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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hot Meal: Joshua Skenes' Saison at Stable Cafe

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Intensely summery: Roasted goat with corn foam over cracked hominy.

Last night marked the official opening of Saison, a Sundays-only fine-dining prix fixe at Stable Café (2128 Folsom at 17th St.) in the Mission. It's a joint venture by sommelier and wine consultant Mark Bright (Restaurant Michael Mina, the Local) and chef Joshua Skenes (Chez TJ, the Mina galaxy, and Skenes' long-planned Carte415). 

On the phone, the chef bristled at the suggestion that Saison is a pop-up in the mold of, say, Chris Kronner's Thursday nights at Bruno's or Mission Street Food. "My perception of a pop-up is that it's something out of a garage, or in somebody else's restaurant," Skenes told SFoodie. Saison offers two seatings of some 20 guests each in the indoor-outdoor space at the rear of the Stable. Semantics aside, Skenes -- a young chef with impressive chops -- clearly wants to avoid being lumped in with clunkier food from lesser chefs.

Last night's prix fixe was a suite of intensively focused summer flavors ($60 for five courses plus mignardises, with an optional $30 wine pairing - you pre-pay online when you make the rezzy). First, an amuse-bouche of raw lobster and caviar. Next, mixed melon salad with Bellwether ricotta, vadouvan-spiked vinaigrette, wild fennel, and other greens. A square of soft halibut over lemon verbena leaves and a subtly smoky shellfish jus. Slices of what was supposed to be suckling goat, with foamy corn milk and a stew of cracked hominy, red Camargue rice, and faro with raw sorrel. Finally, perfumey Lucero strawberries in cream-enriched sabayon studded with bits of shortbread. Bright's wine pairings, ranging from a Toni Joost Riesling Kabinett to a Broc Cellars Syrah from Sonoma, simultaneously framed and softened the contours of Skenes' cooking.

There were opening night glitches, for sure. The goat turned out to be older than suckling, which delayed the cooking -- we waited more than 45 minutes for slightly underdone slices of loin. And a melon variety or two in the salad skewed watery. Still, Saison offers big promise for subtly layered cooking that's sophisticated without making you feel stupid for wearing jeans and a tee.

Halibut and lemon verbena in a smoky shellfish bouillon.

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