Atelier Crenn Makes Artful Food

Categories: 'Eat'
Crenn_Winter_Garden.jpg
Kimberly Sandie
Atelier Crenn's jardin d'hiver: one of its best realized dishes.
This week's review is of Atelier Crenn, ex-Luce chef Dominique Crenn's small, personal restaurant in Cow Hollow. It is a restaurant that perplexes as much as it enchants. Where a thousand chefs call their food "local and seasonal," Crenn sources most of her produce and meats (someday, she hopes to hit 100 percent) from a single farm, and composes many of her dishes as landscapes ― like the "winter garden," above, with micro root vegetables, toasted nut and quinoa soil, and goat-cheese "snow." When a dish succeeds, it succeeds on more levels than most other cooks ever attempt. A dinner at Crenn's restaurant is, perhaps, as close to a kaiseki meal as a Western restaurant will come.

Somehow, though, my meals there didn't yet come together, and I've spent the past month trying to think about why. Sometimes it was a matter of dishes that worked conceptually but not practically. And if I were to go again, I would just go for the full tasting menu, which is what Crenn seems to have designed the entire restaurant around (given the constraints of my job and my review budget, once I made a first visit, going back for the just wasn't possible). To order less than 10 courses is to ask Atelier Crenn to be a restaurant, where I think Crenn wants it to be a spectacle, a poetry reading, an art installation.

I do think she'll work it out. Once Crenn's settling-in period is over, and she's had a few more months to perfect the execution and the pacing of the dishes, and her farm is producing everything she wants it to, the prospect of a thrilling meal there awaits.

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