Veal Cheeks, our last before he ended his stay in the Bay Area. Saison has been on our to-visit list for a long time (since before it was a regular restaurant, if I recall correctly), and Gary has written favorably about his previous visit. As is our routine, we caught a late flight into town and rushed to make our 7.30 pm reservation, speeding through the light traffic on the road.
We (surprisingly) ended up being 10 minutes early, and were seated immediately. The environment at Saison is warm and inviting, bare and rustic but for a few flourishes - a large plant arrangement dominates the indoor seating area, whereas the oven and open hearth commands the attention of those seated in the outdoor section. Complimentary champagne was poured for the table, and after opting to order a single bottle of wine for the evening (a beautiful 2008 Meursault from Domaine Joseph Voillot), dinner commenced.
|Amuse 1A - Hearth-smoked reserve caviar|
|Amuse 1B - Flatbread|
Creme fraiche, sieved egg yolk, shad roe, gold leaf, foraged herbs
|Amuse 2 - Miyagi oyster|
Cucumber, lemon verbena espuma, olive oil
|Amuse 3 - Radishes|
Nasturtium honey and flowers
|Amuse 4 - Parsnip, carrot, egg, oxalis|
Radish was my second bite, more acidic than the last. Sweetness balanced by pepperiness in the two nasturtium elements. Again, elegantly prepared, though not quite reaching the heights of the oyster.
Finally, a layered shot. Parsnip puree underneath carrot puree, underneath a slow-poached egg and a cloud of oxalis. All this topped by a delicious parsnip crisp. Nicely balanced flavours, with the slightly tangy notes from the oxalis enhancing the natural sweetness of the root vegetables. I took issue with the texture of the purees, likening the considerable thickness of the liquids to baby food, but my opinion was not universally shared.
|Rice cracker, river vegetable, shrimp floss|
|"Flight of fish"|
Amberjack, lobster, horse mackerel, tuna belly, barrelfish, yelloweye snapper, sea bream
A dipping sauce (soy sauce mixed with bonito vinegar) was provided for the fish, but I found it unnecessary. The fish themselves had evidently been brushed or quick-cured in a mixture of olive oil and soy sauce, which was more than sufficient for flavouring - an interesting spin on the traditional Edo-mae sushi "tsuke" technique, although I'm not sure whether the kitchen intended to pay homage. The fish were good but not special, except for the three on the right. I found these to be outstanding in taste and texture - naturally magnificent, but made truly superlative by the glazing.
Toasted grains, bonito, egg, sea lettuce
|Summer vegetable aspic, crispy eggplant, avocado|
Yellow tomato granite, sweet corn pudding, fava beans, basil seeds
|Dungeness crab fondue, Santa Barbara uni, nasturtium leaf|
Meyer lemon cream, basil tarragon broth
|Poached spot prawn|
English peas, foraged greens
|Beef, onions, vinegar|
Honey lemon, berbere, yogurt
Digressions aside, these heartbreads were delectable with the complex sweetness of the honey, the slight gingery heat from the Berber spice, and the cooling tang of the yogurt. Again, a simple dish that did not need to rely on smoke and mirrors - it hid no flaws, and I savoured every bite.
|Lou Bergier Pichin, honeycomb, almonds|
|"Preserved lemon 1:19"|
Meyer lemon custard, lemon gelee, lemon sorbet, chrysanthemum flowers
|Milk chocolate in various forms|
Rice sorbet, soy salt, shiso foam, sesame
|Popcorn ice cream|
|Mignardises - Candied raspberries|
|The hearth at Saison|
2124 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 828-7990