Among all the restaurants in San Francisco that I was planning on visiting during my stay in the Bay Area, I had the highest expectations for Saison, where chef Josh Skenes was winning accolades left and right for his tasting menu that was devoted to nature (culminating in three Michelin stars recently). Yes, the tasting menu didn’t come cheap (it came at $398 before the mandatory service charges and drinks) but I was just in absolutely bliss once the meal was over. California cuisine is defined by the emphasis on seasonability and freshness of ingredients. The devotion to this philosophy at Saison was on a whole different level.
Every dish at Saison was telling its own story about the gift of the nature to humanity. The meal started with aromatic hot tea from herbs sourced at the restaurant’s garden. Then came a series of seafood that was nothing short of outstanding. I was just stunned with the combination of different ingredients in each dish to create flavor and texture that was not only sensational but unique in its own way while maintaining a common theme of nature. I could certainly eat caviar any day, and the black cod with grilled mushrooms that came in pine bouillon had almost a zen-like quality to it. Lobster warmed over the coals was as smooth as I could possibly dream about, and the trout skin and roe was melting in my mouth, as was sea urchin that came on top of liquid toast. My revelation among the seafood dishes, however, was the grilled abalone that was as tender as a perfectly cooked steak. With the grilled pork jowl on top, it created a sensation I had never experienced before.
Next came a series of vegetable dishes. Brussels and cabbages had a variety of textures from different cooking techniques that worked harmoniously with one another. I was also a huge fan of squash, which came in both raw and braised/smoked form. The standout from the vegetable offering, however, was the roasted beet that came with bone marrow and pickled rose on top. I’m not even a huge fan of beet, but the one I had at Saison just had immaculate texture that gave me joy every bite.
For meat sequences, the kitchen started out with duck liver toffee with layer of break, milk and beer (to go along with a complementary glass of beer). It was another magnificent dish. The main savory dish was also duck, dry aged for around three weeks, accompanied by a side of date, whipped yogurt and ragu. Not only was the duck perfectly cooked, but the side was another stunning complexity of flavor. The bouillon of the grilled duck bones that came after was also very rich and aromatic.
I was starting to get full by the time desserts started coming out. The desserts were somewhat weaker than all the fantastic dishes that had come before, but I still wished there were more of cow’s milk ice cream that came with smoked coco and salted caramel. The meal concluded with another hot sea accompanied by persimmon with ground butter and honey that was fresh and delightful.
The restaurant has that vibe that you could probably only see in California, bordering on the casual and classy, with fully dressed staffs attending to your needs in professional yet friendly manner at a dining room that looks upscale yet not stuffy, with the open kitchen on the side. The restaurant has a full bar as well as wine pairing options. Unless you’re going for the pairing, definitely try a glass or two of wine picked by somemlier Mark Bright. Make sure to book in advance. Despite its prohibitvely expensive price that may scare away some diners, the restaurant really isn’t that big. I don’t know how else to describe my dining experience at Saison. It is the highest itieration of the beauty and elegance of California cuisine, period. I probably spent the most amount of money in my life dining at Saison, and I don’t regret spending every penny for this remarkable culinary journey.
- Creativity: 9.5/10
- Execution: 9.5/10
- Ingredients: 9.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.5/10
Address: 178 Townsend Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
Telephone: (415) 828-7990