Wine station at the center of the minimalist dining room

Wine station at the center of the minimalist dining room

Some things are worth the wait.

Atelier Crenn, the highly-praised fine-dining restaurant by Chef Dominique Crenn, has been open for more than five years. Since then it has earned two Michelin stars and thousands of online raves about the chef’s poetic approach to a tasting menu.

It probably would have been smart for me to visit Atelier Crenn soon after it opened when the cost of its grand tasting menu was still under $200. It now teases the $300 mark at $298 (inclusive of tax and tip). But after dining for the first time last Saturday night and seeing the creative plates coming before me, it may be a price well spent.

One has to suspend his or her thoughts of what a fancy meal must be like, or cost. Instead, you have to look at the fact that you’re paying for an experience, not just a meal. My niece specifically wanted to try Atelier Crenn because she had seen the beautifully plated food online, and the dishes indeed were masterfully plated, often whimsical, and consistently flavorful.

Much of the meal, which comes over several courses that number between 14 to 17, are small bites, with our servers often encouraging us to use our fingers. The word “playful” was often used to describe each bite.

Chef Crenn and her chef de cuisine, Rodney Wages, base the tasting menu on a poem that Crenn writes at the start of each season. Guests never see a true menu, but instead guess at what’s to come by reading between the lines of the poem presented at the start of the meal.

Instead of writing many words about what we ate, I felt it would be best to let the food (and the chef’s accompanying lines from this season’s poem) speak for itself. Here’s how our dinner progressed from the first tiny bite to the mignardises that ended our night.

First bite of refreshing apple cider encased in a delicate globe.

First bite of refreshing apple cider encased in a delicate globe.

Banana bread topped with caviar

Banana bread topped with caviar

Buckwheat cracker with iberico ham

Buckwheat cracker with clam and iberico ham

Oyster with gelee

Oyster with gelee

Sea bream crudo with konbu

Sea bream crudo with konbu

Trout with salmon roe

Trout with salmon roe

Abalone course

Abalone course

Wagyu beef cube under edible flowers

Wagyu beef cube under edible flowers

For a palate cleanser, our server brought to our table this cool bowl bubbling with liquid nitrogen and proceeded to dip whipped pear on a leaf into the liquid nitrogen to quickly freeze it. Here’s a video I posted on Instagram to show the action.

A video posted by Ben (@shutterbugben) on

Whipped pear on a leaf flash frozen in liquid nitrogen

Whipped pear on a leaf flash frozen in liquid nitrogen

Seafood delicacies served in a spicy lobster sauce

Seafood delicacies served in a spicy lobster sauce

Flavorful and warm braised cauliflower

Flavorful and warm braised cauliflower

Squid in broth served with squid ink cracker

Squid in broth served with squid ink cracker

Closer look at the squid ink cracker, adding a bit of texture while eating our tender squid

Closer look at the squid ink cracker, adding a bit of texture while eating our tender squid

Duck breast with foie gras and beets and berries with a drizzle of aged balsamico the chef brought back from Modena.

Duck breast with foie gras and beets and berries with a drizzle of aged balsamico the chef brought back from Modena.

My niece really enjoyed the brioche that came with our duck course

My niece really enjoyed the brioche that came with our duck course

Cheese course with asparagus lattice

Cheese course with asparagus lattice

Pistachio sorbet in the shape of an olive served with olive oil.

Pistachio sorbet in the shape of an olive served with olive oil.

Candy shaped eggs

Candy shaped as eggs in a nest

French pastry on top of a stump container with granita

French pastry on top of a stump container with granita

Assortment of sweets, cream and nuts served in a leaf bowl like treasures found in a forest

Assortment of sweets, cream and nuts served in a leaf bowl like treasures found in a forest

Meringue shaped as honey combs, and pieces of chews

Meringue shaped as honey combs, and pieces of chews

Paper butterflies and leaves printed with flavored paper. (The butterflies were pineapple and the leaves were matcha flavor)

Paper butterflies and leaves printed with flavored paper. (The butterflies were pineapple and the leaves were matcha flavor)

Final chocolate bites served in a treasure box

Final chocolate bites served in a treasure box

The last bite
It’s hard to fairly describe the experience at Atelier Crenn. Some may wonder if the bites are filling enough, but you will definitely be satisfied visually in a spa-like setting with expert and friendly service. San Francisco is lucky to have several major chefs providing tasting menus, and Chef Crenn has created a unique experience found only at her restaurant.

The rating: 3.5 out of 4 camera snaps3.5snaps

 

 

The deets: Atelier Crenn, 3127 Fillmore St., San Francisco. PH: 415.440.0460. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations recommended, major credit cards accepted. 20 percent service charge included in total cost. www.ateliercrenn.com

Atelier Crenn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4 Responses to Review of My Poetic Dinner at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco

  1. Brenda Ton says:

    Wow, been a while since I’ve checked the prices, $300 is pricey. Patrick and I went a few years ago and he fell asleep mid-way because the wine pairings were too generous for those small bites. Loved it though. Beautiful photos! Everything sounds delightful.

    • Ben Ben says:

      We opted out of the wine pairing and just had two glasses (one white and one red) to go with the meal. Early on, I read a lot about how long the meal took, and braced myself for it, but I guess they must have adjusted to the criticism because our dinner took three hours instead of the four I heard. While it took awhile to get started, once the plates came it was a nice pacing.

  2. Row says:

    Lovely dishes! I’m glad that they adjusted the pacing of the dinner… three hours is more reasonable for the number of courses. 🙂

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    Dominique is truly an artist in every sense. Your niece is lucky to have gone to that divine meal with you. No doubt you will always be her favorite uncle after that. 😉