Critics’ choice: New masters of the tasting menu

Saison; Minibar; Alma

Saison San Francisco

Saison’s tasting menu makes “extraordinary” demands on all takers, said Pete Wellsin The New York Times. For starters, the $298 price isn’t pocket change. Beyond that, the parade of dishes lasts three hours, the menu isn’t posted in advance, and chef/owner Joshua Skenes loves 1980s pop, which means his diners might be subjected to Phil Collins not once during a meal, but twice. When I ate at Saison just last year, I wished I had an escape hatch. But during a more recent meal in Saison’s chic new concrete-floored space, the pleasures far outweighed the costs. Across 15 courses, “I wasn’t bored once, and several times I was on the edge of my seat,” not knowing what thrill would arrive next. The 33-year-old Skenes “approaches his ingredients like a psychoanalyst: He makes them look inward, encouraging them to unlock their hidden potential.” So his cured tuna “was like prosciutto from the ocean,” and the grilled asparagus that it came with tasted “like a heightened version of itself.” A slice of cured blue-wing sea robin, seared along one edge, might have been the most memorable dish that night, but it’s very hard to choose. 178 Townsend St., (415) 828-7990

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