Atelier Crenn — San Francisco (9/2013)

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Dominique Crenn is the only 2-star Michelin female chef in the U.S.  I did not know that when I made a reservation.  I was looking for a “home town” restaurant at the last minute over the weekend. To get a list of options, I searched on molecular cuisine. I could have gone back and revisited some places, but Atelier Crenn came up as a choice and I felt like trying a new place.  And, it was available for booking for an early dinner just a couple of days in advance on OpenTable.com.  They call what they do “poetic cuisine”.  Instead of a menu, diners are presented with a poem.  On-line, they indicated there were two menus – a five-course Signature menu and a Grand Tasting Menu (about 11 courses).  On the evening I visited, they were only offering the Grand Tasting menu (which was what I was going to have anyway).

When seated, diners are presented with a poem that represents the meal for the evening.  It does not have dishes or ingredients.

For the full write-up, click here.

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Frances 2nd Visit — San Francisco (8/2013)

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A couple of days earlier, I decided to see if I could get in on a Saturday night.  I was fortunate enough to get a 5pm reservation for an early dinner.  I wanted to try Frances again after about two years (and one Michelin star) since my first visit.  Last time, I picked four non-entrée dishes for my meal.  This time, after a look at the menu, I decided to order more traditionally.  There were some items on the menu from my first visit.

 I order a glass of the Riesling to start off the meal.  I was disappointed there were no roasted cocktail almonds this time.  I remember I really liked them on my first visit.  I could have used them too.  The wine I ordered was by far the sweetest Riesling I’ve ever had (which says a lot since I generally don’t mind wines on the sweeter side).

For the full write-up, click here.

Benu — San Francisco (5/2013)

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This was my second visit to Benu.  The first time I dined there, it was a few months after it first opened, and it was probably the first restaurant on this type of food that I had ventured to try.  It was also before I started trying to document these dining experiences.  So, about two years and two Michelin stars later, I decided I needed to go back.  Instead of a dark December night, it was a bright May evening this time.

 From the wine-by-the-glass list, I chose just to have a Riesling with dinner.  They also offered still or sparkling water.

The restaurant is not very big (maybe about 15 tables), and as I had an early reservation, not very crowded yet either.

For the full write-up, click here.

Saison 2nd visit — San Francisco (4/2013)

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My first visit to Saison was almost a year ago.  I decided I needed to pay another visit soon after they reopened in a new location with a new format (hence the version 2.0).  I was really looking forward to the meal as my past visit was one of my favorite food experiences.  Last time, I had signed up for the Chef’s Counter experience, which was about 22 courses with wine pairings.  For this visit, there was just one menu option (although you can eat at the bar with an abbreviated menu) with a choice of taking the wine parings or not.

The new space is very open, with a large open kitchen, high ceilings and original brickwork.  They only seat 18 for dinner, although it is done in shifts.

When I arrived, they were not ready to seat me yet, so I sat in the bar and looked at the drink offerings.  There were separate menus for wine and for specialty cocktails. 

For the full write-up, click here.

Saison — San Francisco (5/2012)

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Saison has gone from a pop-up restaurant to a two-star Michelin establishment in two years.  The focus is fire and ember cooking, cutting-edge techniques and local-sourced ingredients.  It is located in a non-descript industrial part of the city, away from downtown towards the Mission.  Since I was not traveling this holiday weekend, I decided to take a food journey instead.  It was quite a journey.  The restaurant is small.  The menu is created daily and is a set sequence of dishes (I believe about 10+).  They are all small plates.  It’s not a molecular cuisine restaurant.  However, the chef uses some of the techniques, not as gimmicks, but as a means to add the right amount of flavor and texture to the dish.  You can also opt to sit at one of the four Chef’s Counter seats, located on the other side of the kitchen.  For the price, your look directly into the kitchen and receive 20+ courses, plus wine pairings (tax and tip are also included and are paid with the reservation).  That was the journey I chose.  

 

For the full write-up, click here.

Sons and Daughters Visit 2 — San Francisco (4/2012)

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Again, I managed to get in with a last-minute reservation made the same morning for an early dinner.  My prior visit was before they received their Michelin star.  Their menu approach has changed a little since the last visit.  Instead of pairs of choices, they offer a tasting menu for the season.  On the flip side, they offer a vegetarian tasting menu, where any meats/fish/shellfish ingredients are substituted.  Otherwise, the menus are very similar.  They also let me switch out parallel items from the vegetarian menu to the regular menu.  I swapped the mussel course and the pork belly course, but otherwise I was on the regular menu.

 

For the full write-up, click here.

Frances — San Francisco (9/2011)

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Frances in SF has been much written about.  It’s a tough table to get.  It’s a small place.  But I managed to grab a slot on OpenTable.com in advance on a Thursday night (about a month in advance) at opening time (right after work for me), so it worked out.  Below is the menu.  I am not sure why the bouches are a different section than appetizers since I discovered they are not any smaller a serving.  They do not have the tasting menu format, so I kind of created my own as I was not highly interested in getting an entrée that would cut back on the different things I could order.  I probably ordered too much food since the portions were not “tasting menu size.”  Also, I learned that a lot of thought goes into a true tasting menu – it’s not just a collection of small plates.  There are considerations of texture, flavor, temperature and appearance that go into the selection and presentation of such a collection of dishes that affects the quality of the experience.  In this case, the offerings I selected appealed to me, but they were kind of all a similar texture and were delivered in the order they appear on the menu, resulting in a less than optimal experience for me.  The food certainly was good and local-sourced as much as possible.  So it’s definitely worth the effort to visit this Michelin one-star restaurant.

For full write-up, click here.