Orson.....thanks, but no thanks
With all of the recent buzz on Orson, and somewhat favorable reviews, we made early dinner reservations for tonight. We liked the dramatic space and could see how it would be very electric with a full house. On this Tuesday night, it would be only half filled by the time we left (7:30).
Our waitress was efficient, but felt at times imposing. She explained multiple times that the concept was "small plates" and that we would want to order 3-5 items per person. Though the restaurant was practically empty, we felt rushed. She kept returning every few minutes to ask if we made any additional decisions, implying that we may not have ordered enough.....and again, reiterating that our orders would only be about "3 ounces" and that the portions were on the small side.
So the two of us started with a half dozen Miyagi Oysters. They arrived swiftly and freezer cold topped with a citrus granita. I about gagged on the first oyster. The granita was so salty and acidic, I thought how could anyone find this appetizing. Now, me and hubby did finish all six (after scraping away all remnants of granita), but it was more out of a sense of hating to waste food rather than actually true enjoyment We are not ones to send food back or complain, which maybe we should have done in this case looking back.
We then moved on to the Octopus Salad and Pork Buns. The Octopus Salad was essentially wilted Iceberg Lettuce with slices of grilled Octopus thrown in. The dressing was forgettable, but the sprouted nuts added a nice texture. The 3 Pork Buns were these baked doughy orbs stuffed with a few diced pork cubes. They were sitting in a sweet sauce that did nothing for the overall taste.
Our last three dishes were the Clams and Chick Peas, Tai Snapper, and the Tomato Basil Pizza.
--Clams and Chick Peas. This was by far the best tasting dish of the night. The Clams were meaty and fresh and wonderfully prepared with the Chick Peas and Chicharrones. The sauce was creamy, rich, and flavorful....though a bit salty.
--Tai Snapper in a green curry sauce. The fish was cooked nicely and the curry sauce was light and pleasing. Nothing wrong with this dish at all, but not very memorable. It just felt like a basic dish that could be found in any number of SF restaurants.
--Tomato Basil Pizza. Simple preparation with a crispy, yet puffy crust. The sauce was a bit tangy and was dotted with mozzarella. This was probably the most basic item on the menu and would not surprise anyone.
Moving on to dessert, we decided to try three of the "Naughty" one-bite selections. We went with the Pigwich (pizelle with maple bacon ice cream), the New York New York (cheesecake crema), and the Fleur de Bleu (blue potato ravioli with lavender ice cream). The Pigwich was definitely interesting and you could really taste the maple bacon in the ice cream, but I think I liked the NYNY the best. The cheesecake crema had nice texture and full flavor and went well with the coffee. The Fleur de Bleu just didn't work in our opinion. Rarely do we leave a dessert half eaten, but that one just didn't interest us all in the slightest. The "ravioli" flavor was strange and kind of mushy.
Maybe we're just not the inventive types and enjoy our comfort foods too much, but no matter what the "style" of the restaurant, the underlying factor has to be that it serves good kick a** food......and for us, Orson did not have it tonight. Part of the adventure is trying out new restaurants and enjoying the meal no matter how good or bad it was. But it was hard to sit there and not wonder what we would have ordered tonight if we went back to SPQR or Bar Crudo. Would we go back to Orson....No. Would we recommend this to any of our friends....probably not. Did we regret the experience....Never.
I have been twice in the past two weeks and I would say perhaps visit it to start your night or end it...
The drinks also play sweet/sour against each other or spicy/tangy. The fries in duck fat are tasty but avoid the tofu and kimchee as it is a small portion with no flavor.
The desserts, as someone else remarked, are VERY innovative and large. Maybe after you find your special occasion place, you can swing by here for a dessert (the pigwich was delicious as was the chocolate orb).
I also liked sitting in the lounge area much more than the dining area and there is also a private lounge upstairs if you want something more romantic.
We went and had a very mixed experience. Still, I'd say it was fun.
We tried MANY things. A lot of them failed miserably. Some just failed. And some worked so exceptionally well I'd try them again.
The highlights were the carrot dumplings, the short ribs (amazing, I'd say) and the chicken sausage. the smoked fish was also good. I was a fan of the pigwich (bacon ice cream, 'nuff said).
Did NOT like the pig (4 preps of which only one worked).
Not in a hurry to go back but would with adventurous friends. And I did like the bar a bit
I went to Orson on the third night of service. Portions were tiny which would have been ok if they were good but they just weren't. $140 for two people (with only one glass of wine each) and honestly not a single item that I would order again. Desserts should shine but I found all three that we ordered pretty much inedible, especially the 'invisible' dessert.
I really wanted to like my meal (Elizabeth was working the room and seemed so happy) but I will not return until the concept changes.