Saison, the two-star fine dining restaurant, and Angler, its one-star seafood sister, closed for a few weeks, but are now reopening, with a dramatically different concept. Saison Smokehouse fired up the grill at Angler this past weekend, introducing barbecue for pickup only. The fine dining group is now serving pastrami brisket, spice-rubbed ribs, and smoked chicken, as well as buttermilk biscuits, mac and cheese, collard greens, and caramel frosties, all packed up and ready to go. Compared to the usual 12-course tasting menu at Saison, which costs $298 per person, a meaty meal for two now costs $72.
Given the circumstances, it kind of makes sense. With restaurants in the city limited to only takeout and delivery, of course, tasting menus and shellfish plateaus don’t exactly travel well. And Angler is fully equipped with smokers and a live-fire grill, so even though the restaurant specializes in fish, it’s also set up to smoke meat. The new takeout menu does deliver a big waft of comfort: The smoked chicken is plump and juicy, with brined meat and dry-rubbed skin. The baby-back ribs fall into tender shreds in a sticky-sweet molasses sauce. And the pastrami brisket takes it over the top, with a thick layer of cracked pepper, and ultra buttery meat that carves with a spoon.
Then again, longtime fans might be confused. The Saison group is having a strange year. At the beginning of 2019, Joshua Skenes retreated to his remote hunting lodge in Washington state, where he appeared to be fly-fishing and hosting invitation-only private guests. A few months later, Saison lost its third star, a blow to the acclaimed restaurant. Next, Saison’s head chef Laurent Gras, who was entrusted with the restaurant for only a year and half, announced his departure and move back to New York. At Angler, a former employee sued the company after he was allegedly fired for reporting a fishy food storage situation.
Saison Smokehouse is set up at Angler, but it’s a team effort between the two restaurants. Namely, Richard Lee and Joshua Plunkett, the head chef and sous chef at Saison, Jacob Ruck and Monique Moufarrej, the head chef and sous chef at Angler, and Paul Chung, culinary director for the group. A spokesperson for the restaurant declined Eater SF’s request to speak directly with the chefs. At the time of publication, she could not confirm if anyone on the team has a background in barbecue, or clarify Joshua Skenes’ whereabouts or current level of involvement in running his two San Francisco restaurants.
Stay tuned for updates. But in the meantime, that pastrami brisket is outrageously delicious. The restaurant does not have online ordering. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your order, phone number, and preferred pickup day and time. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m.
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