Complex, seasonal flavor profiles with an Asian influence while balancing refined and rugged culinary techniques.
San Francisco is known for having a diverse culinary scene. From 24-hour donut shops to Michelin 3-star restaurants, the city by the bay provides locals and travelers with dining experiences at every level. Foodies from around the world flock to Northern California to indulge in the rich adventure that is eating through the Bay Area. Many of these people come to eat at the many Michelin-starred favorites, including the well-known Saison.
In 2008, Joshua Skenes and Mark Bright set out to redefine modern American cuisine by blending complex, seasonal flavor profiles with an Asian influence while balancing refined and rugged culinary techniques. In the last decade, Saison has been awarded numerous accolades including the honor of three Michelin stars and being ranked at No.46 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
I visited Saison in November of 2017 and experienced their winter menu. Since then, there have been a few changes: the menu has taken a French twist since Laurent Gras was appointed to the position of head chef in February of 2019. Skenes and Bright have both taken behind-the-scenes roles in the Saison Hospitality Group. His background in French cuisine is driving the restaurant in an exciting new direction while preserving the core essence of Skenes’ and Bright’s original vision. The menu changes seasonally and Chef Gras has added his own French flare to the dishes. Even so, I will still describe a couple of my favorite dishes from my visit in 2017 to give you an idea of the essence and professional techniques that Saison has to offer.
The very first dish was sea kelp with Saison reserve caviar. This dish looks like a bowl of steamed spinach and I was not impressed when it was placed in front of me. From the first bite, however, I was shocked. I had never had greens that tasted so buttery and melted in my mouth. I finished my portion way too quickly and I had to watch everyone else eat their delicious kelp. Never underestimate the potential of a bowl of greens.
This dish is uni on liquid toast. Uni is sea urchin and is often used atop sushi. I’d never enjoyed uni before this dish, but this was the star of the entire experience. It was smooth and buttery and full of incredible textures. I don’t have enough words to describe how unreal it was. It was almost like an extremely elevated butter on toast that just melted in your mouth.
One of the many desserts was this hearth aged pineapple with its juices and custard ice cream. They brought out the entire pineapple beforehand to show it to us which was nice. At Saison, they made us feel involved in the culinary process which is something that I found refreshing. This dish was perfectly balanced with sweet and citrus flavors. My sweet tooth was delighted!
Some of the other dishes that were served include: roasted squab, wild elk, 72-hour slow roasted beat, fresh lemon sorbet, and a perfectly ripe persimmon.
The emphasis on using seasonal ingredients that are foraged or hunted is something that makes Saison stand out among other luxury dining experiences. Even though there have been a lot of recent changes, this emphasis remains central to the culinary doctrine at Saison.
If you’re a foodie visiting the Bay Area, you have to put Saison at the top of a very long must-eat list. This was my first time eating at a Michelin 3-star restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised. I knew the food was going to be impeccable, but it surpassed all of my expectations. The atmosphere was surprisingly comfortable and even casual. I cannot say enough good things about my experience; I hope to go back soon and maybe I’ll see you there!
Storrey has been to Saison once for a 15-course dinner.