Saison Restaurant Review, San Francisco



178 Townsend St

San Francisco, CA 94107

(415) 828-7990

Saison Website

Book Reservation

Saison San Francisco Exterior Decor

Saison (French for “season”) is a Michelin starred restaurant in San Francisco that focuses on a singular 8 course prix fixe meal each evening using local, specifically identified, and sustainable ingredients.
This style considers different elements of the ingredients, incorporating influences from its native environment and leveraging primitive techniques like ember and ash cooking. They earned two Michelin stars in 2014.

Saison San Francisco Interior decor

Summary – Saison serves up cutting-edge food for a relaxed multihour adventure.
Insider Tip – Limited options, so you have to be flexible with your likes and dislikes.

Cuisine – New American cuisine
Chef – Joshua Skenes (Chez TJ, Stonehill Tavern)
Location – San Francisco China Basin district
Opened – 2009

Decor, Vibe – Saison is located in a converted Soma building with lots of exposed brick, reclaimed wood tables, and a main dining room that has a large view of the beautiful and well lit kitchen. Classic rock from the 80’s was on the air. Saison tends to be casual, even though they have an extensive prix fixe menu. The place featured a cross-section of middle-aged and older foodies dining.

Saison Tasting Menu

Saison’s Menu is updated frequently (seasonal and ingredient changes) and is available with an optional $248 wine pairing. The pacing is slow, so the wines’ affect will probably be done by the time you’re ready to leave.

They allowed us to split a wine pairing, make it a fun an more affordable event.

Complimentary Krug Champagne was a nice touch when you first sit down.

Saison San Francisco tea herbs from the garden

tea, herbs from the garden and their flora – Cool tea ‘bag’ with Meyer lemon and Douglas fir honey that helped clean our palette.

Saison San Francisco Mojito

Mojito ($16) – Expensive and a long wait, but well worth it. Clearly made with high quality ingredients including a metal straw, and mixed to balance flavors well.

Saison San Francisco beignets of anchovy

beignets of bitter vegtables & anchovy with 2 items – Lightly battered, deep fried goodness. The broths imparted some necessary flavors. Wild milk thistle tea was a savory delight. Vegetarian version was artichoke based.

Arteis & Co Brut, Champagne, France 1999

Saison San Francisco Spot Prawns

spot prawns – raw except for a steamed heat. Beautiful minimalist presentation. They try to use as many parts of a product as possible. Very pristine flavor, lobster like with no fishiness.

Marumoto Brewery’s ‘Chikurin’ Karoyaka Junmai Ginjo, Okayama, Japan

Saison San Francisco abalone

abalone, roasted over the embers, sauce of the liver and capers – The chef loves fire and uses it in different ways to cook these ingredients. A big chunk of tender abalone that makes cheap abalone pale in comparison. Super fresh, you can see the tanks by the kitchen.

Saison San Francisco Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls were house made and looked excellent. Make sure you eat a bunch, else you’ll go home hungry!

Nigl Grüner Veltliner, ‘Senftenberger Piri’, Kremstal, Austria 2012

Saison San Francisco seaweed

seaweed, sea cucumber, a chicharon made of the skin – This was a fun, albeit hard to eat dish. The stringy seaweed keeps sliding away. Nature’s texture delight. The sea cucumber had a smooth, tender scallop filling, but it was a bit fishy.

Domaine Didier Dageneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, Loire Valley, France 2011

8yr old beef, warmed over hay, it’s marrow & boletus – Shavings from local mushrooms (Mendocino), aged marrow served tableside by the Chef. Fatty, rich, and a sweet sauce.

Senorío de P. Peciña Rioja Reserva, Spain 2001

Saison San Francisco brassicas

brassicas (mustard green), dried over the fire, in a warm rich robust bonito broth with some crunch of toasted grains and popcorn is a Saison signature dish. Cool wooden spoon.

Navaherreros ‘Blanco de Bernabeleva’, San Martín de Valdeiglesias, Vinos de Madrid, Spain 2012

Saison San Francisco Mendocino pig

Mendocino pig, roasted over the fire with wild fennel & chili, house made apple vinegar – Bitter melon side dish. This included the very fatty belly as well as a more lean piece. Good stuff, but far too small a dish.

Siduri Pinot Noir, ‘Hirsch Vineyard’, Sonoma Coast 2010

Saison San Francisco morel mushroom

morel mushroom, pine nut pudding & pine – stuffed with pigeon was excellent. Use the bread to sop up all the succulent juicies.

Chêne Bleu ‘Héloïse’, Vaucluse, Rhône Valley, France 2007

Saison San Francisco bouillion

a bouillion of the pigeon bones & pickles – They to do head to tail.. This was a strong mini soup that hit the mark.

Saison San Francisco krug Champagne sorbet

krug Champagne sorbet helped cleanse our palettes. Intense flavor.

Saison San Francisco rhubarb jasmine kumquat

rhubarb, jasmine & kumquat – Kumquat circles, rhubarb threads, and touches of sorrel granite – Looked beautiful but tasted more subdued. Lite flavors and some rich textures. Stellar.

Malvira Birbet, Canale, Italy M/V

Saison San Francisco Buckwheat tea

Saison San Francisco canele

Toasted Buckwheat tea & canelé with a caramelized exterior, and rum vanilla custardy interior.

Brioche to take home for the morning.

Service – Saison’s service was top notch. One of the best in the City now. Didn’t really have to ask for very much. Everything came as expected and pacing was smooth.

Value – At $248, you expect French Laundry level food quality and they deliver with very technically competent cuisine. Clearly this is a special occasion restaurant unless you are well heeled and have 3 hours to burn regularly.

Alternatives – The high end New American competition in SF includes Benu and Coi.

Verdict – Saison impressed us with inventive cuisine reminding us of places like Benu, Commis, and Coi. Saison is definitely fit for foodies looking for cutting-edge food utilizing the finest of ingredients. They’ve kicked it up a notch since the days in their previous location. We felt that portion sizes were on the small size. Desserts could have also been stronger.

Pay a ton of money for small bits, and go home not full syndrome!

We have to rank this a touch below French Laundry and even Manresa, but definitely way up there for San Francisco. Worthy of 2 Michelin stars.

Meals move fairly slowly, lasting 3 to 4 hours, so plan accordingly.
18% service charge is automatically added as is 4.1% for San Francisco health care.
$20 valet on a normal night and $30 on Giants game nights.

Saison on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Map:

Saison Overall Rating: (Excellent 3)

Come Back?

Food Rating: (Super)
Service Rating: (Super)
Atmosphere Rating: (Excellent)
Value Rating: (Good)

Guide: 0 = poor, 1 = Below/Average, 2 = Good, 2.5 = Very Good, 3 = Excellent , 4 = Extraordinary

Alcohol:Full Bar
Hours:Tuesday - Saturday 5:30 - 10 PM, Closed Sunday and Monday
Parking:Street, Valet

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  • uhockey
    August 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Really appreciating the detailed reviews. Heading to SF for a job interview over Labor Day weekend and doing the Saison Chef’s Table one night plus a number of other high end spots. Cheers.

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