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Former Atelier Crenn Chef Plans His Own, More Casual Restaurant

But first, a pop-up

Rodney Wages in the kitchen of Atelier Crenn
Patricia Chang

After just a year as chef de cuisine of Atelier Crenn, chef Rodney Wages has left the restaurant, and the world of fine dining— for now, at least.

The chef, who cut his teeth at restaurants like The French Laundry, Saison, and Benu, is ready to forge his own path, outside the hushed confines of Michelin-starred kitchens. To do that, he has launched a pop-up dubbed R.T.B. Fillmore, an homage to an old kitchen nickname from Saison.

The concept — which is Wages’ first step towards opening his own restaurant — is “Chubby Noodle meets Mensho Tokyo ramen” with high energy, lots of loud hip-hop (as well as K-pop, J-pop, and French rap), and sake drinking. The menu will center on a noodle dish — which won’t necessarily be ramen— incorporating flavors from Wages’ past restaurant experiences. “I want the freedom to do whatever I feel like doing,” said Wages.

“You still have to have discipline and intensity to get the flavors you want, but I don’t think the intensity in the kitchen has to correlate to the intensity in the dining room,” said Wages. “You can have that same experience and be less stressed and make a better product at the end of the day”

That freedom includes ditching the tasting menu in favor of food that is approachable and works for large groups of people. Wages says that the menu will be “interactive,” and he plans to send food out in waves of three or four dishes at a time.

The pop-up will take place on Mondays at Izakaya Kou, a venue Wages connected with through an investor in fellow chef and friend Sung Anh (Mosu). For the time being Wages will conduct his pop-up there each Monday, changing the menu at will. For the first iteration, which will take place on Monday, September 26, Wages is working on dishes like Haas avocado with lime and crispy XO condiment, an ebelskiver-style pastry filled with abalone, roasted garlic, and coated with fried shrimp, and bread service with fermented tofu and pickles. In addition to the full menu ($79), a wagyu course will be available ($68). Curated by Sake Master Stuart Morris, there will be sake and wine pairings, as well as a selection by the glass.

Additionally, diners can expect a parade of Wages’ talented friends to pass through the kitchen as he gets things up and running. “There’ll probably be some way overqualified people working front-of-house,” said Wages. “I just want it to be fun.”

The pop-up debuts Monday, September 26 and will take place every Monday, with seatings from 5:30 p.m. -9 p.m. For now seats are available as tickets, but Wages hopes to take walk-ins as well.

Izakaya Kou

1560 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 441-9294 Visit Website