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.
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.
tea, herbs from the garden and their flora – Cool tea ‘bag’ with Meyer lemon and Douglas fir honey that helped clean our palette.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
a bouillion of the pigeon bones & pickles – They to do head to tail.. This was a strong mini soup that hit the mark.
krug Champagne sorbet helped cleanse our palettes. Intense flavor.
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
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.
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!
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.