saison....let's get to the meat and dessert of it shall we
And so we come to the middle of the meal. This is where it all takes a turn for the mostly meat then a slow slide to dessert. I've been reserving total judgement till after everything has been served and I'm gonna stick to that again with some brief descriptions of the pictures and maybe a nod or two to taste. Though, I reserve the right to change my mind while writing.
Barbecued quail or about half a quail that has been roasted and slathered in barbecue sauce. It actually come complete with the foot which I accidentally cut out of the pic--you're welcome. The sauce was a little sweet with some honey notes and kind of reminded of a tomato like version of hoisin. The meat was cooked slightly pink and tender-ish though quail isn't exactly overflowing with meat and did have a somewhat gamey flavor. Though it only takes about three bites and you are done.
Next on the protein parade was some antelope in a reduction sauce with some charred radicchio. I'm pretty sure the meat was sous vided first and then grilled on the outside. It had the buttery tenderness you get with the process and can be a bit off putting texture wise since it doesn't taste quite like what your mind thinks meat should be. It is a small two bite piece and the slight bitterness of the radicchio helps balance some of the rich heaviness of the meat.
What meat dish (in the South at least) would be complete without some bread and butter. Or in this case, a biscuit with a side of honey butter. When it first hit the table I was intrigued, but as a Southerner with a long biscuit and butter history, it came off a little flat. Biscuit was dense layers of dough like too much shortening. The honey butter was more like a honey paste but didn't really have the flavor of butter. It was kind of sweet but I didn't like it with this thick biscuit. Here is where I will say both of these were a fail. I actually didn't finish this, a rarity for me and bread with butter.
Since they didn't want the antelope bones to go to waste, they grilled them then simmered them in some water and created a bone broth. Yes, seems Saison had succumbed to the fad of bones boiled in water. Yep, the bowl on the right is the amount you get of some slightly yellowish brown water with a salty taste and lone leaf floating in it. I think we all know how I feel about bone broth. If not, click here to read a column I wrote about it! This also brought us to the end of the meat and without so much as a blink, things went straight to dessert.
I'm always interested in what high end spots are doing with desserts as bakers are the new chefs these days according to 7x7 anyway. Seems however, we are going to be served up a selection of seasonal fresh fruits as dessert. Yep, for me that means no cake, pie, pastry, cookie, brownie, nothing of heft to help round out this meal. Instead, here we have roasted pineapple with marshmallow ice cream in a pineapple oil. Now I like pineapple, it is one of my fave fruits next to cherries. This was a pleasant small bite of charred fruit and the ice cream was more smooth and creamy. Somewhere between ice cream and a melted marshmallow and the SO was definitely in heaven with this.
And look what was next, raspberries coated in sugar. That is all I have to say about them.
Right after the red ball of sugar we were served a steaming hot pot of barley(might have been buckwheat) tea. Maybe it was a palate cleanser or digestive? Either way, barley (or buckwheat) is a bitter grain and the tea was no exception. Barley in my soup or buckwheat in a pancake, maybe, but not this. Some at the table liked it, me, not so much.
Then the tea was followed by MORE FRUIT! Chilled slices of a summer melon which was somewhere between a honeydew and a cantaloupe. It was soft and super sweet.
The final dish, a mini bite of chocolate covered caramel with some gold leaf. Such a lovely way to end a meal with chocolate, another of my faves. (That's sarcasm in case you couldn't tell) As far as chocolate goes it was fine.
Yes folks, this is what $398 gets you at Saison. It is a dining experience from a superior service standpoint, but I was not bowled over by the food. The food at French Laundry and Atelier Crenn was both better and a little more inventive. I guess I just do not understand the fascination with Saison comparative worth of why the get all their Michelin stars and others do not. Bone broth, fruit for dessert, seriously? And to top it off, at those other places, when you walk out the door you get a fancy copy of the menu and a small goodie bag of edible things to enjoy later like house made chocolates, cookies and nut bars. At Saison, I got a super basic printed copy of the menu where the descriptions were like spot prawn or avocado or pineapple. Not other description of tasty bites included.
I guess after all the hype I was expecting more, not less, than other types of chef menu driven places we had previously visited. Unlike other people, I'm not sure I could recommend Saison to folks. Maybe I'm just not the target audience here and whatever they were trying to do was lost on me. Outside of a bite here and there, when I left I felt unsatisfied and seriously craved some kind of dessert with heft to quell my unhappy taste buds. If ever there was a disconnect it was definitely following up Saison with a visit to Happy Donut for an old fashioned donut.
I'm not gonna write off all fine dining experiences, I mean the SO loves them and many do meet expectations particularly on special occasions. But like any restaurant experience, they are not all going to be winners. Though, hopefully going forward, I won't have to float a loan in order to try one and find out.
P.S.--and just to drive home a point again: FRUIT!! FOR DESSERT!! C'MON!! For these prices YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!!