Wednesday, October 29, 2008
This was definitely one of the best dining experiences I have had. My sister and I went to Luce on a Friday night. It took us a long time to find parking since it’s located near Union Square. For those of you who have been around this area, you know parking can be brutal. Eventually we were able to secure a spot and walked on over to the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco. It’s a pretty new hotel and conveniently located next to the Metreon. You enter through the hotel and you will pass the bar area. At that time it was empty, but it can become a business haven later in the evening.
After we were seated, we immediately stated that we would like to get the tasting menu. Being that it was around 8:45PM, the server said that she would have to check if they are still serving the tasting menu. My sister casually said that she spoke to the Chef earlier and said that we would be coming. She came back and told us that we would be able to order the tasting menu. Soon after she left, Chef Crenn came out to greet us. One thing led to another and it turns out that my sister and Chef Crenn had attended the same event recently in New York. Even though they did not have the chance to meet, a very passionate discussion about food ensued! What a small world!
Chef Crenn is a WONDERFUL person and chef! It definitely was one of the top dining experiences we’ve had together. She’s giving my beloved Chef Ron Siegel a run for his money! Unlike Chef Siegel who is extremely shy, she is very personable and friendly. Luckily we sparked an in-depth conversation about Chefs and restaurants all over. We were lucky enough to see Chef Crenn throughout the night. Of course she went to everyone’s table to greet the guests, but we got to spend a lot more time with her. Being able to talk with her was a joy and she is definitely passionate and devoted to her craft. She had wonderful recommendations of top restaurants around the world. If we only had met her before our trip to Europe last summer. Anyone who has met her could clearly see that she deserves the title Chef of the Year 2008 by Esquire Magazine. She proudly represents all the fabulous female Chefs out there that have yet to be recognized.They have a huge array of wines to choose from, but not as much by the glass. I am always looking for a glass of Moscato d’Asti. The server offered a taste of the Bellefon, which she described as a Strawberry Champagne. It was not for me because it wasn’t sweet at all. One taste and Ms. Lin knew I wouldn’t like it. This is only because I am not much of an alcohol fan; it’s not because of the drink itself. Ms. Lin ordered a Demetria Pinot Noir to go with the meal. This was very smooth and flavorful.To start off the night we received our Amuse Bouche of Foie Gras Mousse with White Truffle Powder. Chef Crenn personally brought these out and we ended up getting an extra one. The aroma of the white truffle filled the air and we both admired the engaging spoons. I particularly loved the one with a curved handle. Everything was soft and delicate on the palette with the truffle flavor lingering afterwards. The menu online stated that there would be 3 amuse bouche and we were a little saddened. Then we reasoned that it’s because we got a better one with two wonders of the world. It’s quality vs. quantity, but don’t fret for us because the rest of the night continued to be splendid!The next course was a Venison Tartare with Cranberry and Horseradish. The dish came out vibrant and colorful. Each dish used seemed to be custom made and complimented the dishes. Normally I am opposed to eating venison as it reminds me of Bambi’s mother and I find it quite gamey. After one bite I was convinced that she died for a good cause! The delicacy and flavor of the meat was stupendous. You could not tell this was venison at all. We discussed that this must be so fresh because there was no hint of gaminess and the meat just melts in your mouth. The flavors were totally on point. If anyone can turn something I do not particularly like into something delectable then that person truly has skills, deserves praise, and gets extra points.
As many of my readers know that I am always won over by anyone who serves foie gras! Of course this was one of the reasons why I forced Ms. Lin off the couch for a grand evening of fine-dining. Next course was Foie Gras Apple Theme. A seared Foie Gras is placed atop a crispy and buttery Brioche. Accompanied by Apple Puree, Apple Gel, another Apple Puree made with the Peels, Onion Soubisse, and Apple Fritters. There was a puree below the Foie Gras that added a smooth, with a slight hint of gritty, texture to amplify the taste. We both loved the onions. The flavor was a perfect balance between sweet and saltiness. I just wished we had a bigger piece of Foie Gras, but that is always the case as I can never get enough.One reason why my sister really wanted to try this place out was for all the palette cleansers inserted between the courses. So when you order a 6 or 8 course meal it turns out to be even more. It’s needless to say that we love both quantity and quality. They served a German Beer Sorbet that was iced to perfection. The temperature was just right with no hard clumps embedded inside. I loved the dish it was served in as well. It might be hard to see in the photo but the sides had a gold shimmer that illuminated the snowy white sorbet.
I travel far and wide for a succulent piece of lobster. Luckily it’s on the menu at Luce. We had a poached Lobster with Bone Marrow topped off with Celery Leafs. The plate is specially designed to hold the sauce paired with the meal. Marrow always has a soft delicate texture. It often reminds me the texture of fat. You get half a tail encompassing half of the bone. The lobster is nicely poached and seasoned. Each bite danced within my mouth leaving me wanting more. I think I might be salivating onto the computer just thinking about it!
To cleanse the palette we were given an intricate palette cleanser made from Granita. The flavors were light and refreshing. I enjoyed the different textures that created a tingling sensation in the mouth. The dish used made my sister and I smile. It reminded us of Chef Siegel’s nuveau creation. He used saran wrap to hold in the applewood smoke that seeped through a small hole into the quail egg and caviar. Chef Crenn used this dish in a different and fashionable way.
Recently I have developed a new love for quail. They offered Quail, Chanterelles, and Pickled Onions in a Port reduction. The quail was tender and lightly flavored. We thoroughly enjoyed the Chanterelle mushrooms that were cooked and seasoned to perfection.
The final palette cleanser of the night was a Grappa drink. It went down really smoothly and had a sweet aftertaste. My sister and I cheered, knocked our glasses together, and down the hatch it went. After all it’s in a shot glass. This was probably my favorite in taste. It was a flavorful drink that preceded the meat course.After our magnificent conversations with Chef Crenn, she offered to make a meat trio so that we may sample all the fantastic dishes offered. The server told us that they had ran out of the pork belly and we could choose from lamb dish or a Kobe beef dish. Chef Crenn generously offered to prepare all three! We had Bacon & Eggs, which was a modern take to something traditional. The Pork Belly has a Quail Egg on top, a Celery Root Puree under, and followed by some nicely seasoned Spinach. I thought the meat was tender and flavorful, which was only enhanced by the egg. The Lamb was nicely cooked and tender. It was accompanied with flavorful baby Carrot that melted in your mouth. My favorite was the Kobe Beef served with a Chestnut and Chanterelle Mushrooms. The meat was well marbleized, a premium cut, and simply heavenly! It melted in my mouth and was extremely flavorful. I wished for more! Chef Crenn informed us of how they carefully choose and import the meat directly. This just goes to show the quality and care that she has for each and everything she prepares. Each dish was beautifully presented on the dish, but I could’ve done without the purees.
They have a Cheese course included in their tasting menu, which is something I truly love. The cheeses are carefully selected by Chef Crenn. We received 3 cheeses that went from light to strong, right to left. The cheeses at the ends were carefully paired with dried Champagne Grapes and finely sliced Apples. There was a stream of honey that is recommended to be paired with the cheeses to intensify their true flavor. Our favorite cheese was the Chaource. We asked Chef Crenn the name and if she could write it down for us. She informed us that this cheese was hard to find and she was delighted to come across it herself. Being as generous and thoughtful as she is, she brought the cheese out to show us and gave us the remaining block! We were astonished and at a loss for words. I tried to decline because I felt bad, since she has done so much for us already! Chef Crenn is an incredible person and so considerate in sharing her glorious findings with others.For dessert they served the Greek Yogurt “Gnocchi” in Rose Hibiscus with foam. This modern take of gnocchi was very light and clean. The texture was very smooth and the flavor was enhanced by the rose hibiscus.
Towards the end of the meal Chef Crenn came out again with her Sous Chef and introduced him. They were all working in LA before joining Luce in SF. It’s too bad I was not able to run into them earlier in LA. They were both very pleasant and asked for our honest opinion of how dinner went. You can feel that they would really like to hear feedback and improve on anything. They are very devoted to the craft. The entire meal was amazing and there wasn’t anything I can really pinpoint faults. There were only a few things that I could have done without, but that is just my personal opinion. I mentioned in passing that the dessert was my least favorite of the night and I had to explain why. The taste was good and the idea used was unique. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but it would not be anything that I would seek out or order again. In passing, my sister tried to make them feel better by saying that I love chocolate and immediately Chef Crenn started to talk about one of their special signature desserts. Before our conversation can finish, she generously offered to make it so that I can try it. Her generosity is truly beyond words!
Chef Crenn made their famous Chocolate “Egg”, where they actually cook the dark velvety dessert inside an egg! The plate was adorable with the egg cupped inside and paired with a Chocolate Bonbon. She explained how they clean out the egg and gently place the batter inside and bake it. I believe that cooking is an art and the possibilities are endless. The chocolate bonbon had a Macha filling that oozed out. We both loved the flavor of the filling.
All in all this place deserves applause. The credit goes to Chef Crenn’s brilliance! No only was the menu extensive, it also contains all the finer things in life that I love. She uses the freshest ingredients. While conversing with her you can feel how much time, effort, and thought to each and everything she does. Any restaurant with her in the kitchen would be a success. Chef Crenn has definitely won a place in my heart. I can clearly see why Esquire Magazine has named her Chef of the Year 2008 and I couldn’t agree more! Everyone who visits San Francisco should stop by for an extraordinary dining experience. I had the pleasure to chat with her throughout the night and I hope to become better friends with her. When she comes back down to LA or the OC, I would love to show her around and experience all the wonders with her. Not only are her cooking skills impressive, she is a remarkably gracious person. I hope that I have made a life-long friend.