While Saison’s new sibling restaurant, Angler, is making waves with its a la carte approach, chef/owner Joshua Skenes’ three-Michelin-starred flagship is also sporting a new, more accessible option for diners: A fixed bar menu that’s $148 for five courses, rather than the full $298 menu served in the dining room.
Saison has occasionally offered a la carte food service at its bar before, an option for in-the-know diners and friends of the restaurant. But the bar’s five-course prix fixe is new, with reservations available through Tock for just the last several weeks. And compared with Saison’s typical prices — figures that have generated headlines in the past — the new option is downright economical.
Included at the bar are some of the restaurant’s signature items alongside constantly changing dishes from chef Laurent Gras — a living legend who took the helm at Saison in a surprise move this summer. Gras left his own, now-closed, three-Michelin star restaurant, Chicago’s L20, in 2010.
“Diners want to eat Saison’s timeless dishes, like the uni toast, and dishes for the current temporary time,” Gras says. That toast — which is “a must have for every guest” per Gras — is served at the bar exactly as it is in the dining room.
Other dishes on the current bar menu include Millbrook Farms venison, which Gras air dries for a week, tempers in wagyu fat, and grills over embers. It’s seasoned with emulsified house made butter and pink peppercorn, and served over a sauce of huckleberries, lemongrass, and black pepper with a garnish of beef tendon cracker, flower pollen and spices, and a grilled avocado.
To accompany those dishes, Saison’s director of wine programs Noah Dranow offers pairings ($98), while bar director Brandyn Tepper serves individual cocktails ($19) or a “beverage progression” of various drinks. That might include a beer to go with the uni, a junmai sake (like Yamada Everlasting Roots) to accompany a fish course of king salmon cured over sake lees, and, to go with dessert (currently pear and yuzu) Tepper serves vintage Sauternes.
“I don’t want to call the cocktails simple,” says Tepper, “because they’re anything but. But what they should do is be delicious and comforting.” Some are simply two ingredients, like a “horse apple,” with Hakushu 12 year, single malt, peated Japanese whisky, and green apple juice pressed to order.
Non alcoholic pairings are also an option, like a concoction of beet juice, pomegranate juice, and over-steeped black tea. Tepper compares it to a high-acid Barbara or Barolo wine — and serves it in a Zalto wine glass, no less.
The bar, which seats six, accepts reservations for parties of one or two. And while the menu is shorter than the one offered in the dining room, Tepper doesn’t want customers to worry they’re not getting a real Saison experience.
“If they pay half the money that someone does at a table, does that mean they only get half the experience? No. Of course not.”
For one thing, customers can keep eating beyond the five-course menu, adding supplements like Saison’s caviar and wagyu. If time allows, they can even order the whole menu.
And just like every diner at the restaurant, “you’ll come in contact with so many people, not just the bartender,” says Tepper. “Our GM runs food, the back waiters serve you, the captains, the cooks who deliver the food — you still interact with the same number of people.”