Well, it finally happened…dining at San Francisco’s notoriously most expensive restaurant. Saison, a three Michelin starred restaurant near AT&T ballpark, has been on my radar for years but its steep price tag has kept me away.
Since my boyfriend had given my father a gift certificate to Saison last year, we thought it was finally the perfect time to dine here to celebrate his birthday! Since the gift certificate was only for one tasting menu, I paid for the rest of the bill.
Saison’s vibe is sleek and modern with an industrial cabin like feel with fur pillows, wooden tables and chairs with blankets, and leather bar stools. The open kitchen is stunning with stainless steel tabletops, copper pots dangling from the ceiling rack, and a wood fired oven. Across the kitchen and dining room, there’s a comfy lounge area with an impressive bar. Saison serves a multi course contemporary American tasting menu with a minimalistic touch using locally sourced ingredients where almost every course has some element that has been cooked over the wood fire giving a great complexity to the dish.
We were seated in a cozy corner table with a direct view of the open kitchen and were offered a complimentary glass of champagne before the tasting began. We were given the tasting menu at the end of the meal so each dish was a surprise.
The dining experience started off with a comforting light tea made with herbs from their garden that reminded me of chamomile.
The opening dish was the perfect pairing with the glass of champagne: caviar. On the bottom of the dish there was a creamy velvety leek custard drizzled with a buttery leek sauce topped with a heaping spoonful of briny caviar that’s been cured with smoked salt (might be the best caviar I’ve ever tasted). Accompanied by the caviar course were warm buttery golden Parker house rolls that were lightly glazed with pork fat. Eaten together=complete bliss.
After a very rich dish, the roasted root vegetable broth almost acted as a palate cleanser. The broth was served with a perfectly grilled piece of daikon (Japanese radish) with yuzu zest and jalapeño.
Next was the duo of lobster: small pieces of raw lobster tail with various herbs and three seasonings (horseradish/radish/yuzu/jalapeño mixture, citronette made from lobster shells, and a wakame citrus salt) and cooked lobster claw dressed in XO sauce (spicy seafood sauce used in Chinese cooking).
Following the lobster was one of my favorite dishes of the night, the battle creek trout, which was slightly smoked with a delicate cured texture topped with its roe and crispy skin chip swimming in an anise hyssop broth (an herb with an anise mint flavor).
Next was another highlight of the meal, the Japanese uni (sea urchin) liquid toast. This was outrageously good; a thick slice of soaked toast with a crazy umani flavor topped with a generous amount of creamy rich Japanese uni. I could have easily eaten ten of these.
This dish was light and refreshing after the previous unctuous bite. The radish course used all parts of the plant from the root to the stems and each component was prepared differently whether it was pickled, raw, fermented, or made into a gelée, drizzled with sweet clarified butter.
The black cod was cooked beautifully, soft and tender, with a crisp skin chip and served with a yogurt citrus dressing.
The last vegetable course, the barbecued celery root, was the most robust out of the vegetable dishes. Creamy purée with smoked pieces of celery root, and a crunchy celery root chip served with a light version of barbecue sauce and hot sauce on the side, garnished with various herbs.
The final savory course was the wood fired duck breast and duck innards roll utilizing all parts of the animal. The duck breast was served with a fried cherry leaf, a rich duck jus, and a delicious salty sour plum shiso condiment. While the duck tasted divine, the sinew was still attached (an inedible part of the meat) which was a technical flaw that shouldn’t happen at a restaurant of this caliber. The accompanying chicory leaf was grilled and stuffed with duck innards. Really flavorful.
Following the duck course, we received a duck bouillon made from the bones, garnished with fragrant blue sage.
As for the desserts, we started off with an outrageous smoked milk ice cream (super silky and creamy) sprinkled with cocoa nibs and salted caramel. Next, was the frozen orange with a velvety orange buttercream with fresh segments of orange on the bottom. After we had the fresh wild strawberries coated with a strawberry lacquer and served with sweet cream. I’ve never had a better tasting strawberry in my life. Lastly, we received a complimentary birthday dessert, the chocolate hazelnut caramel bar, which was rich and decadent.
The dinner ended with a buckwheat tea, a nice closure to an overall refined meal.
While every course was meticulously prepared using only the finest ingredients and superb technique, the price of the dinner was exorbitant in comparison to other three Michelin starred restaurants I’ve dined at (Enoteca Pinchiorri and Osteria Francescana). Therefore my rating is an 8/10.
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