It’s a review. Not something that I ever do on this blog, however, our experience last night at Saison in San Francisco was not only memorable, but one worth sharing. Sure…I could go on Yelp, Urbanspoon, or even Zaget and share my expereince and I still might, yet I wanted to share it with you, first.
It takes around 8 weeks to get a reservation and with our up coming trip to San Francisco it was on my list of things to do. I set a reminder in my phone to make the booking. The dining experience is extravagant and expensive. One tasting menu of 12 courses is 248$ – your other choice is the 18 course menu (the 12 courses plus 6 additional courses) and I’m not sure on the price. The wine paring per person is 148$. Cocktails range: 15$-90$.
A lot? Yes. I’m not the type of person to spend 200$ on concert tickets or even 150$ on game day tickets. It’s not my thing. Food is my thing. I like my tastebuds and I’ll spend 700$ celebrating them (and my husband’s), yet it’s more than that, more than food. The experience that accompanies dining out is far more than the cuisine. This sometimes seemingly minor detail is missed, but the staff and chef at Saison are aware of the detail at all times. Wooden cutlery, unique dishware, cashmere shawl on the back of hand sculpted walnut chairs – staff in suits, open concept kitchen, every detail is masterfully placed to enhance the experience. Verdict? Success.
The chef is inspired by local ingredients, thus the menu is heavily seafood based. Despite the fact that my husband isn’t a big seafood person, he was willing to try. So proud of him. Our first course: a blend of fresh crabs, topped with a thick sauce made from the brains of the crab and a lighter broth made from the shells on the side. Fresh and full of flavour.
Our second course: slices of amber jack fish, lightly seared on the open wood stove, with complex accompaniments such as dried gooseberries, shaved radishes, sea salt and a few others. The idea, as the staff stated, to enjoy a new bite with the fish each time. Third course: fresh snake river trout with it’s skin as a ‘chip’ on the side. Well balanced and delightful. Fourth course: egg custard with the roe of the fish we just ate. This dish was our least favourite; salty and full of texture, it was an experience.
After 12 courses it’s difficult to remember everything, yet course 5 was an abalone served with seaweed and was delicious. Next, the staff delivered a new set of hand carved spoons. I like the spoons.
Out came one of the Saison chefs: custard made with fish bone and roe. The dishware was different, the spoon was different, even the description was a little different (one described as an egg custard with roe and the second a custard with fish bone and roe). I said to my husband…we already ate this. He said it probably has slight differences and the chef is showing off his technique. We chatted about how we trust chefs to show us their vision through food and although this dish was similar to an earlier dish, we were still enjoying ourselves.
Up next, one of my favourites: corn beignet with fresh honey butter. It was served with a radish dish, all parts of the radish and clarified butter drizzled over top by the staff.
Mathew, one of the staff, came by to check on us shortly after course 8 or 9 (I was beginning to lose count). I had just returned from the restroom and noticed that two ladies in the bar area each had their own bowl turned from a redwood burl full of corn beignets. Mathew got us more. It was perfection. When he dropped them off he alluded to the idea of ‘more treats ahead’. Perhaps Bryce would get a hit of red meat in the next course? That was our guess.
Duck was next, a liver toffee with foam. The female staff described it as a crowd pleaser – she was bang on. Up next, more duck. a small serving of tender breast with a side of date and cooking juices and a small, fresh from their farm, herb salad to cut the fat. The duck and the corn beignet were at the top of my list.
We also had a few other dishes: fire roasted cabbage and brussel sprouts with a warm broth poured over top, toast soaked in buttermilk with fresh sea urchin on top, and a bowl of duck broth. Dessert was the richest and lightest panna cotta with fragaria vesca berries. Also, a champagne sorbet. Buckwheat tea finished the meal, just as fresh herb tea had started it. Perfection.
Again, Mathew stopped by and made reference to the ‘more treats’ comment. No cheque this evening. Hum, excuse me? He said they made too many missteps, like repeating courses. I knew it! Too polite or too trusting to speak up. Two courses at once (the corn beignet and the radish dish were served together for us and should have been separate). A late scotch delivery, and lastly, the only other ‘misstep’ we can think of, serving me, the girl who doesn’t drink, champagne sorbet – I actually never ate it. The staff brought me yuzu sorbet as a replacement. Again, perfection.
The night was sensational and to have a chef step up and recognize that his vision for the meal was not met and take ownership was beyond generous through our eyes.
On our way out, we even received a small gift of tea to take home. My words, “this is too much”. The evening at Saison – joy, pure delight.