Movin' On Up

Saison to Move to SoMa Spot, Close Original Location November 30 [Updated]

Saison's new digs at the California Electric Light Co. Building, built in 1888.
Saison’s new digs at the California Electric Light Co. Building, built in 1888. Photo: Arc Light Co.

As discussed a few times over the last year, Saison partners Mark Bright and chef Joshua Skenes have been looking to relocate from their location behind the Stable Café, and they’ve been very particular about the location. The Michelin two-star restaurant has been widely praised, in part for their combination of fine dining ideals, inventive cuisine, and a laid back atmosphere, and Skenes tells the Scoop he hopes to bring the same vibe to the new, previously announced space at 178 Townsend in SoMa, between Second and Third. “I want it to feel like you’re coming into someone’s home, because this is my home,” he says.

The plan is to move and/or rebuild much of what they have at the current restaurant, with its open kitchen format, except at the new space, the lines between kitchen and dining room will be even more blurred. There will be three sources of wood fire, a key component of Skenes’s cuisine, including an eight-foot hearth. And they’ll be moving the restaurant’s big, central Molteni stovetop and plancha. All along, the hope appears to have been to bring the restaurant’s high-end aesthetic closer to the fine dining clientele and neighbors like Benu, etc., and to do so in a perhaps more luxurious and well designed space. The new dining room will feature console pieces separating the tables and providing a more private experience, in addition to the restaurant’s signature cashmere throws over the backs of chairs.

It was unclear with the earlier announcement whether the team’s relocation to SoMa came with an expansion of the restaurant or just a second, different concept. But now it looks like the number of seats will remain about the same, with eighteen at dining tables and twelve in a bar/lounge area — with brand new cocktail program! — but no more chef’s counter, because that’s perhaps too much of a trend. What will become of their existing, well loved, indoor-outdoor space in the Mission is not known.

The restaurant is set to close November 30, and reopen in the new digs quickly thereafter, in mid-December.

Skenes was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2011, and went on to garner a second Michelin star for the restaurant that year. As it stands, Saison and the Restaurant at Meadowood are in the top tier of Bay Area restaurants both in terms of price and cusine, with chef’s tasting menus at both places topping out at $500 a person, all inclusive. Despite the price, Skenes has maintained that the restaurant barely turns a profit after considering the expense of many of their ingredients, both foraged and otherwise.

Update: Skenes calls to tell us that there will be a new bar manager behind the cocktail program, and they’ll be incorporating “elements of fire” into many of the drinking ingredients, in keeping with the food menu. Also, there won’t be food served in the bar and lounge area to start, though the plan is eventually “to break down all the barriers” between kitchen, dining room, and bar, and serve dinner in the entire space. Also, there will be at least one banquette that is in the middle of the kitchen.

Saison readies a big move to Townsend Street [Scoop]
Earlier: Saison’s Latest Tasting Menu, Illustrated
Saison Either Moving or Expanding to SoMa
Regarding the Economics of Saison, and How Much Labor Goes Into Each Tiny Herb Sprig

Saison to Move to SoMa Spot, Close Original Location November 30 [Updated]