Nom Nom Paleo

Eating Out (Not) Paleo: Saison (San Francisco, CA)

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I LOVE going out to eat — it’s hands-down my favorite way to celebrate a special occasion. Plus, if it’s a date night without the kids, it’s even more awesome because I can be a total potty mouth (which reminds my honey of why he first fell in love with me).

Dinner dates with just my husband are few and far-between these days, so I keep a running wish list of the latest and greatest restaurants to hit the San Francisco Bay Area. At the very tip-top of my list of places to try was Saison — and for good reason: Chef Joshua Skenes is one of the most innovative and exciting chefs around these parts.

Not only was he listed as one of The Chronicle’s Rising Star Chefs of 2010 and Food & Wine’s Top 10 Chefs of 2011, but he also likes to curse as much as I do. Just last week he cooked dinner for one of my culinary idols, Jacques Pepin, and Monsieur Pepin gave him mad props.

As a result, I was super-stoked to secure a reservation for our anniversary dinner and even more ecstatic that our seats would be at the chef’s table in the kitchen!

One of my favorite meals in recent memory was our dinner at Momofuku Ko — where we got to gawk up-close as our food was being meticulously prepared — and I knew this experience would be similar: casual atmosphere, delicious and innovative cuisine, and we’d be smack-dab in the middle of kitchen stadium! 

Full disclosure: Dinner wasn’t exactly Paleo (there were some grains, sugar, legumes, soy, and dairy that popped up on our plates) but I didn’t care. Sometimes, it’s well worth it.

Enough blathering from me — pictures really are worth a thousand words, so enjoy these tantalizing shots from our dinner…

Here’s the vantage point from our seats at the chef’s table:

Our meal started with smoked Osetra caviar…

…and a small crispy flatbread topped with egg white, creme fraiche, shad roe, foraged flowers, and gold leaf.

Then, we watched as the chef in front of us composed a trio of canapés… 

…raw oyster with olive oil…

…parsnip medley with parsnip puree, salmon roe, and parsnip chip…

…and a radish stack served with a nasturtium flower.

Follow the jump for more enticing food porn!

The next course was a Santa Barbara spot prawn prepared two ways…

…the head was deep fried…

..and the tail was served sashimi style topped with foraged flowers and lemon juice. The prawn was placed on top of a refreshing tomato gelee and granita.

Here’s the "brassicas" course: various roasted greens on top of toasted grains…

…with a sous vide quail egg in the center. A delicious bonito and brassica broth was poured over everything at tableside.

For the crustacean dish, we started out with a bowl of dungeness crab, uni, raw lobster tail wrapped in cabbage, and Meyer lemon cream…

…that the waiter topped with a flavorful shellfish broth.

Forgive me if my descriptions aren’t complete; I was trying my best to take notes on the sly while the waiter rattled off the components.

Our first meat course was Pasternack’s rabbit

 …where the bunny was served confited and combined with foie gras. It was served in a bowl of veggies that the bunny was raised on. Very circle of life, don’t you think?

Our final meat course was plated and described by Chef Skenes, himself…

…slow roasted crispy pork belly!

The perfectly cooked belly was served with corn pudding, peach, ume plum, and a porcini vinaigrette.

So good, it deserves another picture!

The cheese course was Lou Bergier Pichin piped into a beehive brioche and served with almonds and honey. I scarfed down all the cheese and left most (but not all) of the brioche. 

The first dessert course was a preserved lemon custard topped with cream and Chrysanthemum flowers.

The next dessert was milk chocolate with rice ice cream and soy salt. Totally not Paleo!

Then, we were served a piping-hot cup of green tea…

…along with some popcorn ice cream. The pairing of flavors (and contrasting temperatures) was surprisingly good.

Our final bite of the night was some “crispy” raspberries.

Awesome dinner. ‘Nuff said.


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