When it comes to eating out, fine dining can be an expensive experience. But if you’re willing to splash the cash, there are a few restaurants out there that can offer something truly special. One such example is this high-end eatery in San Francisco, which served up a whopping $600 bill to an Australian college student. And if you’ve ever wondered exactly what kind of meal you’d get for that sort of money, read on.
The destination in question is Saison, a French-American restaurant situated near South Beach Harbor. Its tasting menu is based on the availability of seasonal ingredients and, as such, differs from one day to the next. According to Saison’s website, all of the restaurant’s produce is sourced from “a small group of fisherman, hunters, gatherers, ranchers and farmers.” This commitment to quality is perhaps one of the reasons why the restaurant is among the most expensive in the U.S.
And with such a reputation, the establishment attracts many hungry diners from across the globe. One such food fan was Imgur user Hoptail, who hails from Australia. She had traveled to San Francisco as part of her job and made plans to visit Saison. The keen foodie wrote on Imgur, “I always make a habit of visiting the best restaurants when I travel. I’m not well-off by any means – I’m a college student. But I love good food and I save up.” And once inside the eatery, she photographed every single course of her mammoth meal, before uploading the results to the internet.
Hoptail’s Saison experience lasted for four hours, throughout which she drank a “heavenly” tea alongside her food. Floating on top of the beverage was a bundle crammed with all manner of herbs, such as chamomile, yarrow and anise. And, of course, each ingredient was handpicked from Saison’s very own farm. As tea goes, then, it doesn’t get much fancier.
But what of the food? Well, Hoptail’s first course consisted of roasted kelp with baby spinach and caviar. In keeping with the restaurant’s ethos, its own cow, Bella, was responsible for the butter in which the kelp was cooked. And the caviar was apparently exclusive to Saison, so this is a dish that Hoptail won’t be able to recreate back home in Australia. Which is a shame, as she described that particular part of the meal as being deliciously “buttery and melty.”
Next up was a plate of turbot fish, served two ways. Her reaction to the first? “I shed tears knowing that I’d peaked and would never experience better raw fish after this moment.” Yes, this may be the most expensive meal that you’ve ever seen, but at least for this happy customer, it seems like it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Unfortunately, though, not every single course hit the spot. This geoduck, for instance, was apparently just chewy, with the strong marinade making it impossible to taste the meat itself. But considering the large number of courses on offer over the evening, we doubt that one disappointment was enough to sour Hoptail’s experience.
Indeed, the disappointing geoduck was soon forgotten. Next up was this diner’s favorite course of the evening: fresh sea urchin served on a bread confit. Clearly, she wasn’t afraid to try new things, as she explained that she’d never eaten sea urchin prior to this meal. She loved it, though, describing the dish as “so amazingly fresh, and the sauce in the bread was incredible.”
When it comes to a tasting menu like this, though, the order of the courses is almost as important as their contents. After all, when having eaten something particularly rich or overwhelming, you’d probably appreciate a palate cleanser to follow. And that’s what this “super fresh and tart” radish-based dish was. What’s more, it used every single part of the root vegetable in its various components.
If you think there’s only one way to cook roasted pumpkin, meanwhile, prepare to have your mind blown. Indeed, this dish served it up three different ways. The first resembled tofu, finished off with small pieces of octopus; the second, though, was the product of Saison’s commitment to cooking on an open wood fire. In fact, it was roasted for a whopping eight hours.
However, the third variety of pumpkin – a puree served in pumpkin seed oil – didn’t do much for Hoptail. “It felt like it was kind of added as an afterthought and was way too salty,” she wrote. “I’m not even sure how I was supposed to eat it.”
Next on the lavish, extravagant tasting menu was a course of antelope, served alongside a herb salad, stuffed radicchio and biscuits with honey butter. But while Hoptail admitted that it was perfectly cooked – describing it as “melt-in-your-mouth-melt-your-heart amazing” – she couldn’t truly enjoy it. And there was a very specific reason for that…
Yes, it turned out that antelope triggered flashbacks to The Lion King for Hoptail. And even though in the film Simba and Mufasa discuss how lions eat antelope, she apparently couldn’t relish doing likewise. “My childhood sentimentality got in the way of really being able to enjoy this one,” she wrote.
Clearly, it was an eventuality that even this adventurous diner was ill-prepared for. And the next course was, amusingly enough, an antelope broth, topped with sage leaves. Once again, despite the dish being objectively tasty, Hoptail couldn’t wait for the next course. “It was actually really nice, but I needed to move on from Bambi’s relatives,” she admitted.
Hoptail was now finally ready for the dessert courses, the first of which was smoked ice cream. Yes, at Saison, even the ice cream gets the wood-fire treatment, with embers fused into it. And although Hoptail wasn’t quite sure of the science behind smoking something that’s meant to be frozen, she nonetheless felt that the results were “incredible.”
The ice cream wasn’t served on its own, of course. Even though it had been smoked, that wouldn’t be good enough for a $600 meal. It was, then, accompanied by various toppings, including peanuts, pine nuts, cacao nibs and walnuts. And to top it off, the dessert was drizzled with a “life-changing” salted caramel sauce.
But dessert didn’t end there. No, next up was an orange buttermilk creamsicle, which was naturally smooth and creamy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, Hoptail was beginning to feel rather full by this point, and struggled to finish the course. Indeed, following some criticism from readers that the portions looked tiny for the money, she wrote, “The portions are bigger than you think, I was swollen up with a food baby that looked like I herniated something.”
Once Hoptail’s post picked up steam on Imgur, however, some users weighed in to criticize her life choices. “Yeah, I’m sure that meal was… fine. No amount of food to me is worth $600,” one wrote. In response, Hoptail fired back, “It’s my money, and this is what I like. I could be strung out on cocaine or have a crippling meth addiction. Cut me some slack.” And there’s no denying that this blueberry and brandy sorbet looks more tempting than either of those options.
Finally, Hoptail was served what she described as Saison’s version of a Snickers bar. Here, that meant a brownie base topped with chocolate ganache and salted caramel, with a sprinkling of 24-carat gold for good measure. After all, as she quickly pointed out, this was America’s second most expensive restaurant.
And once Hoptail’s meal was finished, the restaurant’s staff presented her with a goody bag full of treats, including a wax-sealed menu. “Honestly, this was an awesome experience and, for me, well worth the money,” she wrote. “The staff were absolutely amazing.” Unsurprisingly, following her lavish experience, Hoptail didn’t eat for a full 24 hours. And while even a full day’s food may not seem worth $600 for most people, it clearly hit the spot for this culinary adventurer.