Antoinette, Dominique Crenn's Brasserie in Berkeley

Dominique Crenn’s empire is expanding. This time its a brasserie at the Claremont Club & Spa in Berkeley. The restaurant is scheduled to open in early 2016. Seafood and vegetable will be the emphasis.

Very happy about this . . .

1 Like

She gets the primo location, too. Paragon had an even better view than Meritage did.

Note that parking is expensive at Claremont Htl. $7 for DIY parking (it might be more now; we haven’t been back since 2013), you have to walk uphill from the parking area to the hotel, and altho the restaurants validate, it only covers 90 minutes; you pay any overage.

A big coup for the Fairmont management grp to have gotten Crenn to sign up.

Let me just point out the obvious: you are describing the current parking situation. Whether it changes in the future or not, no one knows . . .

No, I’m saying what the parking cost was in 2013. It’s more expensive than when we started going in 2009. The costs are small, true; but it almost doubled when Claremont handed over the guest parking to a private firm.

What DOES NOT CHANGE is the physical situation I described. Unless they built a parking garage, which is inconceivable (just imagine the permit horrors they would have to go through, since the hotel is a registered Oakland City Historical Landmark!); you can let diners off at the front entrance, but to park the car you must drive downhill through the paths, looking for any available public space along the curbs (you cannot park in hotel guest parking spaces, which are clearly marked).

ALL these parking spaces are located downhill from the hotel, without exception. Most are around the tennis courts.

You’ve missed my point, although I readily admit I could have been clearer . . .

The PHYSICAL layout will not change. I was referring to both the $7 price and the 90 min. time duration ONLY.

It looks like they are open. I have a reservation for early March.

This makes me very happy. Despite wonderful memories (we spent our wedding night at the Claremont and had an exhausted but blissful supper in Paragon), the service during subsequent visits had gotten so bad we finally gave up. The capper was my ordering a lime daiquiri on the rocks and having both the server and bartender explain it was impossible to make daiquiris without a blender, which they had not, and then having the young server mansplain to me how much I would hate such a daiquiri.

Ms. Crenn: The good news is that the bar (hee hee, a pun) has been set very low for you. If you can mix a simple sour-drink, you’re already out in front.

Parking: I’ve got a crip placard and there are oodles of blue spots near the entrance. It’s a great place if you’re a wheelchair user.

EaterSF has some stunning photos of the new interior. Claremont Htl finally did the right thing and used the former Paragon space for the new Antoinette. It was always odd to have Meritage, the former high-end dinner-only restaurant, in a space that could charitably be described as “tired subtropic colonial decor” and an inferior view with no patio available.

I checked them out within a week or so of their opening. The hotel apparently uses a non-local service to handle restaurant reservations at all their properties, and they had no idea what I was talking about, just showing no availability for dinner at the Claremont. I had to request the local number to deal directly with Antoinette. So I question if they will succeed: not sure if locals will jump onboard given the hassle of getting there (yup I hate the idea of paying for parking and will hoof it up past the tennis courts from street parking). The pricing is very ambitious and so far quite unjustified. Interesting idea of a whole duck entree for the table… but $200 when the menu simply describes it as rotisserie? Hmmm. The dishes we had were mixed. Loved the bread from Firebrand… but it was an extra cost, and heck I can just go to their store on Broadway. A cheese dish for dessert was also annoyingly high priced for little beyond a few scant slices and some pickled currants. Crenn not present, but the restaurant’s chef was nice to introduce himself. Likewise the service was at that point (again their first week) laughable if well-meaning. The friendly server did not know the menu, lacked confidence, and was very amateur. I think that would be the single derogatory word that described our evening – it seemed like we were in a fancy hotel in Utah or something with an ambitious restaurant, but not a briefed staff to execute. They may be doing breakfast by now, but no plans on competing with the buffet brunch offered by Meritage. I haven’t been to Petit Crenn yet, but I bet they move in that direction or find themselves in trouble unless they can exist on hotel guests with fat expense accounts. Website and media blitz has been quiet, so maybe this is a soft opening until they get things in swing.

2 Likes

@Osiris: some random food for thoughts . . .

  1. I had ZERO problem making a reservation at Antoinette via Open Table, either accessed through the Claremont’s website (see http://www.fairmont.com/claremont-berkeley/dining/antoinette-brasserie/), through the restaurant’s own website (see http://www.antoinettebrasserie.com), or through Open Table directly (http://www.opentable.com/antoinette).

  2. I would not expect Dominique Crenn to be present. As has been repeatedly stated,

Crenn has signed a deal to “curate” a restaurant (in the former Paragon space) on the property, meaning that although it will be operated by the hotel, it will be her vision from start to finish— that includes hiring the chef and team to execute that vision and working closely with them along the way as a consultant. ([SF Eater, 12/02/2015]
(http://sf.eater.com/2015/12/2/9831478/dominique-crenn-antoinette-brasserie-berkeley))

The upscale makeover of Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel continued Tuesday night with the launch of Antoinette, a new French brasserie from Dominique Crenn. Taking the place of Paragon just inside the hotel’s main entrance, the restaurant sports spectacular views over the San Francisco Bay. It will be run by the Fairmont—which took over the historic Berkeley Hills hotel in 2014 and has since overseen a multi-million dollar makeover—however the concept and vision behind Antoinette is all Crenn. SF Gate, Inside Scoop, 02/10/2016

In other words, it’s her concept, but she’s the consultant, not the owner, not the Executive Chef, not even the proverbial “Chief Cook & Bottle Washer” . . .

  1. We ate there on February 19th, and thought it was excellent. I have a couple of complaints (for one, I’d like to see a larger wine list), but everything coming out of the kitchen was delicious – particularly the Whole Roasted Monkfish Tail, which was the best I have ever had. The live scallop, the sweetbreads, the steak . . . are were wonderful, and we’ll definitely be back . . .

  2. We’re local. So are the other couple we dined with. So were the two other couples we ran into (one on the bar; one in the dining room).

1 Like

It’s great to read both opinions. I saw the reviews on Yelp and thought I better cancel and reschedule my visit for a little later. I don’t really trust them reviews on Yelp but I also didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment, and played it safe. It’s good to know that the food can be great.

@felice

Presented in the FWIW Mode . . .

(Meandering thoughts)

I am not a professional restaurant reviewer. That said, IMHO, there is an inherent problem with restaurant reviewers and new restaurants. It takes ANY restaurant – no matter who owns it; no matter how experienced the kitchen and wait staff may be; no matter how long the period of “soft opening” may be – time to get into the “rhythm.” Yet the restaurant reviewer wants to capitalize on the “buzz” of a new restaurant, on the “thirst” (sorry) of the public for information about a new restaurant, and as a result, often reviews a new place “too soon” (IMHO) – in other words, before that “rhythm” is established.

We consumers face the same dilemma, albeit on a less “impactful” scale.

Now, I am fortunate that my wife and I know a number of professional chefs – some quite casually; others are close friends. But, with the exception of those times when we are fortunate enough to be invited to a Friends & Family soft opening, we try to give a new place at least a month (and usually two) before checking it out, knowing there are bound to be some “glitches” that need to be worked out when a place first opens.

This is why I thought it was important to respond to @Osiris – I would actually expect many of the missteps experienced by Osiris, who

Speaking just for myself, I think that’s simply way too soon to check out a restaurant . . . and, to be fair, Osiris acknowledges that by mentioning not once but twice that is was “their first week.”

Now having said all of that, it is important to recognize that my wife and I dined there on the 19th. That was only their ELEVENTH day of service. This is also too soon to make any sort of definitive judgement (though clearly the “shift” from Osiris’ experience to our own is a good sign). We are looking forward to returning there, and probably will in April, once we return from New Orleans.

1 Like

I don’t disagree with most of what was offered by the discussions above. But if everybody held off checking out new places for a few months, owners may end up closing from lack of income. And a place at the level being sought by Antoinette should have the basics down pretty quick; my experience was more than a few missteps from both service and kitchen. A “consultant” would have best served the enterprise by attending and monitoring operations in the first couple weeks to iron out the kinks. Devil’s advocate is that folks having dinners in the first month probably aren’t paying less than folks in the six month. I’ll stand by my prediction that the concept will need to evolve… given challenges (no foot traffic, paid parking, casual ambience, very aggressive price points, corporate-run) requires even more that the food sing to draw back locals. The hotel is on what its third owner since filing for bankruptcy five years ago?

Jason - I love New Orleans. Max-out on all the Creole grande dames and Cajun and Southern and the like of course – nowhere else can you get the history and calories of this incredible city. But if you get sated with that: Shaya is really hot – Israeli / Middle Eastern that offers some of the most amazing versions of these dishes. Bacchanal in the Bywater is a cool laidback place with good food – choose a bottle from their wine store and find a table and listen to live music. East NOLA has the less-fusiony Vietnamese offerings, though beyond the bread for banh mi, I didn’t (yet) successfully find anything that shone over ours.

Danger! Danger! Warning, Will Robinson – Thread Drift Approaching . . .

@Osiris – New Orleans is a wonderful place. I first went there back in 1970 (at 17). Since 2002, my wife and I have been going to NOLA at least once (conference), if not twice (fun), every year. Even though the conference is a 3-day affair, we usually make sure to stay at least 6-7 days!

As of now, we’ll be eating at (alphabetically): Doris Metropolitan, Galatoire’s, Killer Poboys, Restaurant Patois, Sac-au-Lait, Shaya, Toups Meatery, (probably) at our friend’s home one night, and at Hogs for the Cause, but there’s still a lot of room for more . . . :wink:

Eater: Dominique Crenn Parts Ways With Antoinette, Her Restaurant at the Claremont Club and Spa

1 Like

This review might also be of interest given that news.

1 Like

Damn, $7 for bread!

Tsai’s anecdote about how the waiter raved about the dessert was hysterical. Sweet cake with salty olive tapenade - there’s no way that road ends well. If Crenn’s hand-picked staff approved that culinary catastrophe, small wonder she withdrew her name and rep from the new venture. If she wants that third Michelin star for Atelier Crenn, she won’t get it with bad publicity about her other restaurants. Hard enough to try to be the first female with 3 stars, as it is.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold