Chef Dominique Crenn has been delighting palates in San Francisco with the artful fare at her two-Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn and at her newer more casual eatery, Petit Crenn, in Hayes Valley. This winter, she ventured across the Bay Bridge to bring us Antoinette, a French-style brasserie in the newly renovated Claremont Club & Spa.
I had been to the iconic Claremont hotel once before. About four years ago my boyfriend and I booked a one-night staycation at the East Bay resort so we could lounge poolside, get a spa service, and have dinner overlooking the Bay. The experience was memorable only in the fact that we were by far the youngest (and brownest) people there.
When we arrived on a Friday night earlier this month, however, there was almost no sign of the stuffy, dated hotel that once dominated the Berkeley hills. Instead, we were ushered into a modern French brasserie filled with warm earth tones and comfy banquettes—all of which did nothing to distract from the splendid sunset over the bay that could be admired from almost every seat in the house.
The bar was packed with after-work revelers on a Friday night.
While the restaurant was Crenn's idea, the kitchen and day-to-day operations are led by Chef Justin Mauz, whose talented team churns out a well-curated menu of fresh seafood dishes and French classics such as whole roasted turbot, escargot, frog legs en papillote, and even caviar service.
Meanwhile, the wine list is expansive, with dozens of French and Californian varietals to choose from and plenty of Champagne to end the night. If you're having trouble choosing, the staff is extremeley knowledgeable and suggested the perfect glass for each of the dishes we tried.
And speaking of the food...
To start, we sampled the scallops, grilled octopus, and tiny escargot in a garlicky green foam. The cooked scallops arrived cold—we're still wondering whether this was intentional—and we could have lived without the aforementioned green foam. But the octopus was perfectly marinated and tender, and everything else was perfection. Mains included a classic roasted chicken with seasonal vegetables, and a perfectly cooked steak with steamed potatoes. Both tasted and smelled delicious, and we quickly devoured the rustic fare.
The classic lemon tart was easily our favorite thing on the menu.
Dessert came in two forms: a classic lemon tart with candied citrus that rivaled any sweet treat I've had in France; and a rather interesting chilled beet mousse topped with pickled beets (it should be noted that lovers of this dessert will be true lovers of the earthy vegetable).
As we wrapped up our dinner with glasses of bubbly, we noticed the gorgeous outdoor patio overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Come summer, it will be perfect for sunny brunch dates (the restaurant is set to open for breakfast and lunch later this month) as well as for tourists seeking a terrace with vistas for that quintessential holiday happy hour. Count us in for all of the above.