Dinner – Saturday, November 28, 2015
Another restaurant that we’ve been overdue for a return – in fact, this was our first meal at Saison since they received 3 Michelin stars at the end of 2014. I was curious about the food – I’d heard numerous reports about adjustments to the degustation (note the singular, down from a choice of two previously), making the overall tasting menu lighter. I was also interested in how they were handling desserts after the departure of Shawn Gayle. Like our dinner at Aubergine the previous night, it was also fun to experience the restaurant through the lens of a first-time visitor.
Infusion of herbs from the garden
An herb tea to stimulate the appetite – I recall Douglas fir, pea flowers, lemon thyme, and a fragrant Meyer-lemon infused water. Cleansing.
Saison reserve caviar, grilled leeks and its sauce
Smoky caviar and leeks – a meltingly creamy duo. They were served with an amazing Parker House roll, basted with lard – what a combination!
Radish, broth of grilled roots
Dried radish, braised and grilled, then served in a broth its cooking liquid. A daub of keffir lime and jalapeno underneath the radish brought the whole dish to life. Very clean, pure flavours – excellent.
Maine lobster, lightly grilled
Tomatillos, poached greens, seaweed salt
Battle Creek trout, its skin and roe
Hot-smoked trout, topped with roe and a perfectly crisped rectangle of skin. The texture was unearthly – one of my top dishes of the evening. A sharp sauce of vinegar and anise hyssop was brilliant, balancing the richness of the fish.
Fort Bragg sea urchin, liquid toast
Radishes, rice vinegar, clarified cultured butter
Shitakes stuffed with wild game, sauce royale
Brassicas blistered in the fire, cultured vegetable broth
Black cod, grilled over the embers
Sauce of yogurt and citrus leaves
Another fantastic fish course. The yogurt, infused with curry spices and coconut oil, worked perfectly with the tender cod.
Fire in the sky beet
A Bull’s Blood beet, dehydrated and smoked, then rehydrated – this process conferred a fascinatingly meaty texture. Liquified bone marrow fat was drizzled over the top tableside – very rich. The fat was countered by a smattering of pickled rose petals and a pool of aged vinegar. Strong flavours throughout, but nothing was overwhelmed.
Duck liver toffee
Aged duck, dipping sauce of shiso and salted plum
A surprisingly mild piece of duck breast, served alongside its liver, which was wrapped in charred chicory. I picked up more minerality from the vegetable than the fowl – an interesting turnabout.
Bouillon of grilled duck bones, radish blossoms
Our trifecta of duck concluded with a simple, intense broth made from its bones. This was special – I could’ve had bowls of it.
Smoked cow’s milk ice cream
Ember-infused caramel, cocoa nibs
Neither of us are fans of caramel at all, and yet! The intensity of the milk, and salt, and chocolate, and smoke! Truly, a terrific (and deceptively simple) dessert.
Citrus buttermilk sorbet, hojicha
Glazed wild strawberries, thickened cream
I’m happy to report that Saison is as good as ever. I am going to miss Gayle’s more composed desserts, but the continued focus on purity has paid off for the kitchen team here, throughout the menu. The progression of courses, alternating between lighter and heavier dishes, was much appreciated.
Satiety though, can be a fine line. As the menu is streamlined, are they at risk of guests leaving hungry? We are not big people by any measure, nor do we typically consume much meat. Yet I will confess to feeling some pangs at the conclusion of our meal. Perhaps it is time for Saison to take a leaf from the book of kaiseki, and offer diners an equivalent to the rice course?