with friends is unreasonable - like if I showed up at Zuni and asked for a 10 course tasting menu. Zuni just doesn't do that --- but it's a great place to hang out with friends. A relaxed plate of oysters, a sassy unoaked chard, then a big plate of roast chicken, nothing better.

                                                      As I've sometimes said, there's time and place for every restaurant. Really, every one.

                                                      I really don't mean to pick on your posting - far from it. Most of your post is a statement of your personal lack of fit with that restaurant on that particular day, and there's no arguing with that.

                                                      I'd just like to stick up for the quirky peculiar restaurants following their own vision, the few that are out there, sometimes at the expense of "satisfying" and "guests having a good time together".

                                                      Because, sometimes, that's what I'm in the mood for ... and live and let live, eh?

                                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                                          Brilliant post, bb. Impressive analysis that gets right to the point.

                                                      1. I've had the exact same experience, though not at Atelier Crenn.

                                                        When you go for a special high-end meal, especially a tasting menu, I liken it to 'chasing the dragon' (the elusive pursuit of the ulitimate high). Once you've had that one great tasting menu, each time you try it again it's a risky proposition.

                                                        If it's great, then you can be blissed out for days basking in the afterflow. And if it's not, there's a big disappointment and you can end up questioning the whole concept.

                                                        In SF, I've had meals at the following places that made me feel like I never wanted to waste money on an expensive dinner again: Coi & Sons And Daughters.

                                                        Then I've had some that were disappointing and made me feel kind of risk averse: Saison & Benu

                                                        Then there are the ones that made me love life, food, and cooking: La Folie (time and time again), Charles Nob Hill (oh how I miss them), and Atelier Crenn.

                                                        I don't necessarily think it relates to fatigue. It relates to whether it was a great meal that fits your taste.

                                                        And I do think some restaurants must just have good and bad nights. Others have loved Sons & Daughters. The night I was there, we and also a couple at another table felt it was an underwhelming rip off and disappointment.

                                                        I loved Crenn, you did not.

                                                        I think this is some of what Michelin tries to get at by stressing consistency in its ratings. The highest marks should only really go to places that never fail to deliver.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: pauliface

                                                          And for me my favorite high-end San Francisco places recently are Coi and Sons & Daughters - I feel a great, deep connection to the cuisine at Coi especially. On the other hand, La Folie was a disappointment because I've had similar cuisine done much better elsewhere, and all I've read about Atelier Crenn makes it sound like a mismatch to my tastes.

                                                          Vive la difference! It would be so boring if we all liked the same things. The restaurants have individual personalities, and any strong personalities will attract both raves and pans.

                                                          Michael

                                                          1. re: mdg

                                                            Huh, maybe I should give Coi a try. I've liked almost everything I've had at Plum and Haven.

                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756186

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              coi reminds me of a more expensive, more vegetable-focused version of commis. i'm not saying the extra price isn't justified given the higher cost of having a restaurant, it's more that commis is a bargain

                                                            2. re: mdg

                                                              I'm convinced that my Sons & Daughters experience was simply unlucky. All reviews from the prior menu were stellar but nobody seemed especially happy on my night, and I recall reading a bad review somewhere from someone there within a day of my visit.

                                                              Unfortunately, unless the management is reading this and wants to comp me a replacement dinner, I'll never return.

                                                              1. re: mdg

                                                                Yes, exactly, these places have strong personalities. And because the personalities are somewhat unique, it makes it harder for diners to calibrate their expectations if they have never eaten there. So some first-time diners will leave disappointed, not because of flawed execution, but because they had high expectations and the concept turned out not to be to their taste. Goes for Crenn, Coi, Benu, Saison, Jai Yun, and other unique and expensive places.

                                                            3. Sounds like culinary overkill & sensory overload.

                                                              Gourmet stuff tends to be rich & you're trying too many new things. It's natural for creatures to be accustomed to eating a small menu of blander, less meticulously crafted foods on a regular basis. You go on vacation for 10 days, you really should get a hotel room with a stove & cook your own for 5 of them.

                                                              1. I really like Creen, it's perhaps my favorite high end place in SF but I think it is a very particular style very cerebral and can feel cold to some people. There are some people I would never take there because they like a more warm atmosphere and menu.

                                                                1. i made a general topics post that i thought of based on this post
                                                                  feel free to discuss
                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/921085

                                                                  1. It is similar to enjoying books or paintings - you will hardly find two persons who will agree on what book or painting they like most as it is a very personal experience. Perhaps AC wasn;t your style of "book" or "painting" but I wouldn't say it doesn't mean that you don't like "books" in general.
                                                                    Though I do disagree with a few other posters who seem to think that tasting menus are just out of style, just "frou-frou" etc. It is more a problem that too many people, not only in restaurants, but also in many other parts of life don't have the attention span anymore to do anything which takes perhaps longer than two hours before they get bored. How often have we heard other people complaining that a dinner (not even a tasting menu) took more than two hours and that they had to wait sometime 10-15 minutes between dishes and that they really didn't know what to do during that time which is kind of sad to hear. Isn't a long meal one of the best times to sit together for many hours with other people and just enjoy the night and dinner. Even when we don't have a tasting menu and my wife and I eat at a more "comfort food place" we rarely have dinner shorter than 2-3 hours as it is a great time to enjoy the food and just talk. I also think that this is a very US specific problem as when we go back to family to Europe we never hear these kinds of complains about long meals - it's more that people particular look for them.

                                                                    1. An interesting read of Bloomberg's Ryan Sutton dining at Saison, where he loved the food but left hungry after dropping $1,020:
                                                                      http://www.businessweek.com/articles/...

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: jaiko

                                                                        Haven't eaten at the new location, but @Folsom St we left very satisfied and pretty stuffed.

                                                                      2. I'm surprised no one remarked on the hysterical video Chicago's Real Kitchen Cafe produced as a satire on Alinea? That final dessert scene had us ROFL!

                                                                        Inside Scoop had the link in the 10/31 Chron:
                                                                        http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                                                        1. I have two thoughts kayowinter:

                                                                          First, for meals at places like Atelier Crenn to be enjoyable it needs to be an "on" night for the kitchen. If it's an off night and the food is just ok the experience is disappointing.

                                                                          Second, I find that personally I get more enjoyment out of ethnic driven food places. I tend to enjoy dinners at places like La Ciccia or Z & Y more than places like Atelier Crenn, although I enjoyed my last meal at Atelier Crenn.