Traditionally, I’m not too fond of modernist restaurants. I’ve always found them flashy for the sake of being flashy but a bit lacking on satisfying flavors. Take my last meal at Somni, sure, I had a memorable night, but it wasn’t because their cooking truly moved me. Instead, it was an dizzying array of courses that dazzled with unique presentations and impeccable techniques.
I had my doubts about Atelier Crenn going in, but by the end of the night, every shred of doubt vanished. This time around, my memorable night at a modernist restaurant was soundly rooted in an excellent mix of tableside theatrics a la Eleven Madison Park, sensible use of modernist techniques, and flavor balance that are crave worthy.
each line of the poem reflects a course but i’m not much of a literature guy…
a whimsical way to start the evening. the cider “cocktail” burst out upon biting through the thin shell of cocoa butter and white chocolate and infuses with the dot of crème de cassis.
marin miyagi oyster & rose
layers of flavors with notes of lychee, geranium, lemon, followed by the ocean with the carefully trimmed oyster. the use of frozen rose wine and geranium jelly also gave the dish very nice contrasting textures against the soft oyster.
tart of geoduck, sea urchin, citrus, creme fraiche
i love this combination of ingredients with sweet, bright, tangy, and savory flavors along with their various textures (crunchy, flaky, creamy) to keep your mouth entertained. i couldn’t really detect uni flavor but it didn’t detract me from enjoying this lovely bite.
spiny lobster, seaweed, whey
the highlight of the night came in the form of a tartare with notes of ginger, coconut, and seaweed which complemented the sweet lobster flesh very well. the use of of micro sea bean, seagrape also gave this popping sensation to give another layer of texture to the dish.
spiny lobster consome
we were told to sip on this superbly aromatic and flavorful consome alongside the spiny lobster tartare.
grains & seeds
again we have party in my mouth here. there were variety of textures at play here from the crunch of the crushed and toasted pumpkin, sunflower, and buckwheat seeds, tangy fermented squash and truffle gelee, to pops from the smoky and savory trout roes. various oil and beurre noisette were also added for fragrance and richness.
fish & chips
chef crenn’s interpretation of fish & chips is an explosion of trout essence in the form of a trout tartare, a trout “snow” that i believe was dehydrated and blended trout, and a shower of dry aged trout loin that was shaved right over the dish.
here’s the “chip” part of the dish in the form of trout skin. i filled it up with “fish” and immediate inhaled the whole thing.
reserve white sturgeon caviar, koji cream, smoked shiso oil gelee, seaweed oil
a little bit of everything over a paper thin and crunchy buckwheat crepe. simple but elegant.
brioche, house-cultured butter
another highlight. this loaf of fresh brioche is one of the best i’ve ever tasted. it came out piping hot, insanely buttery in flavor, but pillow soft and light in texture. as if that’s not enough, you can temper the richness by spreading over some tangy and creamy cultured herb butter.
abalone, cabbage, smoked creme
yet another highlight. beneath the dehydrated cabbage that eats that like a chip lies a grilled abalone that’s insanely tender, crack-like sauce made from its liver, whole grain mustards, and a smoked creme infused with parsley oil. to balance out the richness, you can take bits of tart sauerkraut sitting under the abalone in between bites.
next, we were presented a box of knives to choose from
my weapon of choice
petrale sole, broccoli
this confit of petrale sole was perfect which yielded a soft, juicy, and flaky texture. its delicate sweet flavor was excellent with the tangy bearnaise and impossibly smooth broccoli puree.
petrale sole bouillon
this is a continuation of the fish course in which the petrale sole bones were used to make this broth for sipping
bo peep & truffle
this cheese course has it all. funky and musty from the whipped cheese and shaved black truffle, freshness and crunch from the herb, and a touch of sherry vinegar which brightened up the dish and brought everything together.
huckleberry, yogurt, pine
just a hint of pine with a velvety and piquant tasting yogurt. the use of huckleberry and lemon rounded out this dessert with nice sweetness, texture, and zing.
the accompanying egg is another nice bite with an explosion of some sort of liquid which escaped me…
a liquid infused with apple, lemon, and eucalyptus was flash frozen with liquid nitrogen which created this oddly satisfying texture that’s semi-soft but it’ll melt away on your tongue. very fun and refreshing.
buche de noel
another definite highlight and a gorgeous looking dessert. this is pastry chef juan contreras’ take on the classic yule log. it consist of a chocolate shell that closely resembles a log. breaking open the shell, you’ll find chocolate sponge cake, hazelnut mousse, hazelnut ice cream, rasphberry puree, and cocoa crumbles. as if that’s not enough, a yogurt “snow” and spooned over the log to complete its presentation.
mignardise quartet: chocolate espresso bean, chocolate covered candied ginger, chocolate covered mint, and chocolate
this awesome night with capped off with some parting gifts: a copy of the poem, menu, and a house-made chocolate granola bar
3127 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94123