Brenda’s French Soul Food (San Francisco, CA)

Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 11/30/15

Exterior

Brenda’s is one of the city’s most popular brunch spots (although it is open for dinner too), serving up a mashup of southern soul food and American brunch standbys. That means gumbo, po’boys and beignets on the menu next to omelettes and French toast.

This was my first time to the restaurant; we were able to squeeze into the last two seats available during a busy Monday lunch rush. Breakfast is served until 3pm while lunch is served from 11am onwards, and we arrived right in that sweet spot where both menu options were available. We tried a couple of items from each.

Interior

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Petit Crenn (San Francisco, CA)

Petit Crenn
609 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 11/27/15

Petit Crenn

Petit Crenn is Dominique Crenn’s follow-up to her two Michelin starred Atelier Crenn. This restaurant is very different from the Atelier’s haute multi-course tasting menus; Petite Crenn is a small neighborhood restaurant serving a daily family-style menu inspired by Crenn’s childhood in Brittany, France. The food is seafood and vegetable-focused and is priced at a relatively reasonable $79pp for five courses (inclusive of service).

We dined at the Chef’s Table on this evening, which contrary to my assumption, was neither in the kitchen nor had much of a view of the kitchen. It’s a six-top in a secluded corner of the main dining room serving an ‘enhanced’ version of that night’s menu (upgraded ingredients and extra courses). For the privilege, these seats were $120pp inclusive of service.

Kitchen

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Church & State (Los Angeles, CA)

Church & State
1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Dining date: 11/6/15

Church & State

Church & State was one of the first really exciting restaurants to open into the reinvigorated Arts District of downtown. With Walter Manzke in the kitchen, the restaurant was an immediate success. The neighborhood has had a ton of new development over the years, but Church & State has been a standby serving classic French bistro food. The restaurant celebrated its seventh anniversary last week and rolled back prices to 2008 levels in celebration. It’s been a long five years since I dined at the restaurant, so a revisit was long overdue.

Kitchen

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Daniel (New York, NY)

Daniel
60 E 65th St.
New York, NY 10065
Dining date: 9/10/15

Daniel

Daniel Boulud is one of America’s most notable chef/restaurateurs with 16 restaurants in 4 countries around the world. I’ve tried a few of his restaurants with mixed thoughts, feeling like he’s spread himself fairly thin. However, I’ve always wanted to try Restaurant Daniel – Boulud’s flagship restaurant in New York City.

Since opening in 1993, Daniel has been regarded as one of the top restaurants in the city. Recently, the restaurant has lost some of its top accolades. It started in 2013 with a downgrade in the NY Times from four stars to three. Food critic Pete Wells cited very different dining experiences between the restaurant’s regulars/VIPs and other customers. Last year, Michelin dropped Daniel from the three-star ranks to two, something it re-affirmed in the latest 2015 guide. Michelin referred to inconsistency and a decline in food quality. Less importantly, the restaurant also dropped for the fifth straight year in the world’s best restaurants list, a precipitous drop of 40 spots down to #80 in 2015.

I was very indecisive on whether to invest a meal at Daniel. Would I be trying a restaurant on the downhill? Or a restaurant with a renewed focus on its food and service?

Bar

Dining Room

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Bouchon (Yountville, CA)

Bouchon
6534 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 8/31/15

Exterior

I’ve been to the Beverly Hills and Las Vegas locations of Bouchon numerous times although I had not been to Bouchon’s first location here in Yountville (until now). I’d like to think I’m very familiar with the cuisine here; the menu at all Bouchon locations is pretty much the same serving up Thomas Keller’s interpretation of French bistro food. One thing that does set this location apart is that it’s garnered a Michelin star.

I stopped in for a late Monday lunch after a morning of wine tasting.

Interior1

Interior2

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Melisse (Santa Monica, CA) [3]

Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 7/24/15

MelisseMy last time dining at Melisse was a year and a half ago when it participated in the dineLA Restaurant Week promotion. While Melisse didn’t technically participate this time, they offered a special 5-course 16th anniversary ‘Dine Melisse’ menu that happened to coincide with dineLA. Priced at $85 per person, it was a very attractive price point to revisit.

Dining Room

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