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

Hi @BradFord,

Thanks for the recommendation. :slight_smile: Is the '03 Essencia something they have on the menu, or something you brought with you?

If it’s not on the menu, anything else you think would pair nicely with their final dessert courses?


I just asked for it. I know they have it, because they did serve it previously with some pairings (on a spoon, the traditional way).

I actually think dessert doesn’t need any alcoholic pairing. The best way to end is probably the buckwheat tea, or whatever tea they have. It’s preferable that way to end on a delicate note; I was just feeling decadent the last couple of times, and it’ll veer sweet for some and is probably not the recommended way in some cases. I for one still liked it because I like tokaji and dessert wines in general. If you like sweet and complex (and are cool with very high residual sugars, this drinks like thick nectar) '03 Essencia will not disappoint.

For another interesting (and less decadent) Tokaji, I had the '08 Betsek once at the end, which had some pepper notes to it that was a nice contrast with the glazed fraises du boise (“wild strawberries”).

While you don’t need a pairing with dessert, they have an expansive list of digestifs and after dinner drinks, anyway. Or Anthony can whip up a very interesting cocktail. I think one time he did a strawberry cocktail at the end that was slightly savory.

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Hi @BradFord,

Wow, very interesting that the '03 Essencia drinks like a thick nectar!

Thanks for the other pairing recommendations as well. :slight_smile:

And I agree: I thought the dessert courses were fine as is, with the tea finisher.

Pure essencia is very thick, with extremely high residual sugar content. It’s the free run juice of ~200 lbs. of grapes per 1 bottle, so it’s ultra concentrated, complex, and intense, meant to be served on its own (in a spoon).

The tokaji pairing was kind of an experiment; as Essencia is usually by itself, but I wanted to try it with the fraises du bois, and I think it was quite interesting with the fruits. Maybe a waste to some. But the '03 has this great acidity to it and these layers of orange blossom honey / marmalade / seville orange / quince / apricot that were very interesting with the strawberry glaze, which was actually made with Szechuan peppercorns. Seville orange / orange marmalade and Szechuan peppercorn is a surprising pairing, and I personally thought it was successful, though I’m sure some, actually most, will prefer Essencia by itself.

'08 Betsek is much more earthy, and it has this fresh, green mint-ness and pepper notes that works with the strawberries like basil. Tokaji this sweet (Betsek is “6 puttonyos,” which is very sweet) is probably more naturally suited to cheese courses or dishes like foie gras, but I think that they were very interesting pairings here, nonetheless. On a side note, ‘08 Betsek would be fantastic with Meadowood’s date creme with walnut oil (pre) dessert or Californios’ dessert of foie gras and overripe banana ice cream. I like sweet dessert wines, though, so my tastes might veer sweet, and tea may be the preferred option.

Anthony’s strawberry cocktail was both hot and cold in temperature - really interesting! Strawberry with armagnac, creme fraiche, lemon balm, etc. with a cold froth on top that was a brilliant segue from the duck course to dessert. It was slightly savory, due to the creme fraiche (a natural with strawberries), and the hot/cold temperature was brilliant with the strawberry’s Szechuan peppercorn glaze, which is just as much about the sensation as it is about taste. Overall, it was very complex and oddly refreshing.

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RTB with Wages is heaps of fun and enjoyment. The more laid back and casual approach, while maintaining very high quality fare, is quite refreshing. In chatting with him a couple times when the pop up was in Fillmore (Izakay Kou), he seems very happy with what he’s doing now. While I have not had his food elsewhere, I really enjoyed it. I suppose now at the new location, there is still sake pairing available and a few small selections by the bottle. Anything floral, aromatic, and slightly fruit forward (whether high or low polished) would work. Yuki No Bosha Yamahai Junmai which lends some additional tartness/acidity, and Tsuru Noe Shuzo, Aizu Chushou Junmai work quite well there too (and were part of the sake pairings or by the glass at one point).

Any idea where Saison sources their Diamond Turbot (and where they are caught from)? I’d imagine any great sake with light notable to pronounced umami qualities would work great with a fish that gets tastier upon each chew, or even the Diamond Turbot.

To that note, there’s really no right or wrong sake pairing with sashimi. It’s more about what works for you and your preferences. I’ve also been experimenting/enjoying lower polished sake with mostly non sushi (and even omakase high end) and it’s a fun area to explore. Most recently at Kiraku, the chef’s combo sashimi (all very high quality though nothing exotic) went superb with a glass of Kokuryu Tokusen Ginjo (and I don’t drink Ginjo’s often). It was a clearly better sake for sashimi than the $100 fancy cult status bottle I had in Tokyo (which retails for $375 to 500 in CA and sells for $700 to $1000 at restaurants in US)…

Though sometimes out of the box pairings are the most fun. For example, the red rice Junmai Genshu Inemankai

paired with a delectable squid at Narisawa Tokyo. Then there was a dish I had that was paired with a Japanese lemon tea liquor of all things.

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Hi @BradFord,

Wow! Thanks again for the tasting notes and thoughts on the Essencia and '08 Betsek. I’ll be sure to ask for them next time I’m at Saison. :slight_smile:

The Strawberry Cocktail sounds amazing! Hopefully it’ll be Strawberry season next time I’m there. :slight_smile:

Hi @beefnoguy,

Thanks! That red rice Junmai Genshu Inemankai looks really unique. Have you seen it anywhere in So Cal? And do you think it would pair well with anything else in particular? Thanks! :slight_smile:

Absolutely wonderful @Chowseeker1999!

I’m reading Julia Child’s My Life in France for the second time. The French relationship with food reminds me of you. Paris could have been invented for you. I thought this part was apropos for the thread: Julia’s favorite person (vendor) at the local marketplace was known as Marie des Quatre Saisons, because her cart was always filled with the freshest produce of each season.

I’m sure things have changed since the 1940’s and supermarkets have replaced some of the little shops and local markets. But I bet it’s still pretty wonderful.

P.S. I wonder where Belle the Saison cow lives? :slight_smile:

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Hi @TheCookie,

Thank you, you are too kind! :blush:

I hope you get a chance to try Saison next time you’re up in SF as well; I think you’d love it.

I know I can’t wait to return on my next trip. :slight_smile:

As for Belle, good question. I’ll have to ask next time. :slight_smile:

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You’re welcome @Chowseeker1999!

I had a busy February and am just catching up on FTC. I’ll probably quote the book again when reading your wonderful reports.


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Diamond turbot head and tail. The head meat around the bones had all this great gelatin. The glaze tasted like tamari and maybe some kinome.

The “radish and clarified butter” is astonishingly good, even if it sounds very simple. Underneath are different cuts of radish cooked in “takiawase” style - some grilled, some poached, etc. The key here is an “tosazu” of sorts made with akazu, which bound everything together, and paired perfectly with the racy Mosel kabinett. In prior visits, this visual presentation was used for the diamond turbot sashimi course.

Wild antelope - exceedingly flavorful and tender. A side of treviso in verjus - pitch perfect with just the right bitterness and acidity. Harissa butter is the perfect accompaniment to fire-grilled game. I almost thought it was garam masala, which in prior visits, spiced treviso which was filled with foie gras or a ragu of innards. Anyway, this was perfect with a nice Cornas.


Hi @BradFord,

Nice! Glad you were able to visit Saison recently. :slight_smile:

Love that Antelope and that Radish and Clarified Butter is amazing, right? :slight_smile:

Did you get to try the Saison Milk Punch? :wink:

No Milk Punch on this visit, but I’ll be sure to get that next time. We did Shanghai Nights, a violet gin & tonic, The Smoked Heart and Mt. Tam Wildfire Negroni with smoked manzanita bark. All were fantastic - I’m sometimes hesitant about smoke in cocktails, because other places overdo it, but Saison uses smoke and savory elements elegantly, even in their cocktails.

“The Smoked Heart” - an American “Japanese whisky” aged in umeshu casks, cardamaro, smoked artichoke. Complex; tobacco-like at the end with a long, savory finish.

Gin & tonic with their own creme de violette.

After a night of going out, we ended with a late-night Bang Bang with a lengua burrito at El Farolito.


Thanks @BradFord, good to know about the Mt. Tam Wildfire Negroni (which wasn’t there on our visit). I have the Shanghai Nights noted from your earlier post, sounds wonderful. :slight_smile:

Yikes, sea urchin toast not going to be on the tasting menu anymore?

Hi @beefnoguy,

Nooo…! :frowning: Very tragic. That was such a good dish. I wonder why?

Maybe just keeping things new / interesting?

Maybe similar reason why the urchin dish was yanked from Amber Hong Kong, so you can only have it at In Situ now.

Hm… interesting. Don’t tell me there’s some Sea Urchin epidemic going on right now. :confused:

Ah antelope, my god, how fortunate!

I wonder if they could procure moose upon request?

I just had the urchin toast, too, so if they’re phasing it out, it’s going out slowly. I like the urchin toast a lot - it’s the texture/temperature contrast that makes it, Mendocino uni is fine but Hokkaido uni is palpably better - but usually other dishes steal the show for me.

With that said, some of their signature dishes come back - their Brassicas dish, for example, was out of rotation for a bit but is now back in another form. This time it had an egg custard and puffed wild rice underneath - actually I preferred earlier versions with a bouillon or cultured juices. They had an amazing Indonesian curry dish that IMO was always a standout in whatever form. The other dish I really want to see return is the “duck liver toffee with bread, milk, and beer,” which often segued perfectly to an aged duck or squab course.

@Aesthete - you would love the antelope. I really like how they’re doing game. Maybe their game torte could come back - I love that kind of dish.