The Dorian’s Beautiful Burger

The Marina restaurant returns with its signature mashup of luxe bar bites, traditional fine dining fare, and distinctly S.F. aesthetic.

If the name “Dorian” conjures images of earthly delights and richly appointed interiors in your mind’s eye, rest assured you are not alone. Perhaps Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is to blame.

But it might also have something to do with noshing on baskets of truffle fries and gold-leafed hamburgers while surrounded by mid-century modern lines and ornate, late-19th century flourishes. That’s what you’ll find at The Dorian.

As a New American restaurant located on the Marina’s tony Chestnut Street corridor, The Dorian checks all the upwardly mobile Millennial boxes — blending elevated pub food with traditional white tablecloth offerings and signature cocktails, served in a setting that reminds one of what it might look like if West Elm and Restoration Hardware had a home birth inside one of The Painted Ladies.

On a recent visit, I enjoyed my burger and side of umami sauces whilst admiring the lime green damask patterned curtains, honeycomb subway tile, and minimalist pendant lamps. The restaurant’s teal walls and gemstone colored lighting create a comforting, closed-in feel; the vaulted ceilings and artificial plants floating a few feet from the ceiling prevent that coziness from becoming claustrophobic.

In the wake of San Francisco’s reopening, the restaurant, which originally opened in 2016, is now serving food six days a week. Dinner is available Tuesday through Sunday, you can stop in for lunch on Fridays, and a brunch menu is available on Saturday and Sunday.

In an effort to remind San Franciscans of the joys of good food and drink, The Dorian has introduced a “Golden Hour” menu — available from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday — complete with a selection of specialty cocktails and food at happy hour prices. They also have plans to debut an “experiential menu,” which will give patrons the opportunity to paint with wine and espresso pigments, enjoy tarot readings, and play dominos or liar’s dice.

In addition to the Wilde Burger — a sumptuous assemblage of Wagyu beef, bone marrow torchon, dijon-truffle aioli, local watercress, and pickled red onions served on a 24-carat gold sweet brioche bun — my companion and I also enjoyed the truffle fries and a local burrata complete with peas, fennel, and fresh strawberries. That burrata has since sent me on a quest to discover all of the other ways one can combine fruit and peas, a combination I never expected to taste so refreshing. Other options we nearly chose include the Ahi Poke Tacos, Dorian Chicken Sliders (topped with a charred jalapeno aioli and cabbage slaw), and the Hog Island Sweetwater oysters. 

Choosing the Wilde was not easy, as other options like the seared, tandoor-rubbed salmon and prime filet mignon, were difficult to pass up. The burger came on an extra-large plate, surrounded by what appeared to be a lifetime supply of garlic fries. Some might say grinding up Wagyu and placing it between two buns — gilded though they may be — is sacrilege. If that is so, you may count me as a gleeful sinner. I am salivating even now as I think about the juicy patty intermingling with the tart pickled onions. The entire experience is ridiculously decadent, as flakes of gold stuck to my fingers and bone marrow dribbled down my chin. Who knew eating a burger could be so lavish? 

The cocktails account for the menu’s most whimsical offerings. Here, again, we encounter the meeting of “high” and “low” culture in a Nerds candy-topped All Day Frosé — The Dorian’s most popular signature drink. Surprisingly, the Nerds aren’t just for show, and melt as the slush of the rosé does to add a subtle sugary-sour kick. The second cocktail we sampled was the Don Juan, a delightful tequila-based cocktail with a rim of tajin and the added kick from a few drops of a chili tincture. Though The Dorian isn’t the first restaurant to serve a spicy, tequila-based drink, the fact that the liquor is balanced with cucumber juice keeps this particular iteration light and refreshing. 

For dessert we enjoyed a gluten free brownie topped with vanilla gelato — an option that doesn’t appear on the restaurant’s online menu, but is absolutely worth asking for. The restaurant’s executive chef, Lee Levig Jr., is clearly an expert in every course of a meal, managing to tie together a wide range of flavor options into a cohesive menu. Before The Dorian, he worked at other reputable establishments like Bradley’s Fine Diner in Menlo Park and the tropical-themed favorite Palm House. 

Despite it’s credentials, The Dorian’s playful gilded aesthetic touches and spirited reinventions of upscale bar food make it feel like anything but the stuffy, upstairs attic the restaurant’s name recalls. That’s also reflected by the restaurant’s hours: open until 2 a.m. on the weekends, the spot is a good choice for dinner, a night out, and brunch the next day. And thankfully, there’s no portrait here to record your sins.

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