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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Atelier Crenn Makes Artful Food

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 8:28 AM

Atelier Crenn's jardin d'hiver: one of its best realized dishes. - KIMBERLY SANDIE
  • 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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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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