Expensive Things Explained: Saison Edition


Earlier this year, the two-Michelin starred Saison moved from San Francisco’s Mission to a larger, more luxurious space on Townsend Street in the SoMa district. The menu is also more expensive, at $298, up from the previous price of $248 earlier this spring, which in turn is up from the (shorter) $198 weekday tasting menu offered around this time last April. That’s a total an increase of over $100, or 51% of the menu’s price, in a year’s time.

Saison currently serves California’s third most expensive tasting menu after Meadowood’s $500 chef’s tasting (inclusive of tip), and Urasawa’s $375 omakase. We’re always fans of discussing value and cost here at The Price Hike and The Bad Deal, so we were honored when Chef Joshua Skenes took the time to chat about his new space and prices. He also talks about a pretty cool payment alternative he’s trying to develop with Square.

We published a few snippets of this interview earlier this month after Michael Bauer awarded Saison three out of four stars in his review for The Chronicle. As promised, here’s the rest of our chat:

What prompted the price increase from $248 to $298? We have a lot of extremely expensive stuff in the new space. It’s the price of doing business. In terms of our working with a local fishermen, we set up a deal where we pay for his trip fee, where he goes down to Half Moon Bay or to Monterey or to up north and sources all these little things for us and it drives our cost up. But at the end of the day, it’s really just based on the cost of the ingredients…the menu price is always dictated by the cost of the ingredients… if we were to use a traditional model, I think around $400 for the menu would put us in line with average food costs for a restaurant. By that logic we’re underpriced and it’s a value for the menu.

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San Francisco's Best Chefs Hosting $250 Sandy Benefit Dinner & Silent Auction4

So Here’s the Good Deal, My Fellow Bad Dealers: Benu’s Corey Lee (two Michelin stars), Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow (three Michelin stars) and others will join Daniel Patterson at his (two Michelin-starred) Coi for Hurricane Sandy benefit dinner on December 3rd.

The price is $250 per person, all inclusive, for seven-courses plus wine. 

Here’s what’s even cooler: 100% of the receipts (not just the revenues) will go toward helping rebuilding Governor, as well as toward Occupy Sandy and The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York (for hurricane relief). So you’ll be eating food from some of San Francisco’s best chefs and you’ll be helping out those hurt by Sandy. 

Ain’t no two ways about this. We have ourselves a GOOD DEAL. 

Part Deux: Why Gilt City Shuns Restaurant Websites

When Gilt City advertises a restaurant deal, it doesn’t like to the eatery’s website. It doesn’t publish the venue’s phone number either. That’s because Gilt City, The King of Bad Deals, knows that diners will find better values on the website, on the everday menu. It’s an argument we’ve been highlighting this week, and today we bring you the case of Local: Mission Eatery. Gilt City is selling a $200 per person menu for the San Francisco restaurant, or $400 per couple. That price includes four courses, plus wine pairings, tax and tip. 

Now here’s the problem: If you viewed Local’s website, you’d learn that most dishes are tasting portions under $15, so that if you and your companion wanted to share the ENTIRE savory menu of 14-courses, you’d only spend $125 altogether. Add a bottle of $39 sparkling wine, a cheese course and a dessert course, and you’d spend $175, or $223 after tax and tip. That’s 16-courses and a savings of $177 over the Gilt Deal for two — we’d even say it’s a savings of $377 over the Gilt Deal for three, considering the entire menu could probably feed more than two. A few more points:

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