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Saison

178 Townsend St. (3rd St.) Send to Phone
415-828-7990 | Make Restaurant Reservations | Menu
Saison makes the transition from the Mission to SoMa; its distinctive dining experience remains intact.
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Local Deals: 120 * 90

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Open
Dinner Tues.-Sat.
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Dining room at Saison, San Francisco, CA

Saison Restaurant Review

: Saison started out in 2009 as an elegant and unique pop-up restaurant, then transitioned a few years later to its permanent home in this historic SoMa building that survived the 1906 earthquake. The large, organic space presents no barriers between guests at the walnut tables and the chefs in the stainless steel kitchen. While one might expect this to be chaotic, on the contrary the setting is quiet and pristine, almost clinical. Diners are greeted by a stack of wood that feeds the hearth, which features prominently in the cooking philosophy of chef Joshua Skenes. The dining room only seats 18 --- all the better to preserve the quality of this gourmet gastronomic affair. The tasting menu rings in at $248 (plus another $148 or $248 for expert wine pairings). Although not easy on the wallet, it’s worth every penny. (For those looking for a more casual evening, the bar and lounge area offers a daily-changing à la carte menu.) A meal could start out with a glass of rhubarb soda to awaken the palate, followed by 17-20 courses. Interesting textures play out in a serving of caviar atop grilled chicken gelée, crowned with a crisp ribbon of roasted yam. Skenes achieves perfect harmony with simple ingredients. Abalone --- fresh from the fish tanks visible in the restaurant --- is roasted over embers and served with wild seaweed. Each course arrives on stunning and varied serving plates, along with whatever utensils are required (forks, chopsticks, etc.). However in the case of the salad of nasturtium and bitter vegetables, you actually use your hands to pick up the pretty petals. (Not to worry, washcloths are also provided.) Meanwhile, rice never tasted as good as in the notable dish of toasted grains and brassica in wild seaweed bouillon. Wood pigeon is complemented by the components of a cherry tree, including the fruit and a leaf, which was a bit tough. A tart made with Harbison cheese from Vermont may precede the beautiful and simple desserts. We were especially delighted by the white sesame soufflé with black sesame gelato, in which every flavor was in balance. Sommelier and co-owner Mark Bright oversees the ever-growing wine program. Of the 4,700 labels offered, 3,000 are Burgundy wines as they are considered to best complement the food, served in custom handblown stemware from Zalto in Austria. Craft beers and exclusive sakés are also offered. The service is top-notch, which is not surprising since many members of the staff, including general manager Patrick Ellis, have worked at The French Laundry. Such a comprehensive experience as Saison may not suit all diners, but we found it to be one of the best symphonies for the senses we’ve enjoyed in a long time.

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