Classic French in three varied settings
Bar Crenn San Francisco
At her new bar-restaurant, Dominique Crenn “favors fashion over function,” said Josh Sens in San Francisco magazine. The celebrated chef claims that the place is intended to feel like an extension of her home, and it does resemble a stylishly eccentric living room where even older folks have to drop into low soft chairs and crane to enjoy the remarkable but very expensive food set before them. Crenn, whose two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn sits next door, is doing tribute dishes here, “a short list of greatest hits from the Gallic giants of gastronomy.” So you might start with poached oysters a la Guy Savoy, or Marc Haeberlin’s salmon mousseline, then try a version of Alain Ducasse’s quenelles Lyonnaise—seafood dumplings in a lobster-crayfish sauce. Though an $85 prix fixe dinner is offered, “I prefer Bar Crenn as a place to pick and choose, supping and nibbling in the festive spirit of a cocktail party.” Just ask for a fur-draped stool at the marble bar, and know that even those seats have to be reserved online. “This is not the sort of place you drop by anytime.” 3131 Fillmore St., (415) 440-0460
La Mercerie New York City
Even in Paris, it’s not easy these days to find a French café that produces the standards with conviction, said Pete Wells in The New York Times. But in New York, for most of this year, chef Marie-Aude Rose has been “cooking as if the fate of the planet depended on the tenderness of her cheese omelets, the juiciness of her vinaigrettes, and the crackle of the buckwheat in her savory crepes.” Her attention to detail has made La Mercerie, an all-day café attached to a Soho furniture store, an unlikely major addition to the city’s dining scene. Rose, a French native married to the chef who created nearby Le Coucou, trained under Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy before her move to the U.S., and she gets every detail right. Her anchovies served with vanilla butter “make an appetizer you won’t believe until you’ve tasted,” her niçoise salad is perfect, and her pastries are “some of the finest in the city.” The coffee is also far better than any you’d get at a Paris café today. Better yet, “the wine list is full of the amenably drinkable bottles you want with this food.” 53 Howard St., (212) 852-9097
La Ferme Chevy Chase, Md.
This 33-year-old treasure just 7 miles from the White House “deserves attention for more than just its elder status,” said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. Run by French native Alain Roussel since the day it opened, the restaurant, located in an old girls’ school and styled liked a French country inn, is “one of the area’s most pleasant places to catch up with friends, do business, or toast a big day.” In a quiet dining room notable for its fireplace, piano player, and proposal-worthy balcony, Roussel and chef Scott Chambers focus on delivering old favorites without fuss, so dinner begins with a crusty, warm bread opener that’s “a great mop for every drop of oysters fricassee.” It’s equally good with the rich lobster bisque and a “happy-making” onion soup. Among the entrées, most meat selections disappoint, but the seafood doesn’t. “Butter-kissed” trout amandine tastes so fresh you “half expect to see a brook outside.” Nancy Reagan loved this place, and it’s hard to blame her. “La Ferme is a time capsule.” 7101 Brookville Road, (301) 986-5255