Atelier Crenn

It seems like with every visit to SF, I go big and then I go home.  I know some heavy hitting foodies in SF, so eating well is always a big part of my visits.  The Pouter is always my go to girl for any of the big meals in SF.  We were inspired to hit up Atelier Crenn after seeing Chef Crenn on Top Chef.  She seemed so hip, so cool, so SF!  SF has quite the fine dining food scene going on.  The restaurants can range from traditional institutions like Gary Denko, to more modern and contemporary places pushing the boundaries of food and science.  Atelier Crenn definitely falls into the latter category.  The ambience was clean, minimalist, modern.  On the weekend, you can only do the tasting menu.  So I was shocked to see a couple there with their 7-8ish year old daughter!  I really wonder what she was eating.  Did she partake in the fancy ass tasting menu?  Did they make a special menu with molecular gastronomy chicken nuggets??  I’m sort of on the fence about bringing children to such fancy places like this.  I guess I’ll leave it at that.  On to the food!

Kir Breton coco butter, cassis liquor, apple cider

I love these little liquer amuse bouches.  They usually have some interesting texture and then burst in your mouth.  The spheres were delicately thin but with some crunch and sweetness.  Then the apple cider provided some tang and refreshment.  Such a fun way to start.
Uni custard caviar, smoked potato gel, licorice

Uni seems to be making a splash on every menu these days.  It was an oceanic delight tempered by a smooth creaminess.


Cinnamon and Cream roasted salsify, cauliflower and white chocolate puree

Not the prettiest thing, but like a sweet potato-y starchy stick in a light vegetal creamy mousse.

Poached Oyster green apple, tobacco, coffee

I’m not sure if I picked up on the tobacco or coffee here.  It was a tasty little oyster bite though.

Smoked Buckwheat Crackers
I frankly did NOT enjoy this.  These were too smoky/charred and dried crispy cardboard like flatbread.  Of course, I still ate my whole share.  I was hungry!!
Squid lardo, parsley and garlic, smoked ham broth with truffle 

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night.  Every element played so perfectly off each other.  I really enjoyed the texture of the squid, good bite but not chewy.

Shima Aji white beet shavings and snow, turnip puree

This was a beautiful presentation with tableside serving of the beet snow.  The aji was cured in kombu and light smoked.  The subtlety of its preparation really came through in its delicate flavor.



Tomato (poached and sundried) avocado, yuzu, tomato water, shiso sorbet

Since I love tomatoes, I kind of almost love any dish that centers on tomatoes.  The shiso wasn’t too overpowering.



French Onion Soup comte and truffle dumpling, charred onion broth, onion marmalade

Definitely one of the tastiest French onion soups.  I think the charred onion really brought depth to normally traditional dish.  I think the truffle dumpling speaks for itself!  Drooool.



Green Peas sorrel, green strawberries (palate refresher)

Light. Clean. Crisp.

Carrots roasted, dehydrated cayenne chili, candied orange

Ehh, this wasn’t that exciting or tasty.

Grains & Seeds sturgeon pearls, steelhead trout roe, dashi

This was strangely tasty.  It reminded me of a savory fishy bowl of breakfast grains.  Texturally it had so much going on, from crunch, to soft, to wet, to bursting little roe all over the place.

Wagyu Beef horseradish, pickled mustard seed

It’s interesting how mustard and horseradish are commonly paired with beef.  A job well done here.

Finally! Real bread.  So buttery and rich.


Lobster sweetbreads, pytoplankton, bone marrow, seaweed

Ohh, my favorite dish by far.  The broth was so rich but at the same time, delicate.  The lobster of course was perfectly cooked.  It was claw meat which I thought was different, since usually I’m used to eating the tail.  The bits of fried sweetbreads were a nice contrast to the fatty, but distinctly beefy marrow.

Mushroom pine meringue, pumpernickel and basil soil

It really surprises me how meaty and substantial mushrooms can be.  I’m not sure if I picked up on all the fanciness of this dish.  It just tasted like a delicious pile of mushrooms.


Pintade cabbage, umeboshi, fermented leek

The guineafowl was nice, but not all that memorable.

Coastal Greens dessert in three parts

fermented rice drink with blue-green algae

I can’t say the desserts were your anything close to your typical chocolate cake and apple pie.   I can’t even remember what this tasted like.

wafer with nora and matcha
This one was really interesting, like a sweet green tea seaweed inflected chip.

the sea (rice, grapefruit, algae and seaweeds)

This was another interesting blend of textures and flavors.  Nothing was too sweet or overpower so it was easy to eat the whole thing.


I’ve rarely been impressed by mignardises.  They seem like such an afterthought, with no real effort into making it memorable.  I’m usually put off by the texture, jellies that are too soft, marshmallows that are, well I dislike marshmallows purely because of its texture, and meringues that are too airy.  These were all of those things.

The macarons were aite.

The chocolates were better.


We actually got to meet Chef Crenn and take a tour of the kitchen.  It’s amazing how sterile these high end kitchens are.  They’re almost like science labs.

Overall, I enjoyed Atelier Crenn though its not the best modern gastronomic fare I’ve had.  Sometimes chefs get so caught up in the new, unusual, and pushing the boundaries, that they forget about straight up simple delicious tasting food.  I’m not gonna put Crenn in this boat, because there were definitely some good dishes like the squid, lobster, tomatoes, french onion soup, etc but a good chocolate something or fruit focused dessert would have been nice.  However, the desserts were just too modern for my tastes and that buckwheat crackers were terrible.  I still liked Quince and Gary Denko better though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s