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.
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.
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 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
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