Saison Refreshes Bar Menu

Forgoing the tasting menu at Saison

These aren't your average bar snacks.

Since Saison moved to Mission Bay, chef-owner Joshua Skenes has tweaked his lounge menu several times, looking to appeal to diners uninterested in the full tasting experience ($248).

The bar menu's new iteration, as of last month: eight dishes sold à la carte, meant to be eaten at the bar or a discreet table nearby.

On a recent night, the dishes included a small bowl of the silkiest braised abalone ($29) we've ever tasted, hidden in a deeply verdant stew of rice and briny herbs foraged from the Pacific coast, and a high-lofted soufflé ($13) perfumed with toasted buckwheat.

Epiphanies are plenty, but it's not quite dinner. Though every bite is exquisite, a $150, four-course meal may leave you craving a postprandial PB&J.

No, this is a dining experience to be treated as a luxe snack. Order a few plates, paired with wines picked by sommelier-owner Mark Bright: a glass of Bruno Colin Chassagne-Montrachet ($24), say, paired with puffed barley and wild rice in an aged-kombu broth, ephemeral slips of dehydrated-broccoli-and-cabbage paper hovering on top ($28). Or a Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir ($25), which seemed destined for roasted pigeon breast, heart and liver accented with cherries ($40).

The bar experience is a lighter version of a meal at Saison, but it's not a watered-down one.