HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

Saison 3.0 [San Francisco]

http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

I found it interesting that they're ditching the chef's counter after the move.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. It would be quixotic to have a "chef's counter" when by their own account the entire dining room will be in the kitchen.

    Can't wait to try it.

    1. Confusing and conflicting information about seating capacity. Inside Scoop piece says the current place has 18 seats, looked like more to me. The Eater post says 18 seats in the dining room and 12 at the bar at the new place with no increase in seating capacity. So are there 26 seats in the dining room now, or are they replacing the 4-seat chef's counter with a 12-seat bar?

        1. I saw Mark Bright, the sommelier, so I asked him about the bar. He said it's just for drinks. So one could go there for a drink and to check out the space without having to commit to a $500 meal.

          23 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Update on the bar: starting tonight they're offering a $48 canape tasting menu.

            http://sf.eater.com/archives/2013/02/...

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                A friend was there last night for the canape tasting menu, left hungry and went elsewhere for dinner. All the bites sounded lovely though.

                  1. re: drewskiSF

                    I had the $88 version the other day. Essentially a bunch of highly delicious one bite items that won't fill you up. I was expecting that, so no disappointment, but I wonder about the sanity of this kind of meal as a restaurant concept. You pay $88 just for the food and you still have to make plans for what to eat afterwards so that you don't go to bed hungry. It's even more aggravating because each of those bites are so delicious that they make you crave for more and when the meal is over, you feel like you could have gone on eating for another hour.

                    1. re: nocharge

                      Yeah, at that price it might just be better to bite the bullet and eat the whole $248 dinner which to me is a pretty damn good deal for the amount and quality, AFAICT from what I was served.

                      1. re: nocharge

                        How can you spend $88 plus drinks and tax and tip and leave hungry? This makes no logical sense to me. Lay out a C-note and then have to plan where to eat afterward?

                        1. re: budnball

                          I wasn't exactly hungry at the time I left the restaurant, but it clearly wasn't enough food for the evening. I later ended up having an entree at another restaurant.

                          1. re: budnball

                            If I'm not on a budget, I can easily spend $88 or more on drinks and a light snack or two at any good wine bar. I don't think of that as a meal, I think of it as going out drinking. I figure Saison's just doing a more upscale version.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Yeah, except in this case, the $88 didn't include any wine. We probably spent over $200 per person with the wine, tax, and tip. Also, the items served are not random snacks -- the flow of courses is similar to what you would expect from a tasting menu except that each course is one bite. So if you go elsewhere to eat afterwards, you might end up having an entree after just having had dessert.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                Huh. So for $88 you basically get a canapé version of a tasting menu? How many?

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I lost count, but it was probably around 10, most of which could be eaten with a single bite.

                                  1. re: nocharge

                                    I am not trying to be a hater but what kind of business model is that? I can drop a $100 on a night's drinking also but usually it's closer to even on food and booze if not weighted more to the liquid side. At $48 I was tempted, but at $88 i am baffled. Sounds like the economy is booming somewhere.

                                    1. re: budnball

                                      Dinner at Saison is $248 (before drinks, tax, and tip) for around 20 courses, some of which are just a bite and most of which are no more than a few bites, so $88 for ten bites seems like similar pricing.

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8178...

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I guess that it will be one of those places I will read about and never enter. One of many.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Is it worth it? This is like what you pay at EMP. Maybe its priced this way just because there are people who will pay? But this kind of price might lead to the conclusion that this is the best restaurant in the city. Is it?

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            If you assume that the quality of the ingredients for the canapé menu is similar to that of the dining-room menu, but at a fraction of the cost, it would be reasonable to assume that the amount of canapé food you would get would be a fraction of the dining-room amount. I have no problem with the amount of food assuming that customers know what they are getting into. I'm just intrigued by the idea of the canapé menu in general and whether the concept is a viable one.

                                            1. re: nocharge

                                              88/person is a pittance.

                                              I would happily pay that amount for a 10 course "canapé" taste menu at Saison.

                                              It's more than just about the food (or the quantity); it's also about the experience.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Completely agree with ipsedixit. With these types of meals, it is not only about the food; the whole experience at Saison is great, I enjoyed my meal here MUCH more than my meals at EMP, Le Bernardin, French Laundry, and even Benu. I honestly think the $248 is really very fair for what you get and I'd imagine the $88 menu would be equally fair.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Our experience was very good, but partly because we had the right expectations. The risk with this kind of menu is that some customers will expect a full meal for $88 -- there are always restaurant goers with unreasonable expectations -- and will leave disappointed. Next time I go, I'll probably have the full $248 menu that makes a lot more sense to me and which I haven't tried in the new location. I like the idea of small bites in the lounge but would much prefer ordering them a la carte than dealing with a fixed menu that's kind of an awkward fit for a meal.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Today Tasting Table featured the bar's ala carte menu. Eight dishes available.
                                http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_det...

                          2. anybody been to the new the place yet?

                            1. Could someone tell me what a "chef's counter" is?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Plumsted

                                Usually it's counter seating in or looking into the kitchen. The old place had four seats at the back of the kitchen.

                              2. Thank you..............I'd like that experience!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Plumsted

                                  Here's a topic from a couple of years ago about places with chef's counters:

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/704395

                                2. Thank you my dear...........are they still relevant?

                                  1. They'll be open by Feb 13 right? I have a resy and I'm flying from across the country. I'd like to know if I need to make alternate plans.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Sorry prcentauri., I'm also flying across country for a week long visit to SF, and am just trying to get more info.......

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Plumsted

                                        I have a reservation Tuesday Feb 12th. I'll report back how my evening went.

                                          1. re: PorkyBelly

                                            *Currently* $298, "due to the addition of a course featuring truffles. Once the truffles are gone, the price will drop back to its original level" ($248).

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Still $298 and doesn't look like it's going down. Does that mean they're going to have truffles all year long, or was this truffle thing just a guise to increase the price?

                                              http://thebaddeal.com/post/4870191759...

                                              1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                Sounds from that interview like he's sticking with $298. He said food cost is still 40% so maybe he's just found some more insanely expensive ingredients.

                                          2. I found Bauer's review in today's Chronicle interesting. Four stars for the food but three stars overall due to two stars for service and atmosphere. Given how well known it is that he hates not being seated right away and his obvious readiness to ding restaurants where he feels ever so slightly mistreated, it would be interesting to know why they didn't seat him right away. Given the perfectionist nature of the restaurant, you'd think that the staff would have recognized him and be familiar with reviews like
                                            http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/art...
                                            I wonder whether it was a case of not recognizing him and his preferences or a deliberate decision to treat him like any other customer. If the latter, the restaurant should be applauded for having more balls than I think a lot of restaurants would have.

                                            I do think Bauer has a valid point about the attitude of the chef being more my-way-or-the-highway rather than the-customer-is-king, but that is hardly news. However, the two stars for service is ridiculously misleading. As long as you don't get your ego bruised by not getting seated right away or by the big-ego-chef non-substitution policies, the service is highly professional and more or less in line with the quality of the food.

                                            Addendum: I felt the the service in their Mission District location was well-meaning but very amateurish. Yet Bauer still gave it three stars. They have tightened it up to the more robot-like perfection (as opposed to clueless) you would associate with a two Michelin star place, but Bauer still took away a star for service. Interesting!

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: nocharge

                                              I was there last week (I haven't written it up yet) and was also seated after about fifteen minutes at the bar, but it made total sense to me: as a solo diner, I'd have been the only person in the entire place at 6pm! When they did seat me, it was at the communal* table with a couple and another single, and it was much more comfortable that way.

                                              They batched our dishes until about 3/4 of the way through, at which point the other solo diner was ahead, so they split the platings and did him first. I thought that was very accommodating of them.

                                              I used the lot over at Safeway on 4th and walked over. It was a piece of cake compared with parking over in Mission.

                                              Regarding the menu, they call a few days ahead to confirm the reservation, and along with the usual questions about dietary restrictions, they specifically ask if you want to know anything about the food.

                                              * I don't think that table is actually always communal, but it worked to great effect that night.

                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                My wife and I just ate there over the weekend. The food, service, and space was amazing...better than at the old location. We did a wine pairing, and in a couple cases they added a bit more wine to our glass to ensure we could fully enjoy it with upcoming course. Service was perfect - professional and precise, while at the same time being really friendly. Also, the cocktails were amazing. Bauer loves cocktails and clearly did the review before Saison had their full liquor license. A shame. Maybe if Bauer had a couple of the cocktails before his meal, he would have gotten his buzz on, relaxed, and enjoyed the experience.

                                                1. re: ak45

                                                  How are the tables arranged? Are there certain tables with a better view of the kitchen than others?

                                                  1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                    I hate to give him the clicks, but this picture from Bauer's review shows the best tables in the house:

                                                    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/wp-co...

                                                    The table in the center is where I sat and offers a great view of everything, and especially of pastry chef Shawn Gawle's station. For an entirely unobstructed view, there are three tables on the left side of the photo that face the kitchen, the furthest of which is next to the fish tank.

                                                1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                  Yeah. I hang my head in shame that the NY Times writes a fair and insightful review when our local critic flamed out so miserably. They actually highlighted the same issue of inflexibility, but Bauer sounded like a kid who didn't get his lollypop (valet parking), where Pete Wells offers a commentary on how lack of compromise takes you to unexpected places - as a theme of the restaurant, including the minimal menu. Well done, Mr Wells.

                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                    Sounds like the old chef's counter was the right choice over the dining room. No draft, food served by the cooks, wine served by Mark Bright. Everyone was really nice and seemed to be having as good a time as we were.

                                                    Oh yeah, the lame music. I forgot about that. The musical equivalent of Tang and Pop-Tarts.

                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                      I fail to see how lack of compromise about valet parking takes you anywhere except the local garage. Which I guess could be considered an "unexpected place" -- but not in a good way. It's one thing to be uncompromising about the food, and another to be oblivious to your customers' service needs.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Wells didn't say anything about valet parking.

                                                        Saison serves only a tiny number of parties per night. Locals who get the wine pairing and sensible tourists will take cabs or other public transportation. There's a garage half a block away, so many people would use it rather than pay extra for valet service. So the number of cars per night a valet would park is probably way too small to justify the expense.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          No, bbulkow mentioned it in putting down Bauer's complaints. And heaven forbid someone not dine in a restaurant in the prescribed Robert Lauriston way!

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            If you don't get the wine pairing at Saison, you'll be missing half the fun (personal opinion). If you get it, you will be way over the legal limit to drive (fact).

                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Most people I know who would spend Saison kind of money on a dinner would expect there to be valet parking in front of the restaurant and not having to figure out that there is a parking garage half a block away. And they would hardly blink at spending money on valet parking for a dinner that costs hundreds of dollars per person. Moreover, that parking garage may not have availability on nights when the Giants have home games and even if it does, it will cost you an arm and a leg to park there or anywhere else near AT&T park.

                                                            The lack of valet parking wouldn't bother me personally since I would take Uber anyway, but I think it's a legitimate issue.

                                                      2. re: PorkyBelly

                                                        I just finished reading all the comments, everyone's so negative.

                                                        1. re: sparkerly

                                                          There was at least one good comment:

                                                          "I'm sorry, but no meal is worth ... having to sit through Phil Collins music."

                                                          Though I had such a good time otherwise (at the old place) that I had forgotten about the lame music by the next day.

                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8178...

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            I really liked the personality of the old place, and embarrassingly I kind of enjoy the music they play. It's something different to listen to from what I usually hear anyway!

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              I liked his choice of music :P

                                                              But it's the first time I've ever _noticed_ the music at a place like this: I can't for the life of me remember what they played at, say, TFL, and maybe for some people it's just better if it's muzak that you can filter out...

                                                              1. re: stravaigint

                                                                Most upscale tasting-menu places don't have music in the dining room, though they might in the kitchen. At Saison, those are the same room.

                                                                Funny, the comments about the music on Yelp are all positive.

                                                          1. re: smatbrat

                                                            So the tasting menu is back down to $248 now? I was just there two weeks ago when the menu was $298, ostensibly due to truffles being on the menu. I received no truffles and actually six fewer courses when I dined there last year.

                                                            I enjoyed the food at my recent dinner, but at $298 with no truffles and fewer courses, I feel ripped off.

                                                            1. re: smatbrat

                                                              I personally loved my first meal at the Chef's Table in Saison 2.0 and am heading back to see V3.0 in just a few weeks.

                                                              Skenes is one hell of a chef, but I think his personality really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. It will be interesting to see how the place has evolved and whether it still seems as great a deal this time around.

                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                            2. Bauer has bumped it to four stars.

                                                              Changes include valet parking, a little redecorating, asking about dietary restrictions, and a choice of two menus, $248 and $398, plus $248 for the optional wine pairing (not reviewed). No mention of music.

                                                              http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/din...

                                                              11 Replies
                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                A very justifiable upgrade in my opinion. Some of the complaints in the previous review were stupid to say the least. One can always argue whether a place deserves 3.5 stars or 4 stars, etc. But I'm happy with the upgrade. Well deserved regardless of the music.

                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                  Anyone have comments on the $248 menu vs the $398 menu? We have reservations in a few weeks and I am not sure which menu to get. In most cases I would go with the longer menu so as to not cheat myself out of the full experience. In this case I am hesitating because the longer menu is a whopping $150 more per person.

                                                                  1. re: felice

                                                                    So i've gone to Saison 3 times for the past month pretty much. I tried the discovery menu once ($398), and the $248 twice.

                                                                    Honestly, Saison is really my favorite restaurant right now and if you loved your last meal there then I recommend trying the discovery menu once in your life if expenses won't be THAT big of a deal. If you do the wine pairing and add the truffle supplement - expect to spend about 2k though.

                                                                    I will say that the $248 was wonderful as well so it's up to you and what you really want.

                                                                    I can take a picture of the menus if you'd like for an idea

                                                                      1. re: sparkerly

                                                                        Yes, a picture of the menus would be great. If there are significantly more courses, I wouldn't want to miss out. At both Alinea and Atelier Crenn, I've sat next to tables that ordered the abbreviated menu when I've ordered the extended menu, and there were usually at least 2 or more courses that were utterly incredible that were not present on the shorter menu.

                                                                        On the other hand, if it's purely a supplemental addition of certain "luxury" ingredients as barleywino pointed out, then I can pass. I rarely go for the upgrades, since they aren't necessarily more delicious than easier to obtain ingredients.

                                                                        1. re: felice

                                                                          Alinea no longer offers an extended menu. Same menu, every table, every night - occasional supplement courses such as white truffles.

                                                                        2. re: sparkerly

                                                                          Compare and contrast to Atellier Crenn ?

                                                                          I'm less interested in the Alinea comparison, since they're a tad further away.

                                                                          1. re: sparkerly

                                                                            Did you mean to type 1k or 2k with the discovery menu and wine pairing? I'm amazed that the truffles "supplement" are not inclusive with the $398 menu but an added expense. What kind of damage does that run to bring the total up to 2k per person?

                                                                            $398 + $250 = $650 (approx. $700 w/ tax + 20% = $830)

                                                                            I'm going to assume you were calculating for 2 people, right? Surely the addition of truffles can not ring up an extra $1,200.

                                                                            PS - No matter how great the kitchen at Saison is, no other restaurant in the United States will ever compare with EMP in my books. The lofty and expansive sunbathed dining room looking outwards to the park accross Madison Ave. from that historic deco Flatiron building are reason enough alone. There's no more perfect setting for a meal than EMP on a sunny afternoon; especially in springtime.

                                                                            1. re: OliverB

                                                                              Saison's prix-fixe used to include service charge and tip, is that not still the case?

                                                                              TFL charged a $150 supplement for white truffles last I heard. They're out of season so that should not be relevant.

                                                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                                                Oh! Woops sorry, I meant 2k for two people. We had the supplement and two cocktails added.

                                                                                Anyway, I can't seem to find the discovery menu (i'll keep looking) but here's a picture of the recent standard one.

                                                                                 
                                                                            2. re: felice

                                                                              The more expensive tasting has ingredients like birds nest, A5 wagyu, more caviar and truffle, which add to the expense. Unless you're a fan of those specific ingredients, youre probably just as well off with the cheaper tasting.

                                                                        3. has anyone who has gone since they opened in the new space found them more accommodating of dietary restrictions or are they still unwilling to do accommodate pescatarians or vegetarians?

                                                                          17 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tjinsf

                                                                            i would find that very surprising since all but 2 of the courses i had there were pescatarian-friendly

                                                                            1. re: barleywino

                                                                              You can be surprised but when I've gone in the past locations they have been unwilling to accommodate dietary restrictions. They have also used meat based sauces/bases in fish and seafood dishes. Did you ask for accomodations If you don't eat land creatures and you are spending 250 dollars then you don't want to skip two or more courses.

                                                                              1. re: tjinsf

                                                                                I thought they were a bit overpriced anyway. I think Crenn offers vegetarian tastings. Maybe Kusakabe would be another option. Funny story: when I was at the bar at Saison, I overheard a diner tell the waiter that he didn't eat seafood and could they accommodate him? They said no. He stayed anyway for his wife. Boy was he in the wrong place.

                                                                                1. re: barleywino

                                                                                  Creen is great, I've been many times both for vegetarian and none. I had heard they were more accommodating at the new location and haven't gotten a clear answer from them in the past. The food at Saison is excellent in my experience.

                                                                                  1. re: tjinsf

                                                                                    So you ate at saison even though they didn't accommodate your dietary restrictions?

                                                                                    1. re: barleywino

                                                                                      I don't have dietary restrictions myself. I eat everything! Sadly the spouse is pescatarian and some of my clients are gluten free, celiac, non-pork eaters and all sorts of things and I tend to eat out with them. I did go with one person who had restrictions but the restaurant knew he was going in advance and they bent over backwards for him as they were fans. But when I've gone with other people they stuck to their policy of no changes. I'd like to take my spouse.

                                                                                2. re: tjinsf

                                                                                  My wife doesn't eat red meat but isn't a vegetarian either (she makes exceptions for salami and cured meats, strangely. cheese and charcuterie plates are her guilty pleasure in life). She won't eat beef, lamb, pork (I know it's not red meat... I'm trying to work on this with her!) and any other game meats. If something's out of this world, like the duck at EMP, I can get her to *taste* it, but she otherwise doesn't eat any red meat or fowl, other than free-range chicken. Not sure what to call it, but she has her own "rules". She eats anything that comes from the sea though. Would this present an issue at Saison? She obviously has no problem with meat based sauces... she'll regularly pick the sausages off my pizza, much to my chagrin, and eat away... or work her way around the meat in pasta dishes that I order. Would she not do well at Saison?

                                                                                  1. re: OliverB

                                                                                    She will probably be fine at Saison. Most of the menu feels pescetarian - mainly pristine vegetables and seafood. There's only about two or so red meat courses (like wood pigeon, aged beef, or perhaps the duck liver toffee), and yes they are out of this world! I certainly respect your wife's personal rules, though if there's one place in the US for which she will consider making an exception, perhaps Saison can be that place. The entire menu is so strong from top to bottom, however, and some of the most haunting dishes for me sounded like simple vegetable-based dishes (like poached tomato, safflower oil, grilled tomatillo consomme or corn pudding, tomato gelee, caviar). Even if she chooses not to eat red meat, I think she'll have a lot to enjoy still.

                                                                                    Regarding accommodations, I found Saison to be very gracious with small requests. Of course I would not ask them to fundamentally change their nightly menu or make big sweeping exclusions. With that said, when they stated at their previous location that they could not make accommodations, out of respect for the chef and his menu I did not ask them to change things up for me. When I saw that they would now consider some dietary restrictions, I was thrilled and I'm really glad that they now do so.

                                                                                    I think that if you go, you'll have an incredible time. The flavors, textures, pairings, and progression of things are just so on point. Their staying true to their ethos of using the fire to touch every dish results in food that is pure yet complex. It is, in Japanese terms, "shibui," and it's entirely consistent with its subtle nods to Japanese ingredients and kaiseki-like progression (more so than any other US restaurant invoking such principles, in my opinion). Saison's building is cool and inviting, and while it may not compare to EMP's magic environment, I think the cooking may win you over!

                                                                                      1. re: kyee87

                                                                                        what were the small requests that they were gracious about for you?

                                                                                      2. re: OliverB

                                                                                        I haven't eaten at the new location yet. My experience going with people that had any dietary preferences is that unless it was an allergy, it was the chef's choice whether he would accommodate it. One time he was very accommodating, another time not at all. I've only been 6 times so it's not a huge sample but it's been pretty consistently inconsistent. He is focusing more on seafood now so...

                                                                                      3. re: tjinsf

                                                                                        They were accommodating with my pescetarian g/f at the old location.

                                                                                        A couple of completely different dishes for meat / poultry main dishes and ingredient sub's on several others.

                                                                                        I let them know when I made the reservation and got no push back.

                                                                                        1. re: drewskiSF

                                                                                          Thanks for sharing your experience.

                                                                                    1. re: tjinsf

                                                                                      Bauer said they asked about dietary restrictions. That's new.

                                                                                      I think only two of the 28? courses I had a couple of years ago included meat.

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                        yeah I saw that but I haven't heard regular diners being asked that and I've never been asked before except allergies.

                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                            Clearly as I've stated many times, I have asked them and have been given contradictory info. Also I have had different experiences even at the old location where they said they didn't make accommodations and they did for some guests. They no longer state that on the website. I am asking for personal experiences from other diners which I believe is the purpose of this forum.