Before Rewards, Demands

A meal at Saison in San Francisco comes at a steep price, one that goes beyond dollars.

Comments: 186

  1. I have deeply ambivalent feelings about this trend. I dined, on my parent's dime (MANY dimes), at Eleven Madison Park this spring. The meal, priced at $195 per person before drinks, tax, and tips, was extraordinary in every way. And I felt some relief in the fact that I had to eat there after the reservations had been made or else my parents would be charged $195 anyway. I enjoyed it.

    But....I felt dirty. It did not seem right to be spending that kind of money when people nearby are still suffering from Sandy, or suffering from the poor economy, or unable to dream of ever eating that way. I've never even told anyone that I ate there. There is something unseemly about this trend and I actually hope it dies out.

  2. and so 11 M will not ever see you again?

    their loss I'm certain


  3. Do you feel dirty when spending $195 (or more) on a hotel, an airline ticket, an article of clothing, or any other leisure/entertainment/discretionary charge, on the grounds that many other people are without necessities and/or these luxuries?

  4. Californiagirl11: I will feel VERY DIRTY

    Will you pay five thousand dollars to go see a film, a film that others can view for, say, $12?

    Every item made by human hands or minds has an intrinsic value. I am sure you would not pay $50 every time you used Google, even if ended up saving more than fifty dollars because of the search.

    No wonder people have lost all sense of how the economy works! And that explains the useless watches on pages 2 and 3 of WSJ!

  5. Be it the $1 Pizza from a hole in the wall, or some so-called "meal" from the outfit in this article. The fact is: Both are delivering service and convenience. Before food. Food you can make and eat at home, comfortably and cheaply.

    Evidently, what Saison (and its ilk) sell are future name droppers (...and when the 12th course came with with tuna foam, or whatever...), and not food, or even fine cuisine.

    But as long as people with too much money and time on their hands are willing to buy this arrangement, Saison will keep finding the suckers, ahem, "diners".

    And now please allow me to order the best pizza ever made, from my local Pizzeria. It should cost a bit less than the sales tax on the "meal" described here.

    And yes, my Pizzeria will not remove a slice from the pie every four minutes, in case I am a bit late picking it up.... They will probably send me home with Baked Ziti, or Knots, gratis.

  6. The "suckers" aren't the diners. They obviously have much more money than they can reasonably spend.

    The "suckers" are the people they stole it from - the 99%.

  7. If they charge you full-price for a cancelled reservation I'd bet they re-sell the seat to someone else and make more money.

  8. Just like the airlines?

  9. ok, wouldn't you? on second thought, how many folks are out there able with 3 or less days notice fork over what $500 per person for a dinner?

    I bet short notice cancellations go unfilled now that I ponder the metrics involved here.

    Wat you think?

  10. It's theft and should be reported to the police. Or post it on Zagat. With this review they should just close Saison, like a lousy play. Put a fork in it; its done.

  11. Are there so few restaurants in the five boroughs that the New York Times critic needs to go elsewhere?
    I have always looked forward to lengthily articles on Elmhurst, Jacson Hights and Flushing. That ought to keep Mr. Wells in New York for the rest of his tenure at this newspaper.

  12. Not all readers of this newspaper live in the greater New York area. Those of us who live elsewhere do enjoy occasionally reading about places we might actually visit. When will Mr. Wells visit Tokyo?

  13. Permit me to inform you that the New York Times is a national newspaper.

  14. Surely, you realize the readership of NYTimes extends beyond the five boroughs.

  15. A very wise (and considerably wealthy) man once told me that just because you can afford something, doesn't mean you should buy it. I've never forgotten that.

  16. brilliant.

  17. The only demands that ANY restaurant should make of its patrons:
    1. Arrive at the time of the reservation
    2. Behave while in the restaurant
    3. Pay for what you eat
    4. Leave the table when you're finished - don't spend the night

    The demands I have:
    1. Treat me well and treat all your customers with respect
    2. Accommodate a reasonable special request
    3. Be attentive without being smothering
    4. Serve hot food hot and cold food cold
    5. Say thank you when I leave

    I don't care how tough the reservation is to come by, or how hot the restaurant may be. I have a close friend who loves restaurants like those. I've joined him a couple of times and have always left very unimpressed with the food, the service and the ambience.

    Finally, anyplace where a meal costs a car payment or two is simply not a place I would patronize. Why give these pompous places any air? Real people who don't have expense accounts don't hit these establishments. And, if I had an expense account, it wouldn't be spent at a place like Saison.

    Minus four stars.

  18. In civilized countries, restaurants expect you to stay the night, not to leave as soon as you are "finished."

  19. The lure of eating an extraordinary meal at an iconic restaurant, coupled with the abundance of diners willing to fork over $300 each before wine, tax or tips, makes me skeptical of such a restaurant having to let a table go unfilled and any of its larder wasted. Try getting into French Laundry on short notice (same day, 2-hr. window during which to pounce on the rare cancellation) as we did last week, to no avail. Try getting into Alinea on less than a month's (or longer) notice. I fear that I may never be able to get in. (Forget Achatz' other venture, Next--where one must buy tickets, often at wildly inflated prices from freelance scalpers on eBay or Craigslist).

    If Saison, despite cancellations, fails to completely fill the room on any given night, it needs a better publicist. (Or a Twitter list to alert wealthy foodies willing to step into the breach at the last moment--of which there must be dozens).

    Magical degustations are wonderful if you can snag one, but more and more these days I relish discovering unheralded and more-affordable serendipities (but fear they may not remain unheralded or affordable for long).

  20. You "fear" that you will never be able to get in?

    The horror.

  21. I'm sorry, but no meal is worth...having to sit through Phil Collins music.

  22. Are you kidding me - most fish brought from Japan. This eco-decadence is disgusting - wasted planetary resources just to titillate someone's taste buds!

  23. The sense of superciliousness in this article is overwhelming.

    The sense of silliness in this article is overwhelming.

    The sense that there is something very wrong with the restaurant and the writer is palpable.

    Nuts to this kind of stuff.

  24. Donate an equal check amount to a charity.That will make you feel a little less guilty

  25. What's bottarga? And why would anyone pay hundreds of dollars to eat it while simultaneously being abused by the owner/chef and condescended to by the waitstaff? Are there really that many people out there with so much money they have not the foggiest idea of how to spend it? Whenever I read something that elevates the preciousness of food and those who consume it to this extent, it makes me nostalgic for Swanson TV Dinners and aluminum tray tables.

  26. As much as I adore food and have traveled to get it, this restaurant really reflects a degree of arrogance and impending doom for our society.

  27. Those people who wish to and can afford to should be able to do whatever they please in terms of what and where they eat. BUT the difference here is that we're talking about FOOD and the fact that every human being alive (as well as non-human beings) needs it in order to live and in many cases does not have it in adequate amounts makes the discussion of and decisions around its consumption different and more complex than any other commodity. This should at least be acknowledged in all positions on the subject .

  28. What a lot of nonsense. I love good food as much as the next guy but I much prefer good food plus an hospitable environment. My first experience with this was at the Fat Duck. Somehow the restaurant thought they were more important than my experience. The food was "interesting" but I left entirely unsatisfied. As with everything these days these sort of meals feel like a house bought for investment purposes as opposed to a place to live.

  29. "The sea urchin tasted like bottarga but with an added suggestion of decadence."

    Once again, The Times goes off the deep end in its never-ending search of restaurants producing dishes that most of us will never (care to) eat and that most of us will never visit because of price, location or the establishment's ridiculous demands on our behavior. Some of the best restaurants, I've found, are those that serve simple food with high quality ingredients in an easily accessible environment where you are made to feel comfortable.

    I would have more to say on this, but I now have to head out to the supermarket and pick up some bottarga for tonight's dinner.

  30. I have no issue with a restaurant charging hundreds of dollars for a meal that is extraordinarily expensive to produce. Yes, it's a luxury product, but the existence of a luxury product doesn't mean the decline of western civilization. Occasionally, even the 99% may save up the money for a meal like this, just like not everyone who pays the inflated prices for Broadway tickets is wealthy. Restaurants are the replacement for elaborate dinner parties to show off one's wealth. At least restaurants are open to anyone who wishes to pay.

    On the other hand, the restaurant shouldn't act as if they're doing their customers a favor by deigning to serve them--and patrons shouldn't encourage this behavior. You're asking people to pay money for your service, and when you do that, you're granting a measure of control to the purchaser. If you don't want to deal with patrons who don't treat your food with the appropriate reverence or genuflect as required, perhaps you should consider a venue where the barrier to entry is not merely the credit limit on your MasterCard.

  31. Just thinking about those ancient Romans, their menus of peacock's tongue...

  32. I am a chef; not a great chef, but I manage to keep people smiling throughout the meal.
    The attitude, or more precisely, altitude, of many wait people is, to me, really obnoxious. They feel that the dining experience is their domain and it is incredible because of their presence. Never mind that they make many times what the people in the kitchen make; they feel that it is because of them that people come to the restaurant.
    I would really like to see a restaurant open where the staff in the back of the house has financial parity with the front of the house.

  33. A front page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer today reports that "Poverty, hunger rise, charity doesn't". I can only hope that those who eat a meal at Saison, including those on expense accounts, give an equal amount to a food bank or other charity to feed the many who have little to eat.

  34. If I had the money to pay $300+ for a meal, I would hire a personal chef and eat in my own home. I don't get the allure of eating in public places where the food is prepared behind closed doors by strangers making minimum wage or less and served by wannabe actors.

  35. Wow, the tasting menu was closer to $190 a year or so ago, although there were fewer courses. I guess they have to match The French Laundry.

    I would be interested to know what the final bill was with the wine. In this day and age, with the added wine (presumably with service charge on top of the already cranked up wine prices), the added cost can be very high. Not to mention tax on top of all that.

  36. The lack of concern for their customers that is reflected in their refusal to acknowledge food allergies or dietary considerations reaches it's apex when serving fish from the waters near Japan. Japan has used the ocean as a dump for contaminated soil and radioactive waste from Fukushima. The radioactive waste water that is being used to keep the spent fuel rods cooled is leaking into the ocean. The radioactive particles that are embedded in the food chain are much moire damaging than radioactive waves that pass through you. The particles get stuck in your body and emit radiation. I wouldn't pay $1 for that kind of poison. How can they pass that off as high-end food? Seems more like a dead end. I wouldn't eat the fish from Japan. Sad but true.

  37. Oh come on, Japan is a huge country comprised of many islands, some immense. Be real. Get serious. Japan is not just a 50-mile stretch of gross contaminated water. It has 29,751 miles of coastline. There are mryriad areas to fish, including the southeast coast, the northern coast, and all of the western coastal area. I may disagree with the arrogant greed exhibited in this article, and I make think Mr. Wells is not as good a critic or a writer as some of his predecessors, but I think condemning all fish from Japan is ridiculously hyperbolic.

  38. "I typed a few notes, starting with the FIRST WINE OF THE NIGHT [emphasis added] . . . . a server . . . said: “I couldn’t help noticing . . . .The rest of the night was marked by solicitousness "
    Did it occur to you that the typing notes was a tell and that the later solicitous service was a direct result of letting the restaurant know?

  39. Read Orwell. The more expensive the restaurant the greater the disrespect for the customer.

  40. I'm torn about this - on one hand, I have had some amazing meals (at stratospheric prices) that were for a short while memorable but some of the best and most memorable meals have been at cheap holes in the wall where gritty reality pushed away the precious frou-frou of these types of restaurants and made for a very enjoyable experience. Yes, the meal seems overpriced but think of how many people are probably employed, paying taxes and in turn spending on other things based on what they've made. It's trickle down Reaganomics at its best...

  41. Good for the people who can afford and appreciate a meal like this. Me, I prefer diners. Fast, simple, unpretentious, (mostly) edible food and virtually any request you have is met with "sure." And I never feel ripped off when paying the check.

  42. "Some chefs are like matchmakers to their ingredients, always trying to set them up on dates. Mr. Skenes approaches his ingredients like a psychoanalyst: he makes them look inward, encouraging them to unlock their hidden potential before meeting anybody new."

    So this is why the meal costs over 300 dollars, psychoanalytical prices. The food is going to your head, Mr. Wells. (This is where I stopped reading.)

  43. If it is true that $298 only barely covers the cost of sourcing these pristine ingredients, then the long-running joke leveled at restaurants including Chez Panisse and Masa applies—their way of making food is more like shopping, less like cooking.

    Meanwhile, given the way our world is headed, superior ingredients may never become accessible to regular people. I'm sure some restaurants see themselves as stewards/guardians of "quality". But is it, or is just a form of exclusivity? I don't know.

  44. Hate to tell you, but it's restaurants LIKE Chez Panisse and Masa that have helped superior and nutritious ingredients available to the masses. What, do you think organic milk fed lamb just shows up in your grocery store? No. People who have experienced such product through the 'exclusive stewards of quality' have demanded it and...poof! There it is for you to buy.

    There are plenty of small time producers of fish, produce, game and meat that do it responsibly and eco friendly. This does not come cheap so guess what? There is a premium for it.

  45. These restaurants drive me nuts. Wave after wave of overwrought little morsels pour from the kitchen. Hundreds of fingers have fiddled with, stacked, arranged, and gussified every tiny bite. They charge an arm and a leg and treat you as some sort of ignorant acolyte at their altar of Fine Food, as if you should be grateful for being badly treated and paying hundreds for it. It's just cooking, kids.

    Four or five courses at most, perhaps each with more than one bite, seem ideal. But the screaming egos in the kitchen won't have it, as they shriek, "Look at me! Look at me!" Big entitled babies.

    Chez Panisse is an example of what a good restaurant can be.

  46. Seriously - what a toss! Emperor's new clothes ring a bell?????

  47. Take a trip to Paris for some great affordable restaurants where good service is an art.

  48. Vous avez raison -- in spades.

  49. The rise of food snobbery in the USA over the last couple of decades has been quite amusing and appalling at the same time. "Let them eat smoked sea urchin," the lady cried, as Darfur's orphans stormed the gates.

  50. Food is nourishment, and if it is tasty, much the better. My grandson and I will sometimes invade the kitchen and design Ultimate Luncheon Meat sandwiches, accompanied by Campbell's Tomato soup garnished with dried celery, and heaps of French Fries brought in from the Master Chefs of McDonalds. No better meal than that! What more is there to a $300 meal than to asatisfying $5 home cooked experience with a grandson's genius for adding what he calls 'surprise' ingredients such as sauteed mushrooms to a Grilled Chees sandwich? The joy comes from the sharing, not the eating.

  51. Places like "Arpège" in Paris (*** chef Alain Passard) or the "Hof van Cleve" in Belgium (*** chef Peter Goossens) offer you delight in food, wine and combinations of ingredients, without being "pompous" (cf. With Age Comes Wisdom's comment above), pretentious or stuffy. A long lunch or dinner in those exquisite places offers my partner and me as much pleasure as a city trip to Paris, Barcelona or Boston. Those experiences come at a price, though. After all, you are eating in one of the best places on the planet, the finest ingredients and wines, excellent service, etc. If this is not what you are looking for, you better stay away from these places and spend your money on other things. But if you are an amateur of fine cuisine and wines and excellent service, the price should really not be an issue. As they say in French: "Le prix s'oublie. La qualité reste."

  52. In New York, if not San Francisco, the local health department does not allow restaurant workers to handle foods with bare hands if those foods will not afterwards be sterilized by cooking.

    Violation points (demerits), fines, and a reduction in the restaurant's letter grade can result.

    To keep customers from getting sick, a health inspector in New York City would throw those pretty little salads in the garbage.

  53. The NYCHD makes rules like those in order to fund their programs and staff, not necessarily with your health in mind. Think of that when you eat out next time because there is no question that some of the money you paid to your favorite (obviously, cheap) restaurant will go to the NYCHD because someone forgot to use latex gloves that will litter the environment for decades. Hands make food. They always have and always will.

  54. No meal is worth that much. I can think of better places to use that money.

  55. "The sea urchin tasted like bottarga but with an added suggestion of decadence."

    Yes, and this article has the aroma of decadence with an abundance of elitist drek. Welcome back to the Gilded Age.

  56. Too many ot today's self-styled temples of gastronomy forget that the word "restaurant" comes from the French word "restore." A true restaurant does just that—it restores not just the palate but the spirit, the soul, if you like. It's not a matter of serving superb food, it's all the other little things—the ambiance, the welcome, the sense that the diner's comfort and satisfaction are what count most. Dining out is participatory, not submissive. The customer gets to survey an array of dishes, most of which he couldn't prepare at home. He gets to select the dinner he wants, often by surprising himself by his choices. He's engaged in a free-flowing - not one-way - dialogue with the chef. And he gets to savor his meal without having to listen to '80s pop.

  57. Sandy -- it's actually not that hard to get tickets to Next if you "friend" or "like" them on facebook and check it. A friend of mine was able to access tickets a couple times a week over the course of a few weeks, but his wife couldn't ever make it. He then scored a table on a Friday night at 8 pm after a few weeks of trying. Not bad. You just have to adjust to the technology.

    But I'd recommend Schwa in Chicago to the writer: fabulous tasting menu without the pretension. It's not new, but that doesn't mean it's any less wonderful. And my friend who went to Next the weekend before we went to Schwa declared Schwa the better--and more delicious--experience by far.

    But yes, this trend of unaffordable dinners has got to stop. I understand the food costs themselves and the amount of care and preparation have chefs torn, but I think the real masters are those who can make simple, local foods incredible, for a reasonable price. It's always struck me as somewhat off that Grant Achatz came from parents who owned a neighborhood diner and yet disdains offering great food to the everyman who would appreciate it.

  58. worse yet, the 1%er clientele all caught up in loud, one-ups-man discussions (so as to be clearly overheard at surrounding tables) of their latest business transaction, child's academic accomplishments, upcoming vacation to China, and on and on.

    together with the "my-being-a-waiter-is-not-beneath-you-and my smugness-will-prove-it-to-you" service what a delight to dine at Saisons or any such gastronomic temple.

  59. I have eaten at Saison three times and each meal was spectacular and more importantly uniquely different. All of us hopefully have a passion where we can afford to be uneconomic in our enjoyment thereof. It is remarkable that all the comments so far are from people who think that is a morally incorrect perspective. Without passions and patrons with the means to support them there would be far les art and beauty than there is today in the world.

  60. It appears that the devotee's of Saison have gargantuan egos and pocketbooks to match. However, exclusiveness is no guarantee of value. But, if dining there makes you feel fulfilled, by all means. I suggest to all who desire Saison is that you carefully read H. C. Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes before dining.

  61. This discussion is ridiculous.

  62. You're kidding, right? This is really an article from the Onion?

  63. All the above comments completely miss the point. This is being delivered as art, more or less. There is no limit then. If you think it's ridiculous then don't eat there. Simple as that.

    I can't afford stuff like that but personally find what the chef is doing fascinating. And this isn't a "trend." The culinary world has been experimenting and evolving since... hmmm... forever. He's just experimenting and having folks fund that more or less. Doesn't sound new to me... but certainly intriguing!

  64. Ridiculous! It's all too much. What about pulling out the grill, inviting the neighbors over, shelling the peas and grilling the corn? Yell to the kids to come eat; the only music to contend with is the sound of conversation.

  65. 'While he was speaking, four dancers ran in to the time of the music, and removed the upper part of the tray. Beneath, on what seemed to be another tray, we caught sight of stuffed capons and sows' bellies, and in the middle, a hare equipped with wings to resemble Pegasus. At the corners of the tray we also noted four figures of Marsyas and from their bladders spouted a highly spiced sauce upon fish which were swimming about as if in a tide-race. All of us echoed the applause which was started by the servants, and fell to upon these exquisite delicacies, with a laugh. "Carver," cried Trimalchio, no less delighted with the artifice practised upon us, and the carver appeared immediately. Timing his strokes to the beat of the music he cut up the meat in such a fashion as to lead you to think that a gladiator was fighting from a chariot to the accompaniment of a water-organ. Every now and then Trimalchio would repeat "Carver, Carver," in a low voice, until I finally came to the conclusion that some joke was meant in repeating a word so frequently, so I did not scruple to question him who reclined above me. As he had often experienced byplay of this sort he explained, "You see that fellow who is carving the meat, don't you? Well, his name is Carver. Whenever Trimalchio says Carver, carve her, by the same word, he both calls and commands!"'

  66. Phil Collins? How obnoxious.

  67. Sounds pretentious beyond belief. Even if I have the money, I'm not going to choose a restaurant that makes me feel like I should be grateful just for being allowed through the door.

  68. $298.00? That ought to go a long way feeding folks, say in a refugee camp along the Syrian border. Or feed kids in this country whose stomachs are growling while others are waxing orgasmic over some supposed quintessence.
    Lord help us.

  69. Ah, when arrogance and money collide! There are so many better ways to spend your time, money and experience great culinary!

  70. I know that I will get in trouble for saying this, but a food habit is a lot cheaper than a drug habit.

  71. This article is obscene. The self-indulgence of spending that much money for dinner in a town where any number of excellent restaurant meals could be had for less than a third of the price is astounding. Some people have more money than sense. Especially during times when so many others are doing without. It disgusts me.

  72. Places like Saison make me sick. Anyone who is willing to spend $300 on a meal needs to have their head examined. Regardless of how rich or poor I am I'll stick with the local Indian and/or Pakistani dive when I want a great meal, regardless of where I am. $300 buys a lot of spicy curry, basmati rice, and nan.

  73. @Raj, I really think that once we understand where money comes from, we will stop worrying about prices and the economy. There is in reality (the REAL TRUTH) no such thing as cheap or expensive. Size does not matter once we begin to understand who we are and what we are capable of.

  74. I don't know anything about Saison, but I know a few things about a certain restaurant in Yountville, California and wouldn't be surprised if Saison treats it's kitchen staff in a similar fashion. At the place I'm referring to, and if you're a fat cat you might have eaten there, the prep cooks routinely work 15 hour shifts for significantly less than minimum wage. Would you feel dirty spending 1000 bucks on a meal knowing that the restaurant management did not adhere to California labor laws, or would that knowledge enhance the decadent experience?

  75. Are you joking, patrons who eat at these places don't give a fig how much their server is making, that's the last thing on their minds when they expense this suckers meal.

  76. You obviously don't know that much. I have a number of friends who have worked at the French Laundry or at Per Se and they all do pretty well for themselves. Yes, the cooks work long hours but no one is forcing them to be there. They get the privilege of working at one of the top restaurants in the country. A privilege that could possibly make their career.

    Oh, and I've eaten at TFL, and am hardly a fat cat. Many people enjoy restaurants of this caliber without working at a hedge fund.

  77. How coy of you. We all know you're referring to the French Laundry. As a chef, I personally know many cooks who have worked at TFL, and yes, they did indeed work long hours for short pay. But - and it's a big but - many if not all of them used that experience as a launching pad for their own successful careers. Alinea, Benu, Lincoln Ristorante, Noma, CityZen, just to name a few were started by Keller alumni. It's a quid pro quo they thought was fair, and no one held a gun to their heads.

  78. One should only patronize a restaurant of this type if you can afford it, and appeciate it. I am slightly amazed by the comments of how many people seem to take pride in the fact they can't appreciate such a meal, and would not eat here even if they could afford it. I can't afford it, but if I could, I'd certainly try it, at least once. Tonight's dinner was a New York style hot dog from Sonic.

  79. I would just as soon go to Scoma's at Fishermen's Wharf for a halibut steak, a slice of sourdough bread, and a nice local white. Call me Rurik the Rube, but I have no patience or appreciation for this nonsense.

  80. Been there,loved the food!!

  81. And after the meal you can have gold dust high-colonic.

  82. I think this whole thing is beyond disgusting. Anyone who can afford this kind of meal should give $ 250.00 to a charity and get a decent dinner somewhere else.

  83. This place reminds me of the Herbfarm, a restaurant on the outskirts of Seattle with similar policies and prices. I found it not only pretentious, but unsatisfying at the most basic level. I was hungry enough after leaving to stop at a McDonald's on the way home for a quarter pounder and a diet Coke.

  84. There is something very disturbing to read about someone paying over $300 for a meal and complaining about the service when you know hunger is a reality for 1 in 6 people in this country. I guess that's how Marie Antoinette lost her head.

  85. Nobody in this country is hungry. Haven't you seen the stats on food stamps under Obama's regime?

  86. Please explain how its any different than someone paying hundreds of dollars for World Series or Superbowl tickets.

  87. Pete Wells writes:
    "The sea urchin tasted like bottarga but with an added suggestion of decadence."

    Oh. So that's how the sea urchin tasted.

  88. I couldn't eat at Saison because some of the food served is not in my diet. Je suis désolé.

  89. There is something truly indecent about such excess. It's disproportionate. I think a lot of it is insecure people with stuff to prove.

  90. Pete Wells took a computer with him to dinner? And, presumably, took notes between courses? I'm not surprised that the wait staff took very good care of him.

  91. smartphone not a desktop

  92. For the last decade or two Americans are infatuated with anything "extreme", but it sports or, in this case, dining. This, IMO, is what "extreme" dining looks like and I hope it doesn't spread. I live in San Francisco and have been to some great restaurants here, but lately I've not like some of the things I've seen, it's gone beyond food and service and it's trying too hard. Dining shouldn't be stressful, worrisome or punishable, yet this concept seems to deliver all three to various degrees at an inflated price. No thank you.

  93. The trend is older than two decades. It is well documented and explained in the "The Culture of Narcissism" by Christoper Lasch. This article and its subject matter are supporting exhibits.

  94. A sad commentary on greed and the need to be trendy. I'm not sure why, but I suppose I thought San Franciscans would be less inclined to be part of this silliness, but that momentary thought is wrong.

    People are starving the world over and hipsters continue to be desperate to have a food fad about which to brag. I know people in Chicago who have gone to Alinea, but they've gone only once. There's no need to re-visit. It's food as performance art, nothing more. They refuse to go to Next because it's the same food, but in a more pretentious setting and comprised of a more pretentious concept.

    P. T. Barnum's adage is still vital: "There's a sucker born every minute."

    Regarding Mr. Wells, what is the purpose and point of reviewing such a place in a New York newspaper? To be cool and hip? To be a boring name-dropper? To have a dreary cache? The article is a prime example of hopping on the vulgarity bandwagon.

    Mr. Wells and The Times should know better. And they should do better.

  95. Equally apt is the Fields (WC) corollary: never give a sucker an even break.

  96. San Francisco is home to a lot of money. Why on earth would anybody believe the rich don't flaunt it? There are many restaurants in SF where the tab for 2 exceeds $500.

  97. Small food on big plates.


    Just give me regular food done well.

    I have no interest in "black cod, poached in seawater, placed in a Rangpur lime broth and topped with plantain chips given an orange dusting of Indonesian curry powder."

    Really. Don't. Care.

  98. It's hard to get good pastrami and corned beef in San Francisco. That's the true tragedy.

  99. So why did you read the review and then comment on it? Do you imagine others care that you don't care?

  100. wowser. $500 per person for a dinner.
    just couldn't do it.

  101. I'm aghast that a restaurant of any tier is buying their fish from Japan when everyone knows the fish around Japan are dangerously radiated. We live in Japan and very few of our friends *here* eat fish caught in Japanese waters. I suppose if you're paying $500/meal then "que sera sera"...

  102. All around Japan? This seems rather overblown. I'm aware that fish caught near Fukushima are showing high levels of cesium, but that isn't true for the rest of the country.

    If you want reasons to be annoyed that a California restaurant insists on using Japanese fish, start with the obvious. Transporting that fish is expensive and polluting. As the chef at Saison seems to be realizing, it probably makes more sense to work with local fisherman to help them produce a product which meets the restaurant's standards.

  103. That was my first thought, too. Maybe they've gotten a discount on the fish?

    @Fry: debris from the Japanese disaster has landed on the west coast. Produce in France was measurably contaminated within a week of the melt-down (that we were told wasn't a melt down for many months). Surely you do not trust the official statements about contamination?

  104. 20% of American children live in poverty. I have the means, but how could I justify spending an amount of money that would feed 4-5 kids for a month. Sorry, I'm not impressed.

  105. Very sad. Front page of NY Times online. A "tasting menu" for $298. There are people reading this who can't buy groceries. There are children in Greece passing out from hunger in schools. The author was put off because the 3 hour meal didn't accomodate his dietary restrictions. He didn't like the music played in the restaurant. Aw. Incredibly insensitive to the issues most people are facing.
    I just started a program called "Hungry in Hudson Valley?" [Craigslist, Hudson Valley, Community]offering free groceries to any who asks. Where's your head at, Times?

  106. Adam, the NYTImes is directed at affluent, educated readers. There are huge numbers of readers who are poor and educated but I wouldn't expect the Times to start targeting our demographic any time soon.

  107. so, is it that the meal should not exist, or that it should exist but cost less? it does need to cost at least as much as it costs to make it, or it won't get made. pointing out income disparities is a good thing, but going further and blaming the meal (the work) for basically being too good to fit into a social viewpoint, or the reporter for reporting it because it hurts people's feelings (insensitive), is kind of silly. Hungry In Hudson Valley sounds great. but does that have to mean something that is not Hungry in Hudson Valley is not permissible?

  108. SF is fast becoming a city of haves and have not. People working in the tech industry making obscene amounts of money, causing real estate prices and rents to go even higher and out reach of most people. In the neighborhood where Saison is located there are many homeless people who don't have the money for food, shelter, a place to go to the bathroom or take a shower, or wash their clothes. It would be great if instead of spending almost $300 on a meal that last 3 hours, a few of the patrons got spent $50-60 to get some take out from one of the many great pizzerias, Asian, American restaurants in town and took the rest of the $300 they would have spent at Saison helping to feed those whose last meal was gotten by diving into a dumpster.

  109. so, how much money is obscene, and how much isn't, how do you draw a line and who gets to do it? isn't it rather people's minds that are obscene, not material goods? money's not good or bad, it's just money. you can't say, try hard to make money, but not too much, try less hard.

  110. The poor, homeless and hungry are not that way because the wealthier people have money. This is the way our society works. The transfer of wealth will not affect the homeless. Just as money pours into a food bank, there is always a mouth to feed. Jobs begin and end, unfortunately stranding families. Hunger will never go away.

    The author wrote an interesting article about a restaurant, not an idealist rant on hunger.

  111. For what it's worth, it should be noted S.F. has the highest minimum wage in the country

  112. Thank you!

  113. This is why I continue to return to Chez Panisse year after year, decade after decade. No matter what I look like when I drag myself in there, they always act like I am doing them a favor instead of the other way around.

  114. So the guy likes food and was excited about it-big deal. I personally find eating a bother and wish I could take a Star Trek pill everyday so I wouldn't have to worry about it. I love film though, and would sit through a 5 hour film like "Carlos" at the theater any day. We all have our passions, some might just be more expensive than others.

  115. "Carlos" was amazing, wasn't it? I hear ya!

  116. I am so sick and tired of hearing about these shocking excesses when so much of the country is in trouble. It is revolting. You should be ashamed to continually print reviews of these types of restaurants. Not only are these meals and dining experiences unavailable to most people, just reading about them is nauseating.

  117. Obscene and pretentious. I suppose the sated patrons will occasionally toss some coin to the homeless as they wait for their valet car to appear. Superior incomes and inferior priorities. San Francisco is a city of stark contrast: Decadent wealth and squalor. If this is considered the epicenter of liberal thought and progressive culture, society is doomed.

  118. There's no meal that can be worth $298, sorry. Let's not confuse what someone will pay to feel above the rest of the crowd (basis of luxury and discriminatory pricing) with value, please!

  119. I'm amazed about the number of comments from readers who
    A) think it's immoral to pay 300 bucks for a dinner when people are starving in where ever or
    B) would never set foot in a restaurant like Saison, but have the time to read the entire article and then write the names of the dishes they wouldn't eat.
    There are gourmands who highly appreciate good food and not just because it is expensive. I just had the pleasure of eating at Geranium in Copenhagen who just got its 2nd Michelin star. Was it expensive? Yes! Was it worth it? YES!

    I have heard other people say "When I go to a restaurant I want all the food I can eat, don't want to pay much and be served with a smile" - fortunately the evolution of cooking doesn't arrive from people like this.

  120. I'm a foodie. I remember special meals I ate 50 years ago. But I have no desire to go to restaurants such as this one or its ilk. I can't imagine enjoying a meal in such pretentiousness - both the staff (who appear to act like sales associates at Hermes!) and the other customers. I learned to cook watching Julia Child on TV and I'm a wonderful cook. But preciousness didn't go into her cooking and that's the way I like it. Food as art and cooking as a performance (except when waiters used to do table-side crepes etc) is not really about the enjoyment of food and the camaraderie of ones fellow diners.

    I have nothing against wealth - wish I had more! And I enjoy fine quality. I guess it comes down to the uncomfortable feeling I got when it was no longer the trust company or ones trust officer, but instead became wealth management. I was brought up to understand that flaunting ones wealth just wasn't very nice. And restaurants such as the one reviewed are flaunting.

  121. I've made many a purchase at Hermes, and was treated quite nicely thank you. Pretentious come to mind with this place.

  122. Here's the thing, if you're that idiotic to fork over nearly $300 for a mere morsel of food well there's a lot to eb said for stupidity. And another thing, I wish to high heaven that the chef and his minions WOULD STOP MANHANDLING MY FOOD!!!! Stupidity runs rampant apparently.

  123. I'm sure I'm in the minority of readers when I say that anyone who would pay $298+ for a meal must be terribly bored with life and must delight in being considered a sucker by all the con artists who wield a spatula while talking condescendingly. I cooked professionally for years---white cloth napkins, the whole bit, but neither the restaurant's owner nor I ever marketed pretension. Our diners received value for money and the focus was always primarily on conviviality. Food is food; eventually, you can't tell the difference between a Saison meal or a KFC meal---they both flush the same.

  124. browsing the comments here, it seems that everyone hates rich people so much that their thoughts are addled. income disparity is indeed appalling, a dinner costing $300 symbolizes much that is wrong with our society. the other side is, the most rarefied things can be very costly to produce, and that's not a reason to abolish them. you have to applaud people who push the envelope of quality higher. to do otherwise is backward.

  125. I thought it was nice of the waitperson to suggest the correction to the champagne's name, didn't seem condescending at all.

  126. Is it irony or coincidence that this piece was published on May Day/ International Worker's Day?
    Are Saison and restaurants like them on the wrong side of history?
    The commentariat seems to think so.

  127. I've eaten at Saison's tasting menu and found my evening wonderfully exciting. I tried things I've heard of and some that were adventurously new. But I will not be going back anytime soon. Why you ask, if I can afford the astronomical price? Because as Pete Wells mentioned, "I was less thrilled by the attitude of the servers. They would strut around the room, every few minutes bearing a plate to my table as if it had come straight from God’s workshop, and God couldn’t quite remember who I was. I don’t believe anybody looked at me long enough to have picked me out of a police lineup."

    The waitstaff made me feel as if I was fortunate to grace their facility. Funny, I thought they should be pleased that I visited their establishment at all. I don't ask for much except an acknowledgement that I am welcome, personal interaction at the appropriate times would have been appreciated and what ever happened to a smile? Maybe the owners should find employees that have greater personal interaction with people beyond texting.

  128. Restaurants like Saison are for the sated and those with incredible amounts of disposable income. It is doubtful that this is describes the typical New York Times reader. So, Mr. Wells, why do write about the absurd?

  129. The article quotes "a more honest connection with cooking", to be honest?... at $298 a head (just the base price!) I could cook a LOT of good food. And so should you, honestly.

  130. Really! Open flame, wood smoke, large particulates in the air, the ambience is getting fuliginous in the dining and wine section...........

  131. That was a ridiculous thing to say, said by a young, pretentious guy who's riding a wave, for now. SF is filled with high-paid tech workers (twitter, facebook, google, salesforce, etc.), like it was 12 yrs ago. The earlier boom went bust and all the $100 tips dried up, and high priced restaurants closed or transitioned. It'll happen again .

  132. Let them eat cake

  133. It is unconscionable to spend $300 on a meal while many people in the world are living hand to mouth .

  134. "“I couldn’t help noticing that you wrote ‘Kruger.’ It’s actually ‘Krug.’ ” "

    Perhaps, subconsciously, you were thinking of Freddy Krueger?

  135. Decadence does come at a price, but at $298 there should be graciousness - and this joint doesn't sound like it has it.

    If you need to try and write off this dining experience, hit me up for the name of a great tax attorney nearby - but he's currently at $700/hr.

    Ahhhh, the almighty dollar ain't what it used to be...

  136. "The soft, salty cured tuna was like prosciutto from the ocean. The sea urchin tasted like bottarga but with an added suggestion of decadence. The asparagus tasted the way it does in my imagination during the long wait from the end of one year’s season to the start of the next. It was like a heightened version of itself, hyper-asparagus."

    Why does this sound like bodice ripping, soft-core porn? A NY Times restaurant review should hold itself to a higher standard than Fifty Shades of Grey.


  137. He has to reach for metaphor. It doesn't seem to come naturally to him, and it seems awkward. I've had a lot of meals in this price range. Many disappointed.

  138. I don't know whether to laugh or weep at the ridiculous depths to which we as a society of excessive consumption has fallen . . . When did chefs become "stars" and restaurants some sort of hallowed "destinations"?? Obscene to read things like this when more people are falling below the poverty line everyday.

  139. OMG, we're doomed!

  140. I'm not a skeptic, and I have not eaten at Saison. But all the meals I have had at Michelin rated restaurants in the US have been uniformly awful. Bad food, truly crappy service, ridiculous prices and poor menu choices. And to paraphrase Woody Allen, the portions were tiny! So bad, I thought it was a joke, that I was in a Seinfeld episode. There are so many great restaurants in the US. Just go eat somewhere else.

  141. This was a fairly extensive review of poofy excessiveness. Blowing off probably closer to $400 for a hand made meal is really more about hyper-competitiveness and bragging rights as a 1%er than about anything else. Maybe some boredom, too.

  142. I wonder if Mr. Wells tastes things in his mind the way some other people - such as Beethoven - hear things in theirs. I mean, with that level of detail and depth, like the Ode to Joy in Beethoven's Ninth, which Beethoven presumably imagined (and then conveived) in his mind the way Mr. Wells imagines the taste of asparagus between seasons?

  143. The food sounds great. The attitude and 80s music? Not at those prices.

  144. Wow, I cannot relate to this at all! I wouldn't take this food over a bowl of cereal and milk if YOU paid ME $298 plus tax and tips :)

  145. The most extraordinary meals I can think of go back to the years when we had our own garden and orchard coupled with a herd of Frisian milking ewes and backyard chickens.
    A leg of lamb with fresh homegrown vegetables and a desert of quark torte made with sheep milk, eggs and fresh red currants - and the intense satisfaction of having worked to make this possible. Or prosciutto-like ham made from our own mutton, or just chocolate pudding made of simple ingredients and our own sweet milk. Or perfectly prepared breakfast eggs - served in their own convenient packaging.
    We still have the garden and orchard - and crafting meals from whatever is in season still provides those warm fuzzies of having worked the land - thus earning our meals by the sweat of our brow - on lovely china and handspun, handwoven linen tablecloths - also made in our home.
    All much more satisfying than paying for a sensory overload at exorbitant prices just to brag about it.

  146. You seem to be 'bragging' about a different, incredibly lovely, experience. I actually identify more strongly with the principles of pleasure that you're supporting here, but you must understand that many people would read this as the same smugness, just directly differently.

    The problem is buying into the notion of the humblebrag, which mocks anyone for sharing any of their joyful experiences with anyone else for fear they will come off as arrogant. I end up NOT posting about life events or accomplishments on facebook. I have friends who preface every statement they make with, "it's not a big deal, I'm sure you'll find this very boring, but I just won the Nobel Peace Prize." (or, you know, went to Philly for a long weekend).

    Friends, neighbors, even Americans or humans should be able to share in each other's joy or talents without feeling threatened by it. My grandfather used to draw out of me honest statements about what I was really good at, and what I wasn't good at, making sure I understood there was no shame in either. (uh oh, I just bragged about having a sage grandparent!).

    All that said, I would probably pay $298 to eat at your table given this description, even if I had to also wipe some of that well-earned sweat from your brow.

  147. I so enjoyed your description of your pleasure in farming and preparing food, until you used it to generalize about what gives more satisfaction and assumed the moral high ground.

  148. Yes, after working hard and coming in with broken fingernails and dirty looks from neighbors who spend their time spraying Roundup (we aren't in the country, but on a city lot, I don't feel any shame taking a few bragging rights. Paying for a meal cooked by strangers is not how I was raised. We have never charged any guest at our table. We offer sincere atmosphere - not something cold and distant - a personal touch, if you will. That is missing from far too much in today's world.

  149. Comparable to the price of an excellent seat at a San Francisco Opera performance. I notice also that good tickets for the Rolling Stones concert in Oakland on the 5th are going for almost twice the base cost of this meal, and great seats for the best Niners and Giants games can easily go for many multiples more. I paid $400 a seat at the Stanford-Wisconsin Rose Bowl match last January, had a great time even if the game wasn't, and never for a moment regretted that I had spent that amount. $300+ for a meal? It's entertainment. Sometimes worth it, sometimes not.

  150. Well I have seen plenty, and yet not anything before now that made me stoop to using the "You Had Me At..." cliche.
    But you had me at -- swarnadwipa spice. San Francisco thing?
    Ack. Maybe look at Los Angeles stuff, or obviously Paris, if you want to venture out of town --
    Much respect,

  151. Why couldn't one wear sound cancelling head phones to block out the disagreeable juke box choices of the chef? All the while enhancing the other senses.

  152. Because:

    a) You wouldn't be able to have a conversation with your dining companion(s).

    b) You'd look like you just escaped from a mental hospital.

    Phil Collins gives me the willies too, but wearing headphones during a meal you're blowing $400 and up on seems more than a little odd. The idea is to take in the experience, not block it out.

  153. ,,,..and the Congress of the United States, under the sequester, just cut funding for the Meals on Wheels programs for the elderly.
    Really Mr. Wells, $298 a person? Doesn't anyone have a sense of shame anymore?

  154. Apparently Congress doesn't, but that is utterly unrelated to a restaurant review.

  155. I seem to have an unpopular position.

    The negative comments on any article about some indulgence only the well-off can truly afford often treat it as a zero-sum game: The indulgence is purchased at the expense of the less fortunate. (Or: Anyone who can afford it has too much money and should be ashamed of themselves; the money would be better off in other hands.)

    I feel that anyone who can swing the cost should be encouraged.

    Anyone in a position to go to this restaurant has already donated as much to charity as they intend. Likewise, the chances of a confiscatory seizure of money and assets from those with "too much" are zero. (Any new tax would only affect new income, distributions and etc., not the funds and assets already accumulated.)

    These people spending their money directly into our consumer-driven economy is the best use of the funds that we can reasonably expect.

    So don't judge them and make them self-conscious - encourage them to spend, spend, spend away. The state gets taxes, the owner profits, the workers get wages and tips and the supply chain sustains jobs (like the fisherman here). I know you have all read the Krugman columns about how we could have a full-employment economy from making silly toys for the 1 percent.

    Am I wrong here? Naive?

  156. I agree that injecting money into the economy is a good thing, never mind the frivolity of one's purchases.

    But I think what many people are reacting to, myself included, is this culture of one-upmanship that a restaurant like this feeds into and is borne out of. I have a lot of 'friends' on social media who love to humble brag about their experiences, their happiness, their fabulous quality of live. We've all seen the coy status updates, the perfectly staged photos, etc attesting to this awesome existence - and there always seems to be an undercurrent of competition, a need to prove that we're at least as, if not more cool/knowledgeable/worldly/wealthy than our friends. So going to a restaurant this expensive and exclusive is just one more opportunity for these 'be jealous of me!' types to flaunt their importance. It's gross and speaks volumes about our culture these days. It distracts from the very real and important problems in our country and the world that require attention and action, it distracts from real life in general.

    Granted, none of this is Saison's fault. This cultural trend started before they did and it'll likely exist after they shut their doors. But I believe that restaurants and small businesses exploit this aspect of our culture and they perpetuate it to built their own reputations and bank accounts. That doesn't mean any one entity should be singled out for blame, but where does it stop and who will be the ones to stop it?

  157. Yes, naive. There is no proof that the wealthy contribute to charities in greater percentages than middle-class citizens. Some rich folks are incredibly cheap, as are people in all walks of life.

  158. Regarding the workers getting some of that $$, maybe...

  159. In San Francisco, two-thirds of wages recovered by inspectors for minimum wage violations were for restaurant workers. Restaurants often hire immigrant workers and pay them below minimum wage.

    There's a great deal of crowing about the cost of a meal at Saison. If the dishwashers and janitors and farmers are reaping the benefits of the largesse, I think it's great. But even restaurants churning out quality food try to cut corners on labor costs.

    So, Chef Skenes, how much does the man or woman washing the empty plates get paid?

  160. He pays whatever the market will bear, and he owes them not a cent more than that.

  161. Sheesh, I've eaten at Saison a couple of times (and will go again), and I never knew I was an enemy of the people.

    Look, $500 isn't that much money any more. I've got a job and I'm doing OK, but I'm hardly a member of the 1%. My monthly cable/internet bill is $166 (and I don't get any premium channels), my 10-year old Toyota Corolla uses $500 of gas every 3 months.

    For most people I know a meal at Saison wouldn't be worth it. The food and wine is not what you usually find at a restaurant, and if all you want is a tasty meal with friends, there are a lot better options. But I really enjoy the food at Saison and have a great and memorable time there, and the once-a-year cost doesn't bother me a bit.

  162. Oil paintings by unknown painters cost a few hundred dollars. Perhaps a restaurant such as this one is more art than sustenance. The kitchen prep for such a tasting menu is enormous and time-consuming, not to mention sourcing. When I saw the film about Adria's restaurant near Barcelona, I realized that months and months of lab work and several members of a team as dedicated as any team of scientists are necessary to create these deep elaborations for tasting. Are they worth it? I can't afford such a price, but I can imagine the pleasure, especially when a writer such as Pete Wells describes his experience. The moral issue entangles everyone.

  163. I'm trying to think of a not-terribly-gross way to say this . . . oil paintings don't get disposed of in a porcelain bowl. And, perhaps more importantly, art doesn't inherently aim to please. All restaurants, even the ones serving the most "challenging" food, are trying to please their customers. I think there are many other important differences between food and art but those are two major ones.

  164. I wonder if Mr. Wells would say the extraordinary tab is worth it if he were paying for it himself. $298 for dinner is obscene to many, but having to put up with so much pretentiousness and obeisance to their rules makes this a truly ridiculous prospect.

    Once the "novelty" of being able to say you paid $300 for dinner wears off, Saison will be no more. I have eaten at Eleven Madison Park, where the tab is $200 per person but the food there is as extraordinary as the service. They don't make you feel like they are doing you a favor by letting you eat there. In fact, they make you feel as though you are favoring them by having chosen their restaurant.

  165. I'm appalled that most of you are taking the time to comment on how obscene the practice of paying a high price tag for dinner can be. Just as other posters have mentioned, we pay ridiculous prices for things that entertain us or make us happy. Ever get front row tickets to the opera, ballet or broadway show? That playoff game? I bet you have. I'm sure plenty of you have paid hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes, or watch some silly cooking show on your 60 inch plasma screen that cost $1,000, I'm sure no one is telling you, "There are kids out there without any shoes, shame on you." Shame on me for spending the money I earn on whatever I please?

    I'm hardly the 1%. Hell I'm hardly the 20%. I'm a chef/cook by profession. I live in SF and shell out $800 in rent and have 3 roommates. None of this changes the fact that I will spend a paycheck on a special occasion dinner. Hopefully it will be an experience I won't forget.

    I've paid thousands of dollars at restaurants like Benu, Manresa, French Laundry, Brooklyn Fare, Eleven Madison Park and others. Do I have the desire to go to Saison? Nope, not really. But I'm not going to chastise Mr. Wells or anyone else who has that desire. Making a restaurant like this changes the way people look at food. Its a progression no matter how you cut it.

    For those of you who don't get it, I'm sorry, but feel free to spend your money where you please.

  166. The pictures that accompany the article tell the story. They seem entirely devoid of joy. The ambiance seems sterile. The presentation of food makes each dish appear as a little science experiment. The staff appear as doctors who have just found an inoperable tumor. Give me a meal that brings pleasure, and I'll happily give you as much money as I have in my pockets, but invite me to dine here, I think I'd pass.

  167. What's unsavory about this article is not that the restaurant is so expensive, it's that Mr Wells sets out by asking, is this meal worth $400? The answer is no, of course, no meal is ever "worth" $400. Framing the review by attempting to justify the cost is distracting and a losing battle. That being said, I still want to read about the culinary experience!

    Also: While I have friends who spend excessive amounts of money on fine dining (as they have a right to do), they always present it from the get-go as a special occasion: a once in a life-time expenditure, six months of waiting for a reservation, celebrating a job or an engagement. I bristled when I read that Mr Wells had dined at Saison previously, didn't really enjoy the experience, but was looking forward to giving it another try. It is this flippancy about the cost of the meal, and not the cost of the meal itself, that rubbed me the wrong way.

  168. It's. his. job.Which he makes clear in the first sentence.

  169. Great meals for $29.80 or less are available all over the bay area -- those paying $400 and up for a meal have too much money -- okay by me if the donate some of that surplus money to any of the feed the hungry programs. If one can afford to spend so much on one meal, one should also donate to second harvest or the like.

  170. They earned the money and they can spend it as they wish. They do not owe it to anybody else. $29.80 won't even buy a decent burger meal in San Francisco.

  171. I thought San Francisco's pride were the 'hole in the wall' places where the food was delicious, cheap and provided SF's epicures with that 'unique' experience.

    This seems to do just the opposite. A monkey (with $300 in his fist and penchant for promptness) can walk in.

    Doesn't seem that special to me.

    And I've eaten at a restaurant called 'Gold' which actually had their desserts sprinkled with edible gold and the whole thing for two with tips cost less than $50!!!

  172. You are so right..but thats from a different era in San Francisco, an intelectual era. Now SF is all about the Benjamins.

  173. When I read articles like this, it confirms my belief that we are living in a world gone mad.

  174. All the comments surprise me, or maybe the lack of comments - from those that deeply enjoy these experiences, and can appreciate every second of them. I lived in New York and DC and have enjoyed many of these types of restaurants. We don't make an incredible amount of money, but have made it almost ritualistic to be part of this gourmet culture, be it cooking at home or going to these highly-regarded restaurants. In DC specifically, my husband and I had a 3+ hour omakase at Sushi Taro that was one of the experiences of my life - just the two of us and their sushi master, private, dish-by-dish plate-by-plate explanations, fish flown in from all over the world, the whole presentation. I think for the two of us it was around $600. The most EXTRAORDINARY restaurant experience of my life was Steirereck in Vienna, Austria. I was told by my friend that they wore white gloves (true), and for some reason, we casually made the reservation not realizing what we were in store for (.... cheese cart, tea cart with live plants, petite fours cart, bread basket, and yes, white gloves and dishes brought to our table with little cards reminding us of the ingredients of every dish), and left the restaurant with about a $700 bill. And to this day, (where I am terribly frugal on other things), it was worth every penny. I do believe it. Where others might go take a vacation of pay for the mortgage on their boat, we go on our own "restaurant holidays". For food, we travel. Truly, bon appetit!

  175. Thank you for your comment. Some of us find pleasure in art, music, theater sports. I happen to find mine in food. I'll pass on the $100 shirt and pay for dinner on a Tuesday with that money. Some people just don't get it, and thats fine with me.

  176. What wonderful memories of extraordinary experiences. I do wish we could get off our high horses and just value hearing about what gives others great pleasure.

  177. What I find interesting are the comments oozing with moral superiority.

    Every 5 or 10 years I’ve gone to a restaurant such as this. Each time is an entertaining, educational experience. What makes an exceptional dish? How did the chef balance the flavors, textures and look? How could my dishes be improved in the same way? How, exactly, did they add a crunchy texture to balance a creamy one. I do a lot of cooking at home, so the price balances out and the learning and inspiration easily pays off. A tennis player wants to see Roger Federer hit a forehand, live. Same thing.

    The last time we took my mother-in-law. It was a Christmas present we’d been looking forward to delivering for six months. We’ll likely remember it for the rest of our lives.

    And, I like to cook enough that for years I volunteered at a local soup kitchen. Do I get moral offsets?

    Oh, there’s the theory that people do this to pretentiously brag later and “feel above the crowd.” Sorry you imagine this; I live in a modestly sized house, drive my cars into the ground, talk about things that I find interesting, and rarely show off on Facebook. I brag about my kids.

    If you knew me, you’d know that.

  178. I'm puzzled; if reservations are so sought after, isn't there a waiting list? If there is one and someone cancels, there would be a strong likelyhood that their reservation would be fulfilled by someone on the waiting list. So, why a cancellation fee of such magnitude?

  179. To remind you that they control you. The customer's always right, right?

  180. Come on guys. Pete Wells reviewed one of the most important restaurants in the United States; it's widely believed to be a candidate for three Michelin stars (it currently has two). The job of a critic is to help us allocate our scare (or abundant) disposable income, and that's what he's doing here (and doing a great job at it, in my opinion). There are many people from humble backgrounds who choose to save up their hard earned money and, instead of going to Bora Bora, they take themselves to a nice restaurant. Those diners deserve a detailed and fair account, and that's why this is a great review. It's easy to pan expensive joints and laud the cheap ones, but sometimes, more often than not, good restaurants are expensive.

  181. I don't think the comments are a judgement on the quality of Pete Wells' review. He did a fine job.

    Instead, it appears that the majority of the comments reflect a backlash against decadence and pomposity, and an affirmation for more affordable pleasures. It speaks volumes, and how absolutely & wonderfully refreshing!

  182. Ah no! This kind of food is a creative act of art. Like all art it can make you imagine the world in new ways - taking you outside of yourself and showing you how life and experience can be transcendent! Great architecture, photography or fashion can do the same thing. We mustn't confuse the creativity, intelligence, and sensitivity required to produce this kind of meal with the craft required to make "good food". It's like comparing the beautiful double helix staircase DaVinci designed for the Chateau de Chambord with the staircase built in a house by a capable carpenter. I have no doubt that if we decided there should not be breathtakingly beautiful gowns or gracious buildings or stunning photographs because not everyone has adequate clothing or housing, humanity would be the less for it. So it is with this kind of cuisine. Surely it is incumbent upon all of us to both do what we can to alleviate suffering AND to experience and spread joy. Pete Wells, thanks for sharing your experience!

  183. Everything today is art, the same way that heroes are ubiquitous, and experiences become earth shaking moments. If you begin with the I, meaning the YOU as a person in need of the unique, extraordinary and most of all, that something you can twit/face share, enhancing your stature, Good Luck.
    There is still a world of great pleasures shared mutually, and exalting conversations over a wonderful dinner. Devoid of the chef''s muzak and rude assistants the cost is irrelevant, the rewards memorable.

  184. Another reason I cook at home.

    Seriously, I have taken cooking lessons for years and my food is as good, if not better, than anything I have ever eaten in NYC or European restaurants . And much cheaper.

    But then again, I have to do the dishes. So there are trade-offs.

  185. Pete Wells - lesson # 1: Never start a restaurant review with the cost of the dinner (excl taxes, service etc.) The comments posted has no reflection on the clients seeking seeking out restaurants like this.

    A drive through $5 Big Mac with fries Big Gulp, a movie, pop corn and more soda is what we need. It helps the economy, all the malnourished people and instills a good and solid dietary culture.

    Saison - I'll make it a plan to visit your on my next trip to San Francisco (but for the love of God change the music)