Restaurants Now: Saison

saison restaurant

Epitomizing haute French technique while remaining aggressively casual in tenor, Saison might be the consummate San Francisco fine dining experience. At this pop-up, which materializes only on Sunday nights, some diners are seated more or less in the heart of the restaurant’s industrial kitchen, beneath unforgiving fluorescent lights, while others are led to a more subdued dining room. Those at the counter can peruse the collection of French culinary literature (Bras, Robuchon) that separates diners from cooks. Chef Joshua Skenes and partner and wine director Mark Bright describe the Saison experience as “rustic luxury” and aim to simplify the experience of fine dining, allowing their sustainably and locally sourced foodstuffs to stand out. This respectable ambition can, however, be obscured by their focus on French techniques and preparations (few vegetables, lots of butter). But there is still much to recommend this unique experience, which costs $70 a head, with a carefully considered wine pairing for another $40. A shot glass filled with tomato gelée, tiny melon balls, and a peeled cherry tomato was a perfectly balanced essence of gazpacho. Crème fraîche and caviar topped a Marin Sun farm egg cooked sous vide. A lovely sand dab followed, served in a fragrant lobster broth brightened with lemon basil. A soupy sea urchin “cassoulet” was a bit confounded, covered in smoked foam and full of broccoli florets and croutons. We were too full to negotiate a rich squab dish, but how could we not be seduced by a tart of caramelized figs, swooning under a scoop of fennel-flecked ice cream?

Saison 2124 Folsom St., San Francisco (415-828-7990;

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