At Dominique Crenn's three-month-old casual prix fixe spot in Hayes Valley, Petit Crenn, the star of the show is always a whole roasted fish. The restaurant is Crenn's homage to her homeland, specifically Brittany in northwestern France, and the inspiration for some of the dishes, like escargot in a mushroom-rich broth, comes from the food of her mother and grandmother.
Michael Bauer raved in Sunday's Chronicle that the food "reaches deep into the soul of France," and that the $72, five-course prix fixe, including service charge, was kind of a deal in these times.
The standout and certainly soulful dish for me on a recent visit was a small dish of grilled octopus complemented with fall-like flavors. As Crenn and her executive sous chef Aaron Thayer explain, "The octopus is caught in clay pots off the coast of Spain. It is flash frozen on the boat and then sent here. We braise it, then we grill it. Then we serve it with Iacopi Farms beans, Meyer lemon, red spinach, and Zuckerman farm fingerling potatoes."
The mixture of the octopus juices with a bit of char from the grill, lemon, and the beans is a rich and comforting one, and it's one of those dishes that tastes complex despite the simplicity of the ingredients. Also, with the tender potatoes beneath soaking up some of that broth, it's a satisfying few bites that leaves you wanting more, as all great dishes should.
The dish is likely to rotate on and off the menu as the availability of the octopus dictates you may also find the above-mentioned escargot course in its place.
Petit Crenn - 609 Hayes Street at Laguna - Seatings nightly at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., with an a la carte menu available at the bar starting at 5 p.m. - Reserve here
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