The time has come, ladies and gentlemen, for the new Saison. The restaurant is awakening from its two-month slumber on Friday, February 1, in brand new digs at 178 Townsend Street (at Third). The new, airy kitchen and dining space is in the front portion of a former industrial building, the California Electric Light Co. Building, built in 1888. And in designing the new restaurant, chef-owner Joshua Skenes wanted to evaporate the dividing line between kitchen and dining room once and for all. The acclaimed Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare may be one big chef’s counter, but Skenes is already done with that trend. He’s aiming for something equally theatrical but more luxurious, with the seating area blending into the kitchen, and sous chefs moving through the room to fetch things out of walk-ins and grab firewood from the eight-foot stack by the door, and also delivering and describing dishes as needed. We brought you a sneak peek before the holidays, but now we bring you a look at the fully finished, and furnished space.
The biggest change at the new restaurant is the addition of a full liquor license and six-seat bar, with an adjacent six-seat lounge at one side of the room. The new, ten-cocktail bar program (including a couple non-alcoholic options) comes with the consultation of a good friend of Skenes’s from Paris whom he won’t identify. But he says that it’s "magical," and bar-wise, there’s "nothing like it in the city." Skenes eventually has plans to offer an à la carte menu in the lounge, but that’s not happening anytime soon. "I want to be able to give people the option of coming in and having some great food without having to commit to three hours. It’s just a matter of working it out, logistically." So many of the ingredients they use, Skenes points out, are freshly purchased and prepared that day and they have to be sure they won’t go to waste.
In keeping with the seamless, kitchen-dining space, the rear wall of the dining room is lined with a set of metal refrigerator and freezer doors. There’s also a big wall of firewood dividing the entry from the dining tables, and a custom-designed, modular system of shelf-like consoles, topped with plants and books, that slide over tables to divide a four-top into two two-tops, for instance.
The new space also has major new wine storage for wine director and partner Mark Bright, who tells us he now has a list that’s "five times as big" as in the former restaurant, with 2,000+ selections.
The vibe and the seventies/eighties pop soundtrack will remain the same, as will the prices: It’s now standardized for all nights of the week at $248 per person for eighteen to twenty small courses, with $148 additional for wine pairings. (See a recent dish slideshow here.)
To go with the new space, they’ve got a new website, with a slideshow of pretty close-ups of the sort of fresh seafood Skenes is most fond of. And with only eighteen seats in the main dining room, you can expect that fans are quickly filling up the opening week — Friday and Saturday reservations are all gone (as are soft opening nights which begin tonight), and we see there’s only a couple late table tables available next week.
Please see our slideshow, below.
Saison - 178 Townsend between Second and Third - 415-828-7990 - Open Tuesday to Saturday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bar opens at 5:30 p.m.