Atelier Crenn, San Francisco (June 2014)

I have neither the time nor the interest in reliving our 3.5-hour debacle of a dinner at Atelier Crenn. What I will say is that I’ve eaten in two-star Michelin restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Atelier Crenn is no two-star restaurant.

From the meal’s outset through to dessert, we were caught in a cobweb of lunacy. The sommelier declined to provide a partial wine pairing but had no problem serving a $55 bottle of warm Prosecco minutes later; servers exuded a level of enthusiasm one might expect to find from prison guards (is staff meal laced with beta blockers?); the prison parallels extended to our crammed four-top, where service staff punted the legs of my chair so many times I thought they were struggling to contain their excitement for the impending World Cup.

And then there’s the food, which would make for a great Saturday Night Live sketch or an episode of Portlandia, or even a riff on Swift’s land of Lilliput, but not a $250+ meal. It was as if food was being seasoned blind-folded. Half of Chef Crenn’s signature mushroom dish was graced with salt, while the opposite side of the plate seemed as if it had been prepared by a Chopped contestant. Our final meat course, a tranch of guinea hen, experienced the same fate with one lemony burst followed by insipidity. Dessert—with, inter alia, its diaphanous piece of Matcha green tea-topped nori followed shortly thereafter by a “chocolate course” that would constitute petite fours in any other restaurant—has to have been a parody. I genuinely wonder if the restaurant conducted randomized trials to determine what would leave patrons most unsatisfied.

In short, dear reader, spare yourself the overflowing disappointment and visit Benu, Coi, Quince or any number of other restaurants in San Francisco instead.

Here are photos from the meal:


6 thoughts on “Atelier Crenn, San Francisco (June 2014)

  1. Wow, sorry you had such a terrible experience, but this was of course great fun to read. I guess I’m not totally surprised after seeing her on “Top Chef”; their complaint was her style-over-substance approach, too.

    • Yeah, alas, it was the lone letdown–and what a letdown it was–during eight days of eating in California; as it was occurring, the thought crossed my mind that maybe she’s just a world-class troll.

      I’ll have to try to track down her appearance on Top Chef.

  2. Sorry about the meal.

    How did you feel about the poem that prefaced the meal? I’ve never understood why Crenn does that or what it adds–it just seems precious and tacked-on.

    • The funny thing is your email entered my inbox as I was reading your review of Senza, so I need to extend my sympathies to you as well.

      As for the poem, I showered heaps of derision upon pretty much every line of that nonsense. So if it’s intent is to provide fodder for ridicule, it does its job.

      • To be fair, Senza wasn’t near as rough as this meal appears to have been. I’ve never seen ‘tasting’ portions this small in my life; the brioche looked like the most substantial item you received.

        Glad that your Meadowood experience went better; Kostow’s cooking looks incredible.

      • The portions were laughable, and I hate that I succumb to a mediocre piece of brioche to ward off hunger. Fortunately, at lunch the next day, I devoured an awesome burger.

        Meadowood has yet to disappoint. Service has always been cloudless. And since hiring Matt Tinder as pastry chef, their bread program has noticeably improved.

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