Saison – SOMA, San Francisco

Saison

178 Townsend Street
saisonsf.com

If you follow the blossoming Bay Area food scene, by now you have surely come across the name Saison and Chef Joshua Skenes. Saison holds two prestigious honors – it is one of the four Bay Area Michelin three star restaurant (along with The French Laundry, Benu, The Restaurant at Meadowood) and is hands down the most expensive meal in the region.  Lucky for us we had an anniversary to celebrate and decided to take the plunge, willing to put the high expectations to the test.

The Discovery Menu at Saison is the multi-course motherload.  The number of courses on a given night vary based on the ingredients that the chef can source, but it is sure to be in the high tens and loaded with seasonal plants and animals.  The wine list…well, it is just ridiculous and I was grateful for the  wine pairing options (I elected a “by the glass” pairing option as opposed to the standard full pairing). They also have a full bar for delicious cocktails, like this negroni.

Saison_00_Negroni

For a fine dining establishment, Saison does not have a stuffy feel to it at all. The dress code on the website just says “come as you are” and the crowd did just that; some in suits and some in fashionable t-shirts.  Many of the tables are set up in “date” mode, putting you next to or on the corner from your dining partner, as opposed to sitting across from one another.  Along the wall there is a long sofa that provides views of the open kitchen (and we had the prime spot).

Saison_00_Kitchen_Whole

As I move into the meal, with sadness I admit that the notes I took somehow didn’t save, so this is on a week’s memory.

Infusion

herbs from the garden

Saison_01_Tea

This was an herbal, non-caffeinated tea to open the meal and the palate.  A fresh start.

Heirloom Tomato

Saison_02_Tomato

There were three types of tomatoes in this dish, including sun-dried and a jellied tomato. Top with mint and other herbs while underneath was a corn puree.

Saison_03_Bread

 

There was also bread

Broth of Grilled Roots

daikon, scallop

Saison_04_Scallop

The Japanese radish was stuffed with a scallop and set into a creamy, buttery broth.

Lobster

lightly grilled over the embers

Saison_05a_Lobster

Saison_06b_Lobster

A few courses in, the exquisite serving dishes become apparent. The lobster was served with a few dipping options, which were recommended after first trying it as-is.

Battle Creek Trout

its skin & roe

Saison_07a_Trout

Saison_08b_Trout

Saison_08c_Trout

The skin was removed, made snappably crispy then reattached by using trout eggs as the sticking agent.  This was suggested to be eaten in one bite.  One delicious bite.

Sea Urchin Liquid Toast

Saison_09a_Uni

Saison_09b_Uni

One of the specialties, a massive helping of uni is served atop their liquid toast – soft, gooey and molasses laced.

Abalone

grilled over the embers, sauced with its liver and capers

Saison_10a_Clam

Saison_10b_Clam

This was similar to the foie gras donburi from Alexander’s.

Pickled Cucumber with Horseradish Ice

Saison_11a_Cucumber

Saison_11b_Cucumber

An interlude course, cold and refreshing.

Cheese Custard

Saison_12_Custard

This is the one course that I really miss my notes on.  It was fantastic and the least photogenic.

Brassica Leaves

blistered in the fire, broth of cultivated vegetables

Saison_13a_Leaves

Saison_13b_Leaves

Fresh vegetables cooked over high heat open flame for a short period of time.  Smokey and firm.

Fire in the Sky Beet

bone marrow, roasted over coals

Saison_14b_Beet

Saison_14a_Beet

This was the greatest. It was cooked slowly for a period of days, continually being reconstituted.  It looked and tasted like a steak.  it is a beet.

River Goat

saison hot sauce, grilled bone broth

Saison_15a_Goat

Saison_15b_Goat

A very Chinese style hot sauce.

Saison_16a_Broth Saison_16b_Broth

 

Citrus & Tea

Saison_19a_Citrus Saison_19b_Citrus

Saison_18_Tea

Wild Berries

Saison_20_Berries

Served with a house made cream.

Anniversary Chocolate

Saison_17_Chocolate

 

Thus ends one night of the discovery menu at Saison (not pictured is the ice cream course, made with milk from their own cow). The meal and service were fantastic and it is clear why the restaurant gets the recognition it does.  As a special occasion meal, the hefty price tag doesn’t feel so terrible as the memory of the experience will last for longer than most meals. While there are other places to check off the list in San Francisco, given the chance I would return to Saison to taste through a different local season.

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