A startlingly gorgeous dish presents itself with a whisper of explanation: “This is our vegetable crudité of foraged greens, dressed with fermented anchovy and Meyer lemon and topped with fried mermaid’s hair and kelp. We invite you to eat this with your fingers. Dig around—you’ll find an Iberico ham fat raviolo at the bottom.” In as much as one can categorize the ever-evolving and enigmatic style of chef-owner Joshua Skenes’ food, this is the same cuisine, meticulous service, and performance one expects at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Saison. The digs, however, are enjoying a delicious upgrade.
Inside SoMa’s historic Electric Light Building—a red brick beauty with a soaring ceiling and snug, curvy booths in an intimate lounge—Saison spreads the wealth in visual lusciousness. Soft throw blankets drape the seatbacks. Impossibly delicate mouth-blown Austrian wine glasses have the restaurant’s name etched on each stem. And the tableware is so striking as to challenge each comestible tenant to a beauty contest. The sumptuousness is palpable here, but does not overshadow the main attraction: a kitchen—as open as one can be—that any cook would kill for.
The focused hustle and precision of Skenes and his team is akin to open heart surgery (never mind the curious audience and a soundtrack of Hall & Oates). The hearth is the heart of it all, in both location and function—the embers of its fire imparting charred flavor to “coal-kissed” blue sea-winged robin. A succulent rib eye is thrust into its flames to sear, then removed repeatedly over the course of 90 minutes, cooking to tender perfection.
With a bill that’s equally meaty and the likes of Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese Food) sitting at the next table, one could call Saison a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But the decadence is easy and the food spectacular, making this fine dining adventure well worth coming back—even if only for a sake cocktail at the bar.
This article was published in 7x7's April issue. Click here to subscribe.