Orson Not Well

Ambitious, edgy California cuisine flirts with the future in uneven fashion.

From the surprisingly brief wine list — 16 whites, seven reds — we enjoyed a very local, very jammy El Dorado County Westwood Syrah ($45).

The playful dessert list from Falkner's protégé Luis Villavelazquez is divided into naughty (one dark-colored trio of chocolate, blackberries, and black cardamom gelato called "vice city," for example) and nice ("sundae always comes too late," banana mousse, pecans, and chocolate croquettes). The dessert assortment called "night flight" ($15) was, after the smoked tempura egg, my favorite dish of the meal: four tiny temptations, including "New York, New York," cheesecake in the guise of whipped cream; a square of olive oil cake topped with a sliver of rhubarb and drizzled with a chartreuse reduction; a tiny chocolate log with brown butter ice cream; and the almost-shocking Pigwich, maple-bacon ice cream sandwiched between two crisp pizzelle cookies. The orderer of the nice "rosebud remastered" ($10) was disappointed by the egg-shaped rose crème brûlée sided by a dust of crushed pistachios mixed with saffron and crushed chili peppers and a tuft of tiny licorice greens, so we tried again with the fragrant "summer snow," ($10) a lychee soup bearing lemon verbena sorbet, sliced white peach, Hoegaarden beer white foam, and bright edible flowers. But she preferred her after-dinner quaff called "Purple Rain" ($10), crème de violette, absinthe, and sparkling wine, a creation of mixologist Jacqueline Patterson, who'd also provided us with a passion fruit–flavored "Lady from Shanghai" ($12) and a minted-rum "New Cuban" ($12) before dinner.

The artistic is seen on the menu, too.
Jen Siska
The artistic is seen on the menu, too.

Location Info



508 Fourth St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

Category: Restaurant > California

Region: South of Market


777-1508, www.orsonsf.com. Dinner Monday 6 to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday until 11 p.m. Bar opens at 5 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: street, moderately difficult. Muni: 9X, 12, 30, 45, 47, 76. Noise level: moderate to high.
508 Fourth Street (at Bryant)

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Of all we'd sampled, I only would have wanted to eat the tempura egg, the trotter patty, and the dessert sampler again. The ambitious menu reminded me a little of the film projected on the back wall: Yes, stylistically diverse and creative, but distracting and not cohesive, with too many unrelated bits and pieces, and ultimately rather unsatisfying.

Contact the writer to discuss the story:Meredith.Brody@SFWeekly.com
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