178 Townsend Street
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.
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).
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.
herbs from the garden
This was an herbal, non-caffeinated tea to open the meal and the palate. A fresh start.
There was also bread
Broth of Grilled Roots
The Japanese radish was stuffed with a scallop and set into a creamy, buttery broth.
lightly grilled over the embers
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
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
One of the specialties, a massive helping of uni is served atop their liquid toast – soft, gooey and molasses laced.
grilled over the embers, sauced with its liver and capers
This was similar to the foie gras donburi from Alexander’s.
Pickled Cucumber with Horseradish Ice
An interlude course, cold and refreshing.
This is the one course that I really miss my notes on. It was fantastic and the least photogenic.
blistered in the fire, broth of cultivated vegetables
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
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.
saison hot sauce, grilled bone broth
A very Chinese style hot sauce.
Citrus & Tea
Served with a house made cream.
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.