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178 Townsend St. (3rd St.) Send to Phone
415-828-7990 | Menu
Chef Joshua Skenes achieves perfect harmony with simple ingredients at this distinctive dining experience housed in a historic SoMa building.

Dinner Tues.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

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Saison, San Francisco, CA

Saison Restaurant Review

About the restaurant and décor: 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 founder Joshua Skenes. The dining room only seats 18 --- all the better to preserve the quality of this gourmet gastronomic affair.

About the food: The multi-course menu served in the kitchen or salon rings in at $298 (plus beverage pairings). Although not easy on the wallet, it's worth every penny. (A five-course experience, priced at $148, is also available at the bar.) The team, led by chef Laurent Gras, tailors each meal to the diner's tastes and preferences, so there is no set tasting menu. An evening could start out with a hot infusion that utilizes herbs from Saison's garden, followed by Saison caviar cured and grilled in kelp. Perfect harmony is achieved with simple ingredients. Monterey Bay abalone is roasted over embers and served with wild seaweed, along with a sauce of its liver and capers. Each course arrives on stunning and varied serving plates, along with whatever utensils are required (forks, chopsticks, etc.). Occasionally, you might encounter a dish you're meant to assemble with your hands. (Not to worry, washcloths are also provided.) The parade of dishes might continue with barbecued quail legs and rare morsels of pronghorn antelope. The beautiful and simple desserts might include smoked milk ice cream with salted caramel and cacao nibs.

About the drinks: 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.
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