Chef Skenes in BlueAlmost 2 months have passed since I had my birthday dinner at Saison. I've been meaning to go over the pictures to relive my meal because I have been thinking about it since. My best friend told me a few weeks ahead she was going to surprise me for dinner. I was guessing for weeks because we've dined almost everywhere together in San Francisco. I mentioned Saison a few years ago when it was a pop up restaurant, only open on weekends. I work on weekends and never made it out to Saison during its pop-up tenure.
As my sister was driving towards the Mission area I thought we were going to Range. Not only did she make reservations at Saison but it was for the Chef's table. I was surprised and excited.
1.) Please excuse the poor quality pictures because I used my iphone camera and didn't want to take more than 1-2 photos per course so I didn't hold up the kitchen and also enjoy the surroundings and conversation.
2.) I don't remember every ingredient from the dishes as I did not ask for a menu and the online menu only mentions the main ingredient.
3.) Saison changed their Chef's Table format after Thanksgiving 2011 to a prepaid reservation system which includes wine pairing, tax and tip for $498. I dined right before the change, the chef's tasting menu was $250 and wine pairing $180. I did not opt for the wine pairing because I can barely handle one glass of wine before sounding like Ozzy Osbourne on a good day.
Carefully stepping onto cobblestones with heels and approaching the hostess podium in the quiet dining room we gave them our name and she escorted us through the kitchen. The contrast of utensils quietly clanging together and soft murmurs in the dining room from the bumping soundtrack of the kitchen, it felt like a different restaurant.
Fish coursesThe soundtrack. It is one of those soundtracks where I can sing-a-long to every song. Some Jackson 5, some Bryan Adams, some Mariah Carey, some Journey (because every soundtracks needs a little Journey) and just when I was thinking where is Tevin Campbell his song comes on.
Sommelier Mark Bright was thoughtful to fill our glasses with courtesy champagne for a toast before our first course. After exchange of sentences with exclamation points with my best friend and sister we noticed how calm and soft-spoken everyone was in the kitchen. Of course this isn't a diner where we hear people shouting, "Adam & Eve on a raft and wreck 'em" or reality TV where Gorden Ramsey is spewing profanity like it means unicorns and rainbows. The conversation between the cooks were barely louder than a whisper.
Oyster. Bread and ButterMy best friend, sister and I are usually very animated when we talk and maybe the two sous chefs in front of us noticed our restrained demure. He said we could ask them any questions and talk to them any time. My first question was where did they foraged their ingredients and he said it was a secret location he was unable to reveal.
Our meal began with 'eggs' unraveling in three courses from caviar to salmon roe to egg. Some of the next course followed in this pattern with two courses of oysters and 3 different types of fish course and so on...
My favorite dish of the night is the bluefin tuna tartare with a crispy cracker dusted with perilla. The dish was so sweet and tender and my only way to describe it is 'golden sweet' (金 甜) in Chinese. After the prelude of the tuna was my second favorite of the night, the bone marrow of the fish. Gelatinous and a bit oozy.
The bread was presented after our 8th course, much like French Laundry which helps with pacing. At that point, I didn't even eat the bread because I was afraid of feeling the law of diminishing returns. Of course it does not happen at Saison because usually at tasting menus I expect a sequence of fish, meat, and sweets but every course was an unexpected discovery.
Lotus Roots. Uni. Foie Gras. Deer. Mushrooms. Salad.There is a theme at Saison where most of the dishes are described as 'cooked over our embers' and 'foraged' by our chefs. Somewhat rustic but very clean and true. We started to talk about how 'embers' was repeated throughout our meal when we glanced to the left and watched a cook sear the fish with a coal. The coal clasped between a tong and quickly seared on the surface of the meat for 1 second, rotate, sear, rotate and sear. A labor intensive and detailed work for one dish. The dinner lasted over 2 hours but as each courses arrived it was love at first sight again and again.
We ended at 18 courses with popcorn ice cream. All the kernel goodness without any stuck in my teeth. Chef Skenes came over to ask if we had enough to eat. And yes, we did.
Since saison means seasons in French I hope to experience a meal there for every season. And maybe have a chance to try Skenes famous #days dried meat I see others experienced.
Saison was definitely one of my best meal in 2011.
Cheese. Lemon. Candied Raspberry Mignardises.*Dedicating this post to my best friend who made sure I had a wonderful birthday this year which we celebrated into the weekend in Las Vegas. Men come and go but girlfriends and (sisters) are forever.