With all the hype and media love the Crenn duo of restaurants has been getting, I was excited to plan a brunch at Petit Crenn. We were headed into San Francisco to see Satchmo at the Warldof which is an insanely masterful one-man show about the life of Louis Armstrong. See it.
Although I couldn’t find a phone number of the web site, and it said brunch reservations weren’t required, I managed to call ahead and make one. The interior is soothingly white with texture and interest created by hexagonal white tiles which adorn the bar (my guess is they’re from Heath) and large white ceramic pieces of art on the wall. I loved these: they are impossibly glossy and spell out french expressions like ‘enfants terrible‘, etc. There is one in dark brown that spells: chocolat. It made me want chocolate.
The brunch menu is very simple and included things like: soft boiled egg with toast and jam ($8). Petit Crenn omelette ($12). Buckwheat crepe with a light smattering of melted cheese inside ($9). And three different tartines or open-faced toasted sandwiches: smoked trout with fromage blanc, mushroom and a croque madame – all at $12.
All good so far. And then, despite the fact there were only a couple of other tables with diners, it took ages for our waiter to come and take our order. On taking it, I asked whether gluten-free bread was available.
Yes. Great! Could I have that with the smoked trout tartine, please? Sure. Would you like that on the side? Ummm… no, I would like the bread part of the tartine to be gluten-free toast. I wasn’t entirely convinced she quite understood the concept of ordering a gluten-free dish, but we proceeded.
We also ordered the fruit plate ($5), the mushroom tartine with pickled vegetables and roasted garlic, and the buckwheat crepe.
And then we waited a really long time for our food to come. Which didn’t really make a lot of sense given how quiet it was. But watching the preparation behind the counter, it just seemed there was a general lack of urgency. And when our dishes came it was clear that some had been ready before others, and were at various stages of being warm to cold.
But how did they taste? Our companion loved her mushroom tartine, and to be fair, it looked super pretty with nice crusty bread. I am never going to judge a dish based on the gluten-free bread, I get that my dietary preferences have consequences. But having said that, my delicious smoked trout was served on the heel of a piece of toast. That just seems plain rude to me. Who wants to eat the heel?
The crepe was fine, but rather drab. It could definitely have benefitted from more yummy oozing cheese, it was a tad miserly. And the fruit was just rather boring, and the grapes frankly look tired and rather shriveled.
The portions were small, so don’t come hungry.
The ugly? I watched an order being delivered to a table for two. They sat and pondered the onion soup and the tartine for a couple of minutes before remembering what they had ordered—and this wasn’t it. Then they alerted their waitress who removed one dish, returned it to the kitchen, and then came back to reclaim the second dish. I watched both those plates sit on the counter for a few minutes more, before being delivered to the right table, no doubt by now, cold.
I haven’t been for dinner, so I can’t judge this book by that cover, but sadly I wouldn’t recommend it for brunch. And perhaps the fact there was no line out the door—in a city that is renowned for its crazy lines, tells you all you need to know.
Petit Crenn is at 609 Hayes Street, San Francisco. And here’s their phone number because it’s not on their web site: 415 864 1744