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May 28, 2008 09:55 PM

SF: What fun! Happy hour and breakfast … Margarita, small plate and dessert at Orson for $15

One thing that isn’t noted anywhere … not on their website or business card … from 8am to 4pm during the week there is a kiosk inside Orson that sells coffee drinks and Citizen Cake pastries (scones, cupcakes, etc)

Happy Hour is Monday – Friday (5pm-7pm) Classic cocktails $5

What I had for happy hour

$5 - lengua croquette, cherry, sea bean, tarragon
$5 - margarita with salt, cabrito blanco tequila, lime, agave nectar
$5 - 50/50 shot mauve flower soda, frankincense ice cream, veloce granite

Not only was that one nice margarita, it was generous, about the size of a large tumbler.

The lengua was flat-out excellent … excellent.

A tender piece of tongue expertly breaded It was listed under the category ‘tease’, so I was expecting something tiny, but it was almost the size of my palm. It was on some sort of green leaves … or a type of tarragon I’m not familiar with. Halved Rainer cherries were scattered around the plate and there were some other small, dark cooked cherries topping the lengua and a light vinegary dressing ... or it could just be the liquid from the cherries ... they might have been dried and then cooked.

The only reason I ordered this was for the sea bean which I had read about a while back on Chowhound.

They were sort of like long fir needles in looks and crunchy. They weren’t salty though, which I expected. A link in that topic says of sea beans "Western Canadians and Alaskans usually call it sea grass or sea asparagus" and reading that the asparagus seems a good description ... like needle-thin asparagus.

The dessert was like a small fizzy ice cream soda. It was pleasant, about five sips and while no flavors popped out … well worth my five bucks just to say I tried mauve flower, frankincense and veloce (which I’m still haven’t googled to find out exactly what that is)

I asked as server what dessert would be the best to try next time and she suggested the "sundae always comes too late" chocolate croquette, banana mousse, pecans

There's also some sort of chocolate pizza that the bartender was a good compromise if you couldn't decide on something to eat or dessert. There is supposedly a smoky flavor to it from the espelette.

Other things I’ve tried so far at Orson …

touch of evil - bourbon, mint, lemon juice, absinthe, rhubarb syrup
rhubarb rickey - strawberry rhubarb syrup, lime, soda ... PG-13 (non alcoholic)
sausage, asparagus, fennel, pecorino pizza

The touch of evil is my new cosmo A pretty pink drink with two fresh mint leaves floating on top that the bartender … uh, slapped … to bring out the oils … and there was that lovely aroma of fresh mint with every sip.

Orson also has the whole absinthe set up if anyone is interested in that alone. They use Hangar One absinthe.

The rhubarb rickey was sort of like the touch of evil without the booze and mint … and fizzy ... and very nice.

I liked the pizza, the size of a large dinner plate and more than enough for a meal for one. I took a few slices home actually. This is a super thin pizza with nice browned spots on the crust and lightly topped with shaved ingredients. It is so thin that when I had my slices at home the olive oil had seeped into the crust and it was translucent in spots. Yet it still was crispy/chewy and was even good cold.

To make things even better, I got a full-sized complementary Citizen cupcake in a cellophane bag, tied with a pink ribbon.

They have lots of interesting beverages not listed on the menu. They don’t even list the absinthe. I asked about it since it was in my drink.

From Austria there are reisetbauer eau-de-vies … specialty, small batch fruit spirits … rowanberry, plum, wild cherry, himbeer, apricot, pear William.

There are about 30 liquors that include things like veev acai berry liquer, del maguey crema de mescal and velvet falernum.

I like everything about Orson ... the room, service, vibe and food. It was larger, airier and more comfortable than I expected. The servings were more generous. The service was efficient and helpful without being intrusive.

One server said they had plans for lots of special wine dinners and events like this recent Bourbon and Bacon dinner that Windy reported

No empty promise here … I will definitely be back to Orson and it will be one of the places I take out-of-towners in addition to Zuni.

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

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  1. The next special dinner is June 11th, a "Gin & Stone Cocktail Dinner."

    "... a three course tasting menu with original cocktail pairings featuring Right Gin enhanced by Kubler Absinthe." The "Stone" is stone fruits, and from looking at the menu on the website those include "grilled stone fruit" apricot, plum, cherries & white peach.

    The "Touch of Evil" cocktail was a bit too sweet for me. I vastly prefer the "Catch 22" which is concocted from "batavia-arak, manzanilla sherry, house made chocolate liquor, rhum clement creole shrubb" (?!?)

    Might Orson turn out the opposite of Frisson? A lounge with good food?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Paul H

      It was the mint that did me in on the touch of evil and I lost my better judgment.

      You know, if they did promote is as a lounge with good food rather than a restaurant with good cocktails, it might please everyone.

      Nice to know in your other post on Orson that they have sandwiches for lunch too. That's right it opens at 7am, not 8am. They really should put something about that on the website.

      I finally figured out Veloce was an Italian liquor ...

      "The Master Blender creates the artisanal infusion using an over 100 year old family recipe of orange bitters, apricot, peach, soft red wine grappa, herbs and fruit flowers."

      Aw, Paul ... you know you are my restaurant guru.

      You wrote in that other post (linked above) ...

      "The menu continues to evolve becoming a bit less adventurous, and achieving a better value"

      I hope they don't dumb it down too much to please everyone. Once it gets more established I hope they put a few or the more adventurous dishes on the menu again for those who are interested.

      Unfortunately, business is business. Looking up sea beans the only other mention on Chowhound in San Francisco was for Winterland ... and well ... there you go.

      What I liked about it is the menu is different than any other menu ... it is not the ingrediant of the moment with the restaurant's twist ... I tell you, while I like marcon almonds ... give me a break ... they are the new huckleberry and yuzu.

      1. re: rworange

        rworange - really sorry to rain on your parade, but we had a less than satisfactory experience at Orson yesterday at happy hour.

        My friend had the margarita, it was pretty good - a nice start.
        Also ordered the bourbon and Miller - as expected, pretty decent combination.
        Had the fries with duck fat, had the faintest hint of duck fat. Fried to a crisp, great texture, but a bit insipid, really. At $7 - I don't think they do the job.

        We also ordered the following:

        Potato, artichoke, etc small plate
        Chicken Slider

        Potatoes were uncooked and we had to send them back. When they came back, they were still a bit raw (?!)

        The chicken slider tasted pretty good until I realized the chicken was raw and red in the centre. I couldn't get myself to even mention this to the bartender.

        The vibe didn't strike me as particularly appealing to my taste. Maybe it was an off night.

        I am definitely open and willing to give the place one more shot though.