While it's racked up no end of accolades, from two Michelin stars to a spot on the Bon Appetit Best New Restaurants list, Joshua Skenes' Saison has long fallen short of a coveted local honor: four stars from the Chronicle's Michael Bauer. As of this weekend, however, it's arrived, making it part of the elite culinary crew that includes Benu, Chez Panisse, Coi, The French Laundry, La Folie, Manresa, Quince, and The Restaurant at Meadowood.
Saison's last review, in 2013, earned it three stars, with dings for service and ambience, but "Saison has grown up and has turned into a glorious restaurant," Bauer states in the opening of his newest review, citing the "exposed duct work" and lack of valet parking during Giants games that previously held it back. Valet and a remodel took care of those issues, and a new twist has improved service: "Skenes has strengthened the connection between the kitchen and the dining room by having the cook who made the dish deliver it to the table. It brings the food full circle and helps guests understand the intricate preparation."
As for the food, of course, it remains as strong for Bauer as in his first visit. "Skenes and his crew create a unique ballet of flavors and textures, coaxing unexpected nuances from the ingredients...dishes are delicate, precise and refined, and the smoky elements are always subtle." And so, the crown is awarded. "In the year since my last visit, the restaurant has found its center, and the service has become smooth, understated and seemingly effortless. Saison is now playing in the big leagues."
For those considering which of Bauer's hallowed grounds is most worth a splurge, take note of this Inside Scoop roundup of the four-star crew. The French Laundry is the most expensive of the group, at $295 for a 9+ course tasting menu (with gratuity included); Saison is second at $248 for 18+ courses (gratuity not included). La Folie, at $85-105 for 3-5 courses, is most affordable, but boasts a shorter menu.