I’m grateful to be able to save partial posts since I get tired writing longer reviews on my iPad and have to save and come back to it later. I should say upfront that Atelier Crenn is my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area right now, so that probably makes me biased in favor. And before I forget to comment on service: service was very good, tables were very close together, bar was empty during the first dinner service.
There was a $72 prix fixe menu and a few extras that you could order. Everything on the menu was good and some items were noteworthy.
Oysters with candied fennel. I’ve never had a sweet topping on oysters before and it was eye-opening how much the sweetness of the candied fennel brought out the oyster’s umami. Usually you have an acidic mignonette bringing out the minerality, so this was new for me. I wonder if an off-dry white would pair better with this dish than traditional muscadet. A thinker of a dish.
Octopus with veggies. The octopus arrived atop a bed of spinach and the spinach stole the show. Best spinach I’ve ever had, didn’t expect that. Octopus was soft and left as a whole chunk. I’m not opposed to cutting things myself but with octopus there’s room to play with texture depending on how thick it is cut. Baby potatoes were excellent, I could have eaten an entire plate of potatoes and spinach.
Grilled cabbage. Yum, loved it, one of my favorite courses. There is a cooks illustrated recipe for grilled cabbage with a vinaigrette and I will have to try it.
Trout was simply prepared and showed off a mild but pure flavor. Whole fish was deboned at the table, great presentation and also allowed my to eat my favorite morsels near the head. The foam atop the trout was decorative and did not play a significant role in the dish.
Salad was simple, topped with a gruyere cheese crisp that could make any salad special. Salad was served with a cheese course, pomerol in our case.
Gateau breton was incredibly buttery and had a nice texture: crispy on the outside and enough air pockets in the middle for a soft bite.
In addition to the PF menu, we also ordered three extra dishes: abalone, egg, and mushroom. Egg was not remarkable since so many restaurants can make perfect eggs these days.
Abalone was one of the best versions I’ve had, the other two remarkable versions being at Manresa (tide pool) and Coi (served with toasted breadcrumbs). It was certainly the best cooked abalone, cooked through barely with the texture similar to geoduck clam. If the dish composition was a little more complementary, this dish would be the best of the three. But the other two dishes are better composed even though neither of them achieved the perfect texture. I think texture is the biggest challenge with cooking abalone since it can be so tough, or on the opposite end, braised and flavorless. Even in sushi I tend to dislike its texture. Anyway, this dish was a big surprise to be able to upstage two other incredible abalone dishes.
Mushroom. Multiple flavors and textures, and reminded me of my favorite dish at Atelier, a walk through the forest. This version was 10 times simpler, but very enjoyable and brought back fond memories.
With plenty of simple straightforward and tasty dishes, I think Petit Crenn is easier to understand and like than Atelier Crenn, and of course easier on the wallet. But for people seeking new or unconventional, there’s a bit of that thrown in too.