best restaurant in San Francisco
This is what we get for not looking at the prices or the menu last Friday at Michelin 3-star Saison in San Francisco. Well, I knew it would be expensive but I was thinking maybe around $1,000, with the wine pairing. So, brace yourself. I’ll just get this detail out of the way right up front. That was the cost per person. But I look at this type of luxury as one of those things that doesn’t seem quite so outrageous when you’re being more economical in other ways. For example, we took the Capitol Corridor and BART to San Francisco from Sacramento. We did not stay at a 5-star hotel, instead opting for a corner suite at The Hilton.
Further, we’ll probably never spend this much on dinner ever again in our lives. Of course, I said that when we dined at Alinea in Chicago way back when. I also did not shoot photographs of every course because I was too busy forking, chopsticking and sipping. But I’ll give you the rundown of the tasting menu with wine pairing at 3-star Saison in San Francisco.
Our first course was a tiny bouquet with a remarkable fragrance that appeared after the waiter poured hot water on top of it and served it as tea. It didn’t have much of a taste but the aroma was incredible. Later, I used my tea to clean my fingers after tearing apart a spot prawn that was served after being introduced to heat for 30 seconds. The water just wasn’t fast enough with a wet towel. This was after my husband picked up the caviar spoon, held it over his eye, flipped it back and forth, asking, “Number one or number two,” like he was having his eyes examined. He is always this much fun, yes!
I loved the caviar and spooned every bit of sauce ladened with the salty morsels from the bottom of my bowl. The caviar was paired with Krug Grande Cuvée. The spot prawn paired with Donnhoff Kabinett Riesling.
This dish begged to be introduced like that Spanish ventriloquist from Ed Sullivan would say, “S-all, right!” Inside were small pieces of delicate crab in a delightful sauce that I immediately devoured, savoring bites alternating with the green vegetable. I imagine they reuse the crab shell over and over and have no idea how it survives a hot dishwasher. Both the crab and uni were paired with a soft sake: Yamada “Everlasting Roots” Tokubetsu Junmai.
My sister would adore this uni. There seemed to be a top note of caramel, which made me think it tasted like a salted nut roll. Because of this dish, I will now order uni at a sushi restaurant whereas previously, uni was a dish I would pass by.
The ratatouille was actually a bunch of small plates that we were encouraged to sample and then combine in any manner we saw fit. They were so delicious that we ate them all as quickly as possible, washing it down with a Nagelsforst Rosé from Baden, Germany. Following that, another favorite dish is the Black Cod with tasty fried skin. The presentation dish reminds me of pottery from Oaxaca. This dish was paired with a 2013 Domaine du Collier Summer Blanc.
Just when I thought things could not get any tastier than the Black Cod, the waiter presented us with this dish, beets prepared with bone marrow. The wine pairing was also a wine I must now possess: Freeman Pinot Noir “Aikido’s Cuvée” from Sonoma Coast, 2010. Every bite of the beet was chewy, and if I had been blindfolded, I would have sworn I was eating rare beef. I give this dish 5 stars.
We moved on to the pronghorn antelope, from two different parts of the animal. It was basted with a broth of the grilled bones. Paired with a Chateau Rauzan-Ségla, Marguax, Bordeaux 1996. When we initially sat down, the waiter asked if we had any allergies or preferences, and my husband told him I could not eat a dish that looked like the animal that it is. Well, that wasn’t the best description because I will eat lobster and shrimp, obviously. He meant I cannot eat quail when it is cut in half and looks like a bird. Also, after meeting an octopus in Hawaii, I can no longer dine on such an intelligent creature. Foie Gras? No problem, though. Escamole? Sure.
This ice cream did not melt. It didn’t seem to have the texture of ice cream, although I’m sure it was ice cream. It was more like a heavenly gift transported on magical angel wings. Sweet. Creamy. And the roasted pineapple lent a sweetness as well. This was served with a Chateau Rieussec Sauternes from Bourdeaux.
The finish to the meal was this custard type dessert served in a yuzu. There was a tartness to it that I did not relish, but that’s the only negative thing I have to say about any of the courses. It couldn’t have been that terrible since I devoured it as well.
This was our enchanted and excited faces prior to the first course at Michelin 3-star Saison in San Francisco. I obviously still cannot figure out the location of my camera lens on my cellphone, unlike Adam who knows how to stare right at it.
Saison was kind enough to call us a cab after we toured the kitchen and met some of the staff. Everybody was focused and on task, like a well-oiled machine. Much of the flavor for many of the courses is derived from the smokey grill.
Was the dinner worth the expense, you might ask? Yes, I believe so. Now, if somebody offers to take you to dinner somewhere in San Francisco, you know a good restaurant to recommend.
Photos: Elizabeth Weintraub