Saturday 26 October 2013

4 Michelin Stars in 3 Days in San Francisco- Awestruck at Atelier Crenn

3127 Fillmore St  
San Francisco
CA 94123
+1 415-440-0460

Tastiness Factor: 10/10 (as close to perfection as I have ever experienced!)
Atmosphere: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Locavore Approved? YES- Although Dominique Crenn's menu is inspired by her childhood in far-away France, her ingredients are sourced right next door.  It is amazing that Chef Crenn is able to change her menu at such regular intervals to keep up with the seasonal shifts in produce availability.  I cannot imagine the amount of time that she must spend creating dishes that not only enlighten the palate but also appeal to all of the senses.  Crenn not only achieves outstanding flavours with the local bounty of the surrounding Bay area, but also makes each plate a piece of art that ties in nature elements of the season.  She certainly does Mother Nature proud!

I first met Chef Crenn in August of this year at the First Harvest Dinner on Lummi Island at the Willow's Inn (see my post here), where she and five other chefs prepared an unforgettable meal.  At the dinner, we had the opportunity to meet Chef Crenn in person when she personally served us the many of the dishes that she created for the evening.  Her passion for local ingredients and nature was front and centre in all of her dishes, both through taste and presentation and I left with a yearning to learn more about Chef Crenn's unique style of cuisine.
And, fortunately, I had my chance this past Thanksgiving Day long weekend when Hubby and I did our epic "4 Michelin Stars in 3 Days" trip to San Francisco (see other posts from the weekend here).  And, and much as I enjoyed Chef Crenn's dishes at the First Harvest Dinner, I discovered that she is truly in her element in her own kitchen where her culinary and artistic talent are sure to exceed one's highest expectations.

Atelier Crenn is located in the Marina district of San Francisco, known for its chic shops and its its vibrant night life.  The storefront of Atelier Crenn is quite inconspicuous, with a small sign tucked in beside the door.  The room is quite casual with earthy colours and minimalistic decor.  I felt as though I had walked right into Crenn's own home, which was not far off considering that the restaurant is named after her father (Atelier "Papa" Crenn) and the walls are decorated with his artwork.  I felt that the space had a very calming and earnest quality that I liked very much.

Service here was nothing short of perfection.  It had the perfect balance of professional and approachable.  Both our server and the sommelier were wonderful in terms of their knowledge of the food and drink, as their ability to connect with us on a personal level.  I owe a special thank you to the sommelier kindly went to the back where she was working on her new menu to tell her that we had met her on Lummi Island a few weeks earlier.  To my great excitement, Chef Crenn left her work to come say hello to us at our table.  This made the night extra special and is something I will never forget.
Chef Crenn offers both a 5-course tasting menu and a 12+ course "Chef's Grand Tasting Menu"during the weekdays but on weekends, only the latter is available.  No matter what night you visit, I highly recommend that you spurge on the Grand Tasting Menu as you are guaranteed to be taken on the culinary adventure of a lifetime.  They are very accommodating dietary restrictions and they kindly designed me a pescatarian menu upon my request.  The menu here tends to be more fish and veg-focused than meat-heavy, so there were only a few substitutions required Based on previous reviews, this meal can last for 3.5-4 hours, but for us, who made the latest possible reservation of the evening (9:30pm), the pace of the meal was a bit quicker at about 2.5 hours. 

The menu is unique in that it does not actually name any of the dishes that you will be treated to.  Instead, it is a poem written by Chef Crenn, with each line dedicated to a course on the menu.  Although it would be near impossible to guess the dish based on the line of the poem, it was very fun to  go back to the poem after eating the dish to interpret Chef Crenn's message.

Wine pairings are available with both tasting menus.  Although we were tempted, we decided instead to  do a couple half bottles of wine.  The sommelier was very helpful in guiding us through the wine list based on our likes and dislikes.  We started with a lovely glass of sparkling wine, also suggested by the very engaging and knowledgeable sommelier. 

Although I usually provide a brief description of dishes in my blog posts, I feel as though do not feel as though I could do Chef Crenn's dishes justice in retrospect.  Her dishes are very complex with many components that would be impossible to accurately remember, especially in the absence of a printed menu.  Instead, I will post my pictures from the evening to give you a little glimpse of Crenn's artistry, imagination and attention to detail.  As for the flavours, I can honestly say that I could not find fault with any of the amazing dishes that we were served that evening.  Although we naturally liked some dishes more than others, there were no "misses", with the dishes being either good, great, amazing or "insanely awesome".  

Let the procession begin:

As you can see, Chef Crenn is both a chef and an artist.  She takes fresh, local ingredients, mixes in a bit of molecular gastronomy, diverse cooking techniques, amazing flavour, a ton of imagination and beautiful artistry to create delicious dishes that are both playful and beautiful.  And, at this moment in my life, I can confidently give it the designation of my "best meal EVER".

Thank you, Chef Crenn and her team for such an unbelievable dining experience.  It was nothing short of perfect.

Atelier Crenn on Urbanspoon

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