I usually leave the posts about high-end Michelin dining in the Bay Area to the tourists, but my wife has a special birthday coming up in September and I’d like to take her out for an equally special meal.
I’ve drudged through the many polarizing posts on the old Chowhound forum and feel as though I’ve gained little insight; opinions seem very strong and fall at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Here’s my position - I’m trying to get beyond the ‘value’ angle because once we’re splurging on an expensive and indulgent meal, I’d prefer to focus on the most unique and comprehensively enjoyable (subjective) choices, informed by the ingredients, flavors, subtleties, and aesthetics, over the abstract relation to cost and getting the most bang for buck.
I have read a number of critiques that seem to evaluate the merits of Saison based on the cost of the meal. Without getting too far gone, the problem that I have with this, is that such evaluations are not necessarily evident without additional, complementary forms of data. For instance, I’d reasonably expect that most (average) individuals couldn’t afford regular outings (weekly/monthly) to a restaurant like Saison, and therefore presumably save the experience for exceptional occasions. As a result, opinions tend to be colored by how comfortable individuals are spending at a certain price point, rather than presenting an impartial review of the most fundamental factors, as outlined above.
I’ve already committed to an exorbitant night out with the missus. We don’t do it often and as such, I’d rather not factor cost into the equation, as I don’t believe it’s relevant to the enjoyment or experience. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m trying to decide whether Saison is the place to go.
I get the sense (right or wrong) that it’s similar to the modern kaiseki kitchens of Tokyo; places like RyuGin, etc. From what I’ve read, focus seems to be on the purity of flavors in highlighting ingredients rather than showmanship in the kitchen. I tend to enjoy this approach more than experimental molecular magic tricks.
My wife’s favorite restaurant in the country is EMP and as such, I was also considering Crenn as an alternate. I want to stay in the city, so Meadowood and others aren’t an option. She’s primarily a pescetarian (she goes for chicken when she’s in the mood, provided it’s ethical, free-range, etc) and our meals in Japan were among her favorite dining experiences of all our travels – Ryukin, Sawada, Ishikawa, Ginza Okuda, Yoshitake, Gion Yata, Kamigamo Akiyama, Kitcho, Hiranoya, Negiya Heikichi, Fujiya1935, Kahala, etc. Surprising, as she ate many foods outside of her comfort zone.
Not really sure where I’m going with this… I’m swaying back and forth, between Saison and Crenn. Benu’s also on the table, but it seems to be more fusion-y and it looks to feature less wife-friendly ingredients; ie. not as seafood based as the others. That said, I can be swayed.
I’d just like to get some feedback on all of the above options, with merits and flaws weighed against one another. I know that my wife would enjoy the open dining room at Saison most of all. She’s really into cocktails too. The disappointing reviews on Chowhound are really the only thing that has me second guessing our options.
I know this is a tired topic and I apologize for yet another one of “these kind” of threads. I’d greatly appreciate some input however.