Dominique Crenn's anticipated casual Petit Crenn is gearing up to open the first week of August. And though the two-Michelin-starred French chef says "there will be nothing American about it," the restaurant will represent several new directions for Crenn in San Francisco.
For starters, it will be quite a departure from the chef's lengthy, $220 tasting menu at Atelier Crenn. The daily changing five-course affair will be presented on a large chalkboard for maximum flexibility (and environmental consciousness, though the wine list will be printed). And, the dishes will represent Crenn's first public foray into the simpler style of Breton cooking, offering a personal connection to the chef's upbringing in Northern France.
Crenn has enlisted Atelier Crenn veteran Aaron Thayer to run the kitchen as executive sous chef. He'll oversee two nightly seatings — at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. — when diners will share all of the night's food family-style, passing and helping themselves to each dish. "It's going to be like a big dinner party" Crenn emphasized. "I think San Francisco needs something like this." And true to the style of a dinner party, the cooks will be delivering the food directly to the table themselves; diners might be tempted to draw parallels to the homey service style at fine dining supper club, Lazy Bear and the sharing aspect of The Progress' banquet-style service, though Crenn's vision is intended to be even more personal.
"It's an homage to the cooking of my mother and grandmother, really," said Crenn. "Atelier Crenn is my father, who was a politician, and Petite Crenn is my mother and grandmother— this is the way they served their food."
Crenn adds that though the food will veer homier than the "poetic culinaria" of Atelier Crenn, it will have the same attention to detail and high standards as her Michelin-starred restaurant. The menus will always focus on seasonal vegetables and seafood, ending with a salad and cheese course before dessert.
The focal point of the cozy, open kitchen is a substantial wood-fired grill, with a grate that can be raised or lowered for more precise temperature control. This is where the majority of the cooking will take place, including roasting whole fish in special baskets that Crenn brought back from a recent trip to Spain. "We don't want to kill the vegetables with fire, just bring out what's good about them," adds Crenn. All the produce will be sourced from an organic farm in Sonoma, where Crenn's chefs will have the opportunity to choose — and even plant — the vegetables they want to grow for the menu.
Wine director Courtney Humiston (Dry Creek Kitchen), has curated a list of natural wines from France, including a healthy selection of rosé and grower Champagnes. There will also be plenty of ciders on hand, including Sonoma producer Horse & Plow, though most will come directly from France.
As for the space, it's certainly a departure from the colorful interior of Bar Jules: all clean, white walls that will be adorned with white, text-based pieces from local artist Lucky Rapp. "We wanted to make sure it felt like a different place," said Akemi Tamaribuchi of design firm Subject to Change. "And it needed to match the style of the food: clean, but comfortable." The tableware is a mix of old and new, featuring handpicked antique silverware from the Alameda Flea Market, alongside stylish, white porcelain bowls and plates from French brand Pillivuyt and handmade ceramic vessels for cider and coffee. More personal touches include blue-and-white-striped aprons from ChefWorks, custom designed for Petit Crenn.
And, in another neighborhood friendly move: breakfast will start at 7 a.m., a very French selection of tartines, fresh breads with marmalades and preserves, cheese, coffee and fresh juices. As you can guess, no American-style eggs, bacon or hashbrowns will be served. Lunch will follow suit, offering light, French fare like salads, tartines and sandwiches until 4 p.m.; the bar will open at 5:30 p.m, offering oysters and a la carte items to walk-ins.
UPDATE: The official opening date has been set for August 11, so dust off your Breton stripes and prepare for an epic French dinner party.