Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Apr 11, 2008 03:59 PM

SoMa Reviews: Zuppa, Orson, B Restaurant

I'm always at a loss in SoMa. I live in old, creaky Mission, and something about the ultra-new, industrial, metal-on-cement restaurants and hotel bars in SoMa don't appeal to me. Frequently, though, I have to meet people there, and try to find something I like.

My go-to has been Pazzia; the prices are reasonable, service is friendly enough, and I like the sausage pizza and some of the pasta dishes. Lately I've strayed a bit.

B Restaurant was suggested by a friend. Short review: food was good, happy hour 'small bites' were good values, and the setting is nice (in Yerba Buena gardens), though the place was completely empty when we went there, on a Wednesday night I think.

The small bites we tried were great--little pieces of shrimp on toast, some truffle fries. We also split a hamburger, which was just OK--I had just had my very favorite hamburger (from Slow Club) the other day, and this wasn't as flavorful, probably in part because I was splitting with a pregnant woman and had to get it well done instead of my prefered medium rare. Also to start, I had a couple of Marin Miyagi oysters that were fresh and lovely.

We both liked the cocktails menu, which features lots of fresh juices; my friend had one with the alcohol left out. I should have asked for double, but didn't. I'd return, though the atmosphere would be more enjoyable with fellow diners.

Zuppa was also weirdly dead. I liked the food, which is Italian-focused. The pre-dinner focaccia was served with ricotta drizzled with a bit of oil and pepper, a nice touch. We shared house-made sausage as an antipasti, followed by two pasta dishes: pappardelle alla ligure and spaghetti with wild mushrooms. The spicing of the sausage wasn't aggressive enough for my taste: I like a punch of garlic, or fennel, or whatever.

The pasta portions were huge, perfect for my friend, who is about to run a marathon. Under normal circumstances, I think we could have split one portion of pasta and one antipasta and been full. My spaghetti was perfectly cooked, with lots of mushrooms. It was a bit heavy and creamy for my taste.

Before visiting Zuppa, my favorite Italian places in San Francisco were Incanto, La Ciccia, and Ideale, and that won't change--the food they're doing seems a bit more sophisticated than what I found at Zuppa. But it was a pretty decent meal, and I didn't regret it. Unlike...

Orson. We walked by Orson on the way to Zuppa, and at the end of our meal I suggested that we mosey over for desserts and cocktails. Because we are city ladies, and why not?

We reviewed the extensive, eclectic drink and dessert menus (there are about 12 unique creations on each) and settled on two desserts and two drinks. The dessert menu includes two categories, "naughty" (very small bites for about $5) and "nice" (larger portions for about $10).

From the "naughty" side, we ordered "The Chocolate Orb," which included chocolate cereal, banana, and cardamom milk. The taste was ok, a bit like the last bit of cereal left in the bowl, but the portion was so miniscule it was almost ridiculous.

From the "nice" side, we ordered "The Invisible." Basically, it is almond, bergamot and truffle, with all the colors removed; it's the second picture on this page (

I like all manner of nasty bits: hoof, snout, intestine, cheek. The "Invisible" was probably the only thing I've eaten that has disgusted me. Best description I can muster: it was like astronaut ice cream coated in mucus.

I just got a shot of Woodford bourbon, which did me fine. My friend ordered a cocktail, but what she ordered wasn't what she got. We didn't figure this out until the check came, because each drink has about eight ingredients, so it was hard to determine what the right cocktail should be.

Service was weird. One server placed our silverware, then another came to move the fork and spoons to opposite sides. My friend didn't like her cocktail and finished about half; each of us tried one bite of the Invisible and recoiled in visible horror, but no one checked in to find out why we rejected our food and drink.

I liked about Orson that it had a strong voice--everything was considered, planned and approached with a distinct sense of style. I guess I just didn't like what the voice had to say.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Links

    B Restaurant & Bar
    720 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    564 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

    Orson Restaurant
    508 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

    6 Replies
    1. re: pane

      Thanks for the report!. I am trying to figure out if B is connected to the B Restaurant in downtown is such an unusual name that it seems likely (the name is difficult to search, among other things)...there is no direct mention of it on the Oakland B website, so not sure....

      B Restaurant & Bar
      499 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607

      1. re: susancinsf

        Yes, they are related. Also to the excellent Boxed Foods Company on Kearny.

        1. re: Windy

          thanks; I could see the logo on the Oakland B website, but nothing happened when I clicked on it...I'm not familiar with Boxed Foods, so good to know...

          As for B Oakland, I wasn't that impressed on my one visit, but it was a while ago and shortly after they opened, so it may be time to try it again.

        2. re: susancinsf

          It amazes me that these days restaurants don't consider searchability when choosing a name. "The Richmond" is a perfect example of a stupidly unsearchable name and no doubt contributes to its low profile.

          I had dinner about a year ago at B in Oakland. I thought it was decent but not great. But I have a feeling that it's one of those places where you need to figure out what they're good at. I didn't realize, for example, that they have a wood-burning pizza oven, or I would have tried some pizza. Looking at their site, I hadn't realized they served brunch -- looks tasty!

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            It is strange. I liked Boxed Foods company; the food is fairly straightforward, and they pay attention to the source of the ingredients, which I care about.

            B is the same way. The creativity of the food doesn't warp space and time, but it was tasty and well presented, in a pleasant atmosphere.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              "It amazes me that these days restaurants don't consider searchability when choosing a name.'


              I know someone will come along and say how EASY it is to find stuff like this ... but despite my search skills .. I fail a lot with restaurants like thils.

              I've been updating Place records which has benefitted me IMMENSELY. It is amazing the amount of info that is unearthed looking at restaurant websites.

              Haven't looked at the "B" website in a while. Thanks for the info about the wood-fired oven. I've been meaning to drop by for their brunch for a few dishes.

              I'd also like to slap any restaurant that doesn't put its hours on the home page ... or even worse nowhere ... and maybe just as bad the only info is "opens at xx pm" ... with no closing time.

        3. Wow. That dessert even looks revolting!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            actually, some of the savory dishes look pretty unappealing as well....

          2. Thanks for the review of Soma restos. I am always at a loss too and I live here, so go figure. Most places around here are too high end or expensive for a casual meal on a random worday evening. My recommendations are TWO on Hawthorne Lane, the Brickhouse for a simple meal or even the Westfield mall for Out the Door.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Mari

              Thanks for the recommendations! I have not tried the Brickhouse, but do like Out the Door enough to return. For me, this district has the highest concentrations of restaurants I've been to once and don't plan to visit again: Ame, Salt House, Osha, Town Hall, and now Orson.

              1. re: pane

                Ame? Hmmm. IMHO Ame is one of the best restaurants in the city.

              2. re: Mari

                I liked TWO has a SOMA go to place. It's not perfect on every dish, but I like the environment, a few of the dishes, and the cupcakes!

              3. Regarding crowds at B, they ebb and flow dramatically. DH and I went last Friday (as you'll recall it was about 75 degrees at dinner time) and the place was PACKED. The Friday happy hour crowds lingered on the beautiful patio and the walkway late into the evening. The happy hour menu is served late by most standards - 7:30 PM, and we found everything well-priced and DELICIOUS. I had the halibut with melted leeks, and DH had the burger medium rare. We split a side of tempura'd wax beans & cauliflower. We had two specialty cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices, and we still managed to get our of there for less than $50 before tip. Our waitress was also the special events planner, and she said they do a good chunk of their business during the week on private events. As you might imagine, their location directly abouve Moscone makes them a prime spot for this. If you like a place that's "buzzing" head there on a Friday, or whenever the weather is nice and warm.

                1. I seriously don't like desserts like that. All substance. And for 10 bucks I expect a pretty nice sized dessert on my plate. Not something that looks like a jellyfish pooped on my plate