Saison in San Francisco, at $248 per person, is one of America's most ambitious and expensive restaurants; a 17-course dinner for two, after wine pairings, tax and tip, will cost $1,020. The new SoMa District digs are expensive too, coming in at a cost of $3 million to Chef Joshua Skenes and his investors, who include Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Benchmark Capital's Peter Fenton, and angel investor Tim Ferris. Saison holds two Michelin stars and was ranked by Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton as America's second best new restaurant in 2013. 

Photograph by Bonjwing Lee/Saison

Saison in San Francisco, at $248 per person, is one of America's most ambitious and expensive restaurants; a 17-course dinner for two, after wine pairings, tax and tip, will cost $1,020. The new SoMa District digs are expensive too, coming in at a cost of $3 million to Chef Joshua Skenes and his investors, who include Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Benchmark Capital's Peter Fenton, and angel investor Tim Ferris. Saison holds two Michelin stars and was ranked by Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton as America's second best new restaurant in 2013. 

Photograph by Bonjwing Lee/Saison

Saison: The $1,000 Dinner

Multi-Million Dollar Digs
Multi-Million Dollar Digs

Saison in San Francisco, at $248 per person, is one of America's most ambitious and expensive restaurants; a 17-course dinner for two, after wine pairings, tax and tip, will cost $1,020. The new SoMa District digs are expensive too, coming in at a cost of $3 million to Chef Joshua Skenes and his investors, who include Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Benchmark Capital's Peter Fenton, and angel investor Tim Ferris. Saison holds two Michelin stars and was ranked by Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton as America's second best new restaurant in 2013. 

Photograph by Bonjwing Lee/Saison
Fruit Soda
Fruit Soda

Frothy Rhubarb soda, with elderflower blossoms and grapefruit, kicked off a summer meal at Saison. The sweet-sour treat whets the palate for the three-hour repast that follows. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Golden Custard
Golden Custard

Saison's turnip and sea urchin custard is a study in restraint, with subdued flavors that barely rise above a whisper. Gold leaf finishes the dish, "to celebrate the day," says a waiter. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Smoked Roe
Smoked Roe

Sterling Farms white sturgeon caviar gets the cold smoke treatment from almond wood, stifling the subtle flavors of the fine fish roe. No matter; the dish's grilled tomato gelee, okra and corn pudding could alone merit three Michelin stars. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Jacked Up
Jacked Up

Striped jack is aged for about 10-days in a cypress box, cured in cherry blossom salt and kissed with a coal. The crunchy, pickled radish comes close to overwhelming the delicate oils of the fish. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
King Salmon
King Salmon

Saison smokes pacific king salmon in a wood oven with anise hyssop, imparting the flesh with a custard-like texture. The roe of the fish is marinated in a broth of grilled bones and served on a potato crackling. Too bad the eggs don't have the same crystal-clear flavor as at say, Meadowood or elsewhere.   

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Abalone Stew
Abalone Stew

Saison's chefs gently cook rice in a broth of abalone liver and serve the resulting stew over a puree of wild nettles. The rice is firm; the nettles provide a hint of sweetness, and the coastal greens, bitterness. Gorgeous.   

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Tomato Time
Tomato Time

Skenes marinates sungold tomatoes with sardine-infused safflower oil and places the fruit in a shallow pool of grilled tomatillo consomee. That cool broth, in turn, is infused with more dried sardines. The result is a flawless preparation that fills the mouth with sweet, savory, acidic and fishy flavors.  

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Not-So-Bitter Greens
Not-So-Bitter Greens

Don't call it a salad, even though that's exactly what it is. Skenes takes wild radish blossoms, verjus-poached endive, ficoide glaciale, Queen Anne's lace, squash blossom filled with carrot puree, space ice plant, along with other curiously named flora and mists them with nasturtium honey and Meyer lemon. There are many such odes to France's Michel Bras throughout the culinary world, but Saison's ranks among the best.  

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Bread
Bread

Saison serves Parker House rolls brushed with raw butter as its bread course. Diners should eat as many or as few as they wish to regulate their individual satiety levels, as there are no real choices or supplements on the set-menu. 

Photograph by Bonjwing Lee/Saison
Candy Cod
Candy Cod

Skenes poaches black cod in seawater and serves it with a sauce of rangpur lime, yogurt and coconut oil. The flesh is so ethereal that its texture is closer to that of a chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard, than a fish. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Seaweed Soup
Seaweed Soup

The restaurant's brassicas is an impossibly complex seaweed soup with all the deliciousness of pork broth. Except it's vegetarian. The hearty preparation mixes puffed grains, kales, collards, Umbrian barley and wild rice with a bouillon made from bull kelp, sea lettuce and sea whip. The soup has more depth flavor than most dry-aged steaks. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Red Meat
Red Meat

Saison ages this Mendocino lamb for three months, slices it raw and serves it over slowly grilled eggplant and tomato. The crimson flesh is brushed with rendered lamb fats and a fish sauce. The scent is powerfully musky and concentrated, as if Old Spice aftershave were made from mutton. The actual taste of the lamb, however, is assertively sweet.  

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Ice Cream
Ice Cream

Raspberry marshmallow ice cream with lemon curd, mint and basil was the first dessert course during a summer dinner. The light, bright flavors pave the way for more robust sweets ahead. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Pigeon Sausage
Pigeon Sausage

Pigeon boudin is wrapped in chard leaves and steamed. The dish disappears in a few bites, a quick end to the meal's savory courses. Perhaps too quick. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
Buckwheat Two-Way
Buckwheat Two-Way

Skenes pairs buckwheat ice cream with buckwheat soufflé for the final, formal dessert. The earthy, Russian flavors contrast with the airy, French preparation. 

Photograph by Bonjwing Lee/Saison
More Buckwheat
More Buckwheat

The meal ends with buckwheat tea, because the other two buckwheat desserts weren't enough. The hot tea pairs perfectly with the caneles and other petits fours. 

Photograph by Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg
The Chef
The Chef

Chef Joshua Skenes in his kitchen at Saison in San Francisco. The restaurant's kitchen is responsible for about half of the venue's $3 million cost. 

Photograph by Bonjwing Lee/Saison