SAISON (update), San Francisco, 7/7/23

entrance – 178 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107

SAISON had been a favorite restaurant of ours for years but had gradually drifted away from yummy so we haven’t been back since 2016.  The introduction of a new team lead by Chef Richard Lee sparked our curiosity and so we decided to re-visit and are so glad we did.  They still stress open hearth cooking and the use of local products all while expanding their wine list.  The space is the same with well-spaced polished wood large tables with music in the background.  The walls of brick and piles of wood give it a softer feel than the large open and modern kitchen that takes up one end of the space, which is the show people come to see.  The other end is the bar with an abbreviated menu. Chef Richard Lee led a large team of chefs, each with different assigned tasks, and coordinated the serving the same tasting menu to all of the guests.   It’s about a 2.5-hour meal and they do turn the tables.  Wine pairings are available and a supplemental A5 Wagyu is offered when booking.  They were dropped to 2 Michelin Stars a couple of years ago but with the level of service and the quality of the meal, I can see that third star back in their pocket soon.  It’s pricey but if you can go it is once again well worth the money.  At the end of the meal, you will receive a menu.


Frankie checked out the table candle and flowers



Farm Tea infusion with fermented honey started the tasting.  It was warm and mild with shades of lemon in the flavor.

Farm tea infusion
Frankie sniffed


Caviar was wrapped in coastal seaweeds.  The White Sturgeon caviar was from Wilton, CA where they specialize in sustainable product growth.  Plus being local they are able to supply caviar without the additives often found in imported varieties.  In the serving bowl was some spinach that had been poached in seaweed butter and it was combined with the caviar that was unwrapped tableside.  It had a slight smokiness to the flavor and the eggs were soft and silky on the tongue.  Intense flavors here and all good.  A fabulous start.

presentation of caviar
removing from the seaweed


Dungeness Crab was presented in 3 ways – on lettuces with citrus, fried with spring garlic and black cardamom and the broth of its shells.  We were fortunate to enjoy the last days of their crab supplies that were live that morning, as it goes out of season soon.  The first plate included large chunks of delicious crab with tender lettuce, hearts of palm and citrus. It was fresh and light while still packing beautiful flavor.

Frankie talked to the chopstick rest swan
crab with lettuces, citrus

Midway through this plate they brought warm crab stuffed in a delicate, thin fried wrapper with a spring garlic creamy dipping sauce.  It was a good bite but hard to compete with the first presentation.  Then the broth made from the shells, is mixed with black cardamon.  It was like drinking liquid crab and you wanted to savor every drop.

crab fried with spring garlic
crab broth of shells


Black Cod was with geoduck and succulents after being cooked lightly over the embers.   A sauce of the bones was under it all with some fennel.  The skin on the perfectly cooked fish was well-crisped.  It was very savory with a divine texture.  This one was plate-licking good.

black cod


Hokkaido sea urchin was on grilled sourdough bread.  This had been on the menu before but they’ve taken a lot of the grease out of the bread and allowed the fine flavor of the uni to work with the bread.  The bread had a perfect crunch to the exterior which was marvelous when paired with the soft urchin.  The temperature contrast was great too, with the urchin quite cool but the bread warm.  This was to be eaten by hand and could have left you with messy fingers but mine were well licked off and didn’t really need the warm wet cloth they brought.

sea urchin, grilled sourdough
from the top
Chef Lee at work


Nectarine was with fennel, elderflower and quince.  The quince and nectarine were compressed and enhanced with some nectarine broth and almond oil.  The sweetness of the fruit was exquisite.

nectarine, fennel and elderflower
Lovely and friendly Molly Green, Beverage Director, and Frankie


A hot biscuit was with their own cultured butter.  Amazing texture and flavor to such a simple item but the biscuit was great and really didn’t need any butter.  The timing needed to deliver these items to your table in the midst of a tasting, at their peak, is a feat in itself.

biscuit with butter
filling butter dishes


Rabbit was with peas and morels in 3 forms.  On the left was rabbit belly, the middle was a loin slice and on the right was a morel stuffed with rabbit blood sausage.  Another amazing course.  The belly was so delicious – perfectly crisped and just enough fat rendered to leave plenty of flavor yet not dry it out.  The sweet fresh peas adorning the loin slice went grandly with the moist tender meat.  The morel was also wonderful with another take on rabbit preparation and explosive flavor.

rabbit 3 ways
rabbit belly
loin with peas
sausage in morel


A case of knives was presented next and you chose one to use for the Liberty duck which was presented in several ways – roast breast, hearts and gizzard, and duck sausage in a nasturtium leaf.  The duck was from Sonoma and dry-aged for 14 days before roasting.  It was a perfect medium rare and very tender without even a hint of liver in the marvelous flavor.  The bones had been roasted and then used to create a sauce to go with the meat.  It came with a bowl of cucumber slices that were to be eaten in between to refresh your palate.  A lovely combination.  Duck sausage was in nasturtium leaf and was also great.  It was nicely flavorful.  Lastly was the heart and gizzard which were perfectly prepared.  I don’t remember what they did but I really enjoyed both.

knife choices
Frankie admired our choices
duck with sauce and cucumber
duck sausage in leaf, heart and gizzard
duck sausage in nasturtium leaf
heart and gizzard


We did sign up for the Wagyu supplement that was in a sauce of its bones.  It was a piece of A5 Miyazaki Wagyu, which is the best available in my opinion.  It was a chunk from the shoulder cap meat presented with a sauce of mushrooms.  The plate also held a grilled baby squash.  The squash was not good but the beef exploded with flavor and juice on each bite.  The layers had a bit of chew to the meat but when it has this much fat it doesn’t turn to dry cardboard in your mouth.  It was a nice portion of rich, beefy flavor.

wagyu and sauce of bones
another angle
Chef Rich Lee


Berries were 3 plates of sweets – strawberry and fig leaf, mulberry and golden sesame and blueberry with goat’s milk and lavender.   The strawberry was two layers of intense great flavors, with a beautiful color.  The blueberries were with a goat’s milk sorbet that was smooth and cool and a perfect accompaniment for the deep blueberry flavor of the whole berries and sauce.  The golden sesame was like a cream puff topped with mulberries with a creamy custard filling.  It was a lesser offering.  Finally there were lavender cookies, short and filled with butter for a perfect crisp and flavor.  Yummy.

strawberry and fig leaf
from the side
from the top – look at that gorgeous color
blueberry and goat’s milk ice cream
lavender cookie
golden sesame
Frankie found flowers in the bathroom


Buckwheat tea came with a canelé or as the server described it, rum cake.  It came with toasted buckwheat cream to dip into, but the canelé didn’t need dipping – it had a perfect exterior crisp with a gooey center and a divine flavor.   The tea was fine but the cake was a spectacular way to end a fine meal.

buckwheat and canelé
buckwheat tea
Frankie checked out the wood decoration


They sent a parting gift of chocolate covered bar with caramel and some ingredients to make our own infusion at home.  The caramel bar was lovely.  Haven’t tried the tea.

parting gift
parting gift
Fabulous Chef Rich Lee and Frankie

4 thoughts on “SAISON (update), San Francisco, 7/7/23

    1. Thanks! Changed it to messy which is more appropriate since this could have left the eater with mess on their hands but I was too busy licking mine clean, discretely of course.

    1. If I could remember! Looking back I’m betting it was something to make their buckwheat tea/infusion, but I didn’t bring it with me as I only travel with carry-on luggage and TSA gets wonky with anything granular looking. Sorry! It was easier when Joshua and Mark were there and they used to send me home with t-shirts, tote bags, and such. You got me on this one, but thanks for the question! Hope your friend enjoyed their dinner there.

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