Epic meal and epic report. It’s amazing they were selling groupons just a few years ago for their pop up and you could have dinner for 50pp. I should have stocked up when i had the chance. My favorite restaurant west of the Mississippi.
I would say nothing really comes close to saison in the US except for maybe Brooklyn fare.
Saison never lets you down
Glad you loved it! Yes, Saison is indeed world-class, and one of my favorites, anywhere. Sometimes the food looks deceptively simple, but the finesse with which they coax out natural, pure deliciousness is incredible. Note the gentle use of the fire in almost every dish - now that is an achievement in itself, since I never come away thinking anything was overly smokey and it’s one of the few tasting menu restaurants after a meal at which I feel genuinely good.
The salt with the diamond turbot is often roasted wakame, the homemade ponzu has been a vinegar from the fish bones. The sea urchin “liquid toast” is indeed a great bite - the soy of sorts is their own sauce of toasted grains. I prefer the Hokkaido bafun uni to the Mendocino one, though even better than the uni specimen itself is usually the texture contrast of the toasted, soaked Tartine bread with the velvety, cold urchin. They can take something simple like an artichoke, Chinese broccoli, mustard green leaves, etc. and make it a stunning dish.
The cocktails are super smooth. The “Shanghai Nights” is one of my favorites. Service is indeed flawless - warm, professional, not intrusive, just the right touch.
You would also love the Chef’s Counter at The Restaurant at Meadowood. It has its own personality, too, and it and Saison are my two favorite tasting menu restaurants in California. Both world-class.
Glad you enjoyed it! I’m there in a few weeks, I’ll be sure to get some of those cocktails, too.
Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” is always so apt.
Thanks for your great suggestion. Wow, they were selling groupons for their pop-up years ago? It’s come a long way. Amazing with Chef Skenes has accomplished.
Thanks again for your great recommendation! I can see why you think it’s truly worthy of being Michelin 3 Star.
Ooh! So for the Uni Toast they sometimes use Hokkaido Uni? Nice.
Thanks for the recommendation on Shanghai Nights - I was looking at the one, but let the Bar Manager kind of guide us. I will definitely order it next time.
And give their Saison Milk Punch a try, really spectacular!
I have Meadowood bookmarked thanks to you. We just couldn’t fit it into our schedule on this trip.
And yes! LOL, they were playing Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” on our visit also!
Yes, I’ve had the Liquid Toast both ways. The key is the texture and temperature contrasts. I like the rich, slight nuttiness of the Ezo-bafun with the Tartine toast.
Note: Meadowood’s “Chef’s Counter” has a different menu, but it can be had in the kitchen or in the normal dining room. A visit up to the wine country is a weekend trip in itself. Anyway, Saison and Meadowood are, in my opinion, the two true 3-star places in California.
I almost forgot to ask! So what’s in Brooklyn that you like more than Saison? Thanks.
i didn’t mean brooklyn in general, i was referring to the chef’s table at brooklyn fare. They used to be in brooklyn but recently moved to manhattan. It’s my favorite high-end place in NYC, everything i’ve had there has been excellent.
Beautiful report. I’ve never seen anything but an absolutely glowing review about this place. Were you ordering cocktails individually, or was this some sort of cocktail tasting?
I have a question: I noticed that it’s remarkably easy to get reservations for Saison, given its universal acclaim. Why do you think that is? Over here on the east coast, it’s damn near impossible to get a reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was equally difficult to get reservations at some of the Basque country three stars I went to this summer.
Why would Saison, in the best fine-dining city in America, not be packed every night? How could I get a 7:30 reservation for this Saturday?!?!
I would guess because of their extremely high price of entry
… as well as the length of the meal.
Plus, not everyone that can afford such a meal will either want one, or enjoy one.
It’s like Mark Zuckerberg could afford a closet full of Brioni suits, but he neither wants nor enjoys such a sartorial collection.
Thanks @PorkyBelly. Bookmarked.
Aska. Interesting. Thanks for the rec @ipsedixit. And thanks for the original rec for Saison! This was so good and was the highlight of our trip!
Yes, all fair points, but they don’t really explain why the likes of Noma, Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, Faviken, etc. are all sold out months in advance?
Saison has yet to reach that level of mystique? Because by many accounts, its operating on those levels.
I’m just surprised it isn’t already an iconic destination restaurant, that’s all.
I don’t think Noma and places like Faviken are in the same conversation as Saison. Those are internationally acclaimed restaurants. Sort of like comparing a Pagani Huarya with a Mercedes S-class.
As to Blue Hill, again not really an apples-to-apples comparison. Blue Hill is really an all-day experience, whereas Saison is just a meal, a fantastic one at that, no doubt. But you’re not traveling to the countryside to dine at a farm.
Also, Saison costs something like 400/person (minimum), which is expensive anywhere, but especially so in SF, where the depth of the wealthy isn’t as vast nor deep as that in NYC. Sure you have Silicon newly-printed millionaires, but most new-money folks are interested more in Stumptown coffee and nitro-brewed bone broth than avant-garde fine dining.
All those places were either on chef’s table or mind of a chef. In the post-jiro dreams of sushi era having 3 stars doesn’t automatically make you a destination restaurant, you need to have a documentary too.
And I think joshua skenes has no interest in being a “celebrity.”
I’m not following this analogy. Which is the Huayra and which is the S-Class? The Huayra and S-Class are two radically different kinds of cars in virtually every material respect (except for the AMG motor, if we’re talking 63s and 65s). I think Noma and Saison, while distinct, are much closer to each other than a Huayra and an S-Class are. Even if we’re talking about popularity or international notoriety, well, the Huayra is an exotic and 1 million + eur and known to relatively few (with what, 100 total units?), while the S-Class is produced probably a hundred fold more and is much more well known.
The Gelb documentaries make places impossible to get into. See n/naka.
Saison and its cuisine don’t easily fit into an intriguing headlining narrative that would give it international notoriety. E.g. they’re not a pioneer in foraging, exploring the Amazon, out in the middle of a frozen “nowhere,” chef who’s going against the grain of her culture, etc. Not that those inherently make the food at those places any less credible. It’s just that those attributes happen to also make for good stories, and it’s something that food media can push.
Because how often does food media give you a good sense of how the actual food is at one restaurant, and how it differs than that of another? Even if they could, it wouldn’t make for an easily digestible headline. 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.
That is a beautiful bouillon cup for that “old fire” soup of sorts. The herbs are diminutive but essential. A few small sprigs of mitsuba were pitch perfect for the duck broth last time. I had a similar course at Meadowood - “squab tea,” they called it.