World-Class, Seasonal Tasting Menus - The Stunning, Exquisite Food at Saison! (Review / Pics)

At the highest echelon it’s about the excitement of the story, not the quality of the food. That’s all that can be said about it. Documentaries, not Michelin stars.

What is the story of Saison a white guy doing pseudo-Japanese cuisine in SF? Absurdly boring, and even a bit racist for the spin that most food media has.

And yeah, $520 after tax and included tip just for food? Does that make it the most expensive 3-star in the world? Without hype? Who is even going other than Russian oligarchs and extremophile foodies?

joshua skenes doesn’t want you to feel like shit

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Hi @set0312,

Thanks! :slight_smile: It was indeed, wonderful.

The Cocktails were individually ordered, with an impromptu guidance / recommendation by Bar Manager Keele (wonderful). The Smoked Heart (with Smoked Artichoke) was recommended because our Artichoke course was coming next (he knew the order of the courses and what was coming without us even mentioning anything). Outstanding floor knowledge and service (one more example of how standout Saison is in this regard).

For the “ease” of getting in, I think @PorkyBelly @ipsedixit and @BradFord covered it pretty well (they can speak to this better than I can). I know there are plenty of restaurants in L.A. that have ridiculous reservation backlog that wouldn’t even deserve 1 Michelin Star (they’re fine for being neighborhood eateries), but they have a crazy 2 - 3 month backlog. Hype, buzz, etc. all lend a hand in some restaurants over others.

That, and the high price point of entry for Saison keeps this a bit more “accessible” for reservations I suppose. Thanks.


I think how easy it is to get reservations varies depending on what conventions (if any) are in town and whether it’s a popular time of year for rich tourists.

The pop-up started off much simpler:

Naples Long:

Hmm. Blueberry season is a couple of months away. Local greenhouse, maybe.

wow - what a fantastic report and photos - thanks

Hi @robert,

Cool historical read; wow he’s come a long way. That Naple Long Pumpkin earns its name! :open_mouth:

For Blueberries, interesting. I did see a couple stands at our local farmers markets a few weeks ago offering blueberries. Maybe just small batches?

Hi @PorkyBelly,

Thanks for the link, what a fascinating read! :slight_smile:

These quotes from the Chef Skenes, wow!

"Fire is a very live thing. Once you get used to it, you can understand it. The fire is volatile and live. You take a shovel of embers, and the heat is completely uneven. We’ve learned to mix ash with embers to make a perfect heat, we’ve learned the correct distance to put the grate to make a meat not dry out and look like it’s been fried, yet it’s just been slow-roasted for three hours. We’ve learned the right temperature to roast a bird over the fire and how to turn it and how to stop the fat from creating flames that carbonize the meat. We’ve developed these techniques over time. "

“… but we’ve also created new things like searing a piece of fish on a white-hot log. Once the log is red-hot, we’ll brush off the embers, brush the fish with a bit of oil, and sear it directly on there.” :open_mouth:

I want to try that Fish! :slight_smile:

And as you quoted @PorkyBelly:

"Mostly, yeah. We don’t use very much butter at all. We’re looking for depth of flavor, and so many people can use salt, sugar, and butter as a crutch. For me, real flavor is about layering and finding the inherent taste of the product and magnifying it. For me, it’s about finding balance, restraint, and purity.

Don’t get me wrong, butter is delicious on a lot of things. At the same time, though, food needs to be nourishing; you need to feel good after you eat. I’ve gone out to many excellent places where you feel like shit after the meal. I don’t want guests to feel that way. I really think food is supposed to be real and good for you. "

Agree with you and @BradFord.

I’d have to say after our meal at Saison, while we were full, I felt “good” and fulfilled. Not overly weighed down, or overwhelmed. :slight_smile:

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I don’t know where in California anyone could be harvesting blueberries in February unless they have a greenhouse. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thanks for your great reports and beautiful pics on your visit to the city . Your name says it all . You truly are a Chowseeker .

Hi @Emglow101,

Thanks. :slight_smile: And thanks for your suggestions and everyone else’s.

[quote=“BradFord, post:20, topic:5230”]
The Gelb documentaries make places impossible to get into. See n/naka…

The food at Saison is delicious, pure, nuanced, and complex, and Saison is known among food circles, but generally not really among the public like the way Jiro or Noma is.[/quote]

Hi @BradFord, @PorkyBelly,

It’s funny, what you both talked about for documentaries / media helping push certain restaurants forward: I was chatting with a friend of a friend the other day (who’s not really that into food, but enjoys a good meal).

We got to talking about what are some “must try!” restaurants we wanted to visit when traveling. What did they know and mention?

“Oh! That Sushi place I saw on a documentary… (something) Dreams of Sushi? Jiro!”


“There’s supposedly a top notch restaurant in Denmark? I saw it on Anthony Bourdain.” (Noma)

When I mentioned that I went to Saison recently, she said she’d never heard of it.

Hi @BradFord,

Thanks. So for Meadowood, are you saying that the “Chef’s Counter” is a literally different part of the restaurant, and that it’s special menu can be had anywhere in the restaurant? (at the Chef’s Counter, in the Kitchen and in the Dining Room?) Or should we only dine at the Chef’s Counter itself?

Any pros or cons dining at a specific spot there?

Did the chef’s counter a year back at Meadowood which was also my first time there. There was a very small rectangular table that seats four, facing one way with an entire view of the kitchen, with a tour about 3/4 of the way through the meal. That meal to date is one of the best ever with quite an intense satisfaction level that far surpassed my meal at Kichisen Kyoto (3 Michelin star kaiseki restaurant featuring a chef who defeated Iron Chef (see battle: hamo or pike eel). Brilliant wine program and spot on picks for pairings, a truly marvelous experience.

I would love to try the dining room (non chef’s counter) in the dining room to see what that experience is like.

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The Chef’s Counter is a table that seats 4 in the actual kitchen, separate from the main dining room. The Chef’s Counter menu is also a different menu - a little bit longer, with some more experimental dishes. You are correct: you can choose to have the Chef’s Counter menu at either the kitchen or main dining room.

Your clothes may have a slight smell if you dine inside the kitchen. I believe a jacket is still requested for men, so there’s that to consider. But I like eating there though if I want to interact with the chefs who are serving the dishes. But with some guests, the dining room is more elegant, romantic, it’s dimmer, etc.

Agreed with beefnoguy, the wine program is great. they had the 2013 Kongsgaard “The Judge” for a great price, relatively, about $200 less than what you can buy it for retail, if it’s available at all. Spruce actually also had the 2013 The Judge a little while back, but people wised up and it’s gone now. But Meadowood has some Kongsgaard by the glass, and though I often veer to white Burgundy, champagne, or some Riesling with those kinds of tasting menus, I really like Kongsgaard and wouldn’t miss it at Meadowood. Their regular “Napa Valley” Chardonnay is always a stunner.

Meadowood even has some great non-alcoholic drinks, Eg “Flavors of Cabernet”! It was great with squab and a want to say a coffee soaked fig, then a date creme with walnut oil. Inspiring.

Meadowood has its own DNA of course, but I’m confident that you’d like their Chef’s Counter menu, anyway. Perhaps best for a different thread - after you visit next!

I’m at Saison in a couple of weeks and plan on Meadowood and Single Thread in May or so. If you don’t report back before then, I will!

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I think you could get away with dark colored jeans, but with Meadowood it’s safer to dress up just a notch. I too wore a jacket and it felt romantic enough at the Chef’s Counter for two (or even as a solo diner, one could romance thyself in theory, which is perfect there too)

Some of the wine pairing pours were within the $50 range per bottle (retail) but worked flawlessly with the food. So one is essentially paying for the genuis of figuring out the pairings (one pairing is not cheap by the way but their pours and refills can be generous depending on your mood and interaction with whoever pours for you). They did a side by side pour of Francois Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 2013 and a 2013 El Molino Chardonnay. The Montrachet worked nicely with one dish and then the Chardonnay was far superior for another. Though I too prefer white burgundy in general (though I’m barely scratching the surface compared to the amount of sake I’ve had). I’ll have to keep the Kongsgaard in mind sometime!

I wasn’t terribly impressed by Single Thread, but hopefully by the time you go, things will have improved and/or you enjoy it more than I do. Presentations were great but some of the flavors and textures didn’t flow or work. The beverage pairing didn’t work as well, and the choices of sake were not paired as well as say, RTB (Rodney Wages, though when they were at Fillmore Stuart Morris from Pabu put that together) or Mosu under Mark Thompson. Enjoy your excellent YOLO dinners! Look forward to any reports and pictures!

Can I trouble you to take a picture of the sake portion of the wine menu at Saison (if they have any by the glass or bottle)? Super curious what they have. I’ve seen Mark Bright post some sake pictures but I don’t know if this was during Jiro SF’s popup, or something Saison carries.


Thanks so much @beefnoguy and @BradFord. :slight_smile:

It sounds like a wonderful meal, definitely bookmarked. One last question: Inside the kitchen / Chef’s Counter, would it get too hot over the course of the evening?

@beefnoguy, for Saison… I don’t remember seeing a Sake Menu at all. We browsed their extensive Wine List (impressive!), and they had a good variety of wines by the glass, and their Cocktail Menu, but that was it.

I’ll see if I took any pictures that might’ve hinted at a Sake Menu.

I hope you get a chance to try Saison as well, it was phenomenal! :slight_smile:

Buying a Pagani is more than just about buying a car, it’s an experience onto itself. You fly into Parma, then chauffered to San Cesario sul Panaro, meet Horatio and his team, as well as his family, talk about food, wine, and maybe even cars, and maybe even the next iteration Huayra Roadster.

It’s the same with places like el Bulli or Noma, where a meal at those restaurants is an event onto itself, replete with kitchen tours, tete-a-tetes with the staff, etc. and each meal is arguably different, if not quite bespoke in the same way a Huarya is.

Both of them – a Pagani and meals at Noma et al.-- are really sort of transcendental experiences that are more than just a really awesome meal.

As good as Saison is, and it is extremely good, it is just a meal. Same with an AMG. You get treated like a VIP, invited to various special previews, parties, driving schools, etc., but at the end of the day, you’re just a customer buying a fancy, German hot-rod.

its funny. reading this, i was thinking, i hope they asked the name of the cow. and viola.

i wonder now this guy gets away with serving game he has shot. normally, thats a no-no according to the feds.

Hi @linus,

To be fair our server mentioned that in the past tense (perhaps when he was doing a pop-up still?). Thanks.

I see - if we’re analogizing the relative ownership / acquisition experience of these cars (and not so much the cars’ actual qualities or character) to the international notoriety of these restaurants, then I can see where you’re coming from. Yes, I can see how Huayra ownership is an elaborate and dramatic experience, transcending “buying a car,” but the difference between a Huayra and S-Class, be it the car or the ownership experience, is still much greater than the difference between Noma and Saison.

I still think the S-Class is too pedestrian for this example, maybe something like a 911 GT2 is more fitting (but we can debate this ad nausuem). With that said, I’ve unfortunately never owned a Huayra or eaten at Noma or El Bulli, so…for the record, if I had Zuckerberg cash, I’d bypass the Huayra, get a Carrera GT or F12TDF and/or try to find my way into an XK-SS, probably. I’d love to have such a dilemma. I’m sure that I’ll eat at Noma before that, though. Maybe we should have car sub-forum, call it “Cars and Coffee?” :grin:

Not if we’re talking the '45s.

I didn’t know chef Rodney left Atelier Crenn to start RTB! I’ll have to check it out. I thought he was a great CDC at Saison circa 2013. Even back then when they had 2-stars, I thought they were a clear 3-star level.

Sure, I’ll take a look. Personally, I could imagine something like Otokoyama Junmai Daiginjo with their diamond turbot sashimi course. I’m sure you know more, but I really enjoy it with shiromidane sashimi, and it’d work beautifully with that roast wakame salt they have. And those textures.

Speaking of wine and Saison, I think I’m due for a picture:

'03 Essencia with some dessert at the bar a while back (not part of pairing, maybe a bit too sweet for some, but I liked it anyway). Some orange blossom honey and quince notes that I liked with the orange buttermilk ice cream. Quite a bit of acidity for Essencia, reminiscent of apricots, which was interesting (if a bit strong) with the marinated fraises du bois. The smoked milk ice cream and caramel is best by itself of course, maybe just followed by buckwheat tea at the very end.