There’s little more satisfying—or more primally soothing to our ancient caveman instincts—than a meal cooked by fire. At Saison, a restaurant in San Francisco, the singe of an open hearth is so transportive that it has garnered two Michelin stars.
“We are blessed in Northern California to be around some really, really amazing farms and passionate farmers,” says Executive Chef Richard Lee, formerly of New York’s Eleven Madison Park. “That’s how the idea of live fire cooking came to be,” says Chef Paul Chung, Culinary Director. “We have access to these beautiful products….how do we enhance it by doing as little to it as possible?”
Saison elevates the simplest ingredients into edible art. Rabbit loin and belly is cooked in fermented chestnuts, then plated beside a morel mushroom that’s been stuffed with rabbit blood pudding and seared in the cinders. Sonoma duck is dry-aged for two weeks, smoked, and roasted, and served alongside a sauce made with salted cherry leaves. “Everything that comes on this dish has to touch the fire in some way,” Chung says. But it’s the decidedly free-range kitchen—which is set amid the dining tables in the industrial space, with its brick walls and soaring 30-foot exposed oak ceilings—that’s truly “fire,” to use the parlance of the internet.
“The open kitchen, the interaction from our staff, that’s the full experience,” says Chung. “The way I like to feel when I come eat here is as if I’m just at a really good friend’s house, and those are the memories that I like to take home with me.”