When the 2013 Michelin Guide was released earlier this month, one of San Francisco's biggest winners was Saison. The pop-up shop-turned-foodie phenomenon was one of only three restaurants in the city to earn two stars.
Now, the restaurant that turned heads last year for offering the most expensive tasting menu in the city has announced its intention to leave its current home in the Mission and head over to a new space in SoMa.
Executive Chef Joshua Skenes told the San Francisco Business Times that the intimate 30-seat space will feature a completely open kitchen so guests can see exactly what's happening at all times.
"I always wanted a place with complete transparency, where there were literally no walls between kitchen and dining room" Skenes explained. "The stove, the refrigeration, the hearth, the bar, everything is completely open throughout the entire space.”
The goal is to make diners feel like they are literally in the middle of the kitchen as their meal is being prepared.
“Honest cooking is a beautiful thing to watch…It's a great feeling when you go in a place and can see something simmering on the stove and all the sights and sounds of a kitchen," Skenes told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I want it to feel like you’re coming into someone’s home, because this is my home.”
When this space opens a few short blocks from AT&T Park, it will be Saison's third iteration since Skenes and sommelier Mark Bright first started hosting weekly $60 dinners in the back room of Stable Café in 2009. The following year, Saison took over the entire space five nights a week and began offering its famously pricey tasting menu.
Earlier this year, Saison raised eyebrows by switching to over to an entirely pre-paid reservation system in which each diner buys a "ticket" ahead of time that covers food, wine tax and tip. No cancellations, no substitutions, no mercy.
Each ticket can range from between $255 to $600. The top end entitles patrons to a 22-course tasting menu hand-prepared by Skenes himself.
Skenes explained to The Huffington Post that this model is built around allowing the restaurant's staff to maximize their creativity in the kitchen. "We really don't follow a for-profit model…we break even and that's it. So we can't afford to do what we do and have someone not show up," Skenes said. "We would rather focus on doing one thing and be the best at one thing than offer a million choices…you have to get beyond your likes and dislikes. At Saison, it's not about likes and dislikes. It's about enjoying the experience and just letting yourself go."
Skenes's fresh approach to fine dining has won over a bevvy of critics. In addition to its two consecutive years earning multiple Michelin stars, San Francisco Magazine food critic Josh Sens called Saison's $498 tasting menu "money well spent."
Saison will be closing its current location at the end of November and plans to open its new space in mid-December.