Orson: Meal #1 in my new hometown

by janet on August 8th, 2009

Hi everyone!  I moved to San Francisco!  No one should be sad, since MTFB never had all that many LA posts in it to begin with…and let’s not forget my most faithful reader is in Vermont.

What better inaugural SF post than…Orson!  It sounds familiar to you maybe because our favorite spiky-haired, dorky-dyke, judge-turned-Top-Chef-Master Elizabeth Falkner owns it.  She’s a pastry chef originally, and owner of Citizen Cakes also in SF, testing out her savory skillz I guess.

The space is modern and warehouse-chic, and when I stepped inside, a surf movie was being beamed onto the big back wall, which I thought gave it a cool, casual vibe.  But then they switched it to some extremely shitty Cirque du Soleil on loop, which we took up most of the night trying to figure out which one it was:

Me:  It’s Corteo maybe?

Vic: Yeah it’s Corteo!

Me:  No, Corteo’s just two hours of people jumping on beds.  I don’t see any beds here.

Vic:  It’s Varekai!

Me:  Noooo I saw Varekai on public access once and there’s this huge wall thing.  This isn’t Varekai.

Both:  [Watching in silence as a buncha little Chinese girls with their sticks, strings, and tops take the stage for the third time.]

Me:  These fuckers again.  I get it already.

Vic:  I still think this is Varekai.

But see?  I’m getting waaaay ahead of myself.  Yes, it was Vic who had invited me to dinner; he was in town for the SF Marathon which was that weekend.  As we got to the table we saw this sign on it:

Cool!  That Falkner, she’s so plugged into her community.

But then I looked around and none of the other tables had the placards on them… ???  And then I looked around the top of OUR table and found, to my utter delight, a bucket filled with ice cubes which were displaced by…a bottle of champagne!  I’m pretty sure Falkner doesn’t give out free champagne to everyone.

HMMMM!  A mystery!  Who (a) knew we were dining there; and (b) had the funds, cunning, skill, and competence to pull off such a feat?  It clearly wasn’t any of my friends since I wasn’t running the marathon.  Vic’s friend Jeremy was also with us, also running the marathon, and also a co-worker of Vic’s.  Methinks it was a co-worker of theirs, a certain charming, beautiful, brilliant, gorgeous, brilliant, brilliant gal named Eve who also happens to be a fan of MTFB…?

So we popped it and toasted to The Jacket (I guess if you run a bunch of different races and finish each one then you get some sort of baller jacket?) and settled down with the menu.

One weird thing is that Orson has a prix fixe option where you choose a starter, main, and dessert, but even if you add up the most expensive starter, main, and dessert, the prix fixe is more expensive.  We surmised that perhaps the prix fixe comes with extras like an amuse, but we three agreed that we didn’t really need three desserts so we went a la carte status.

AND GOT AN AMUSE ANYWAY!  Yeah motherfuckers!  It’s pictured top – a yellow tomato half and handmade marshmallow drizzled in balsamic vinegar.  Very exciting – a savory/sweet combo and homemade marshmallow – my favorite!  When we popped them in our respective mouths and chewed, afterwards we were silent.  Not because we were dazzled, but because it tasted exactly like a tomato + a marshmallow + balsamic.  Not good, just…like those three ingredients combined.  Perhaps we were missing something.

Onwards!  For our starters, we got a stone fruit salad with arugula, fucking curry LARDO, and her famous explosive caesar salad, which has orbs of caesar dressing with POP ROCKS suspended inside!  The pop rocks were slow-burn pop rocks, where you had to just pop the dressing sphere with the roof of your mouth and let the popping begin after you’ve already swallowed the leaves, cheese, and crouton.  More noteworthy was the curry lardo, which melted the instant you spread it onto your toast point in a verrry unhealthy-seeming manner.  We piled it on, watched it melt, and shoved it into our maws like there was no tomorrow.

For my entree I got a completely forgettable paella, except for the fact that it was a Janet-safe paella with no crustaceans; only sausage and clams (and on black forbidden rice).  Except when it came it had a fucking prawn on top.  Vic bravely offered to lift it off the plate and eat it, except when he tried to lift it he instead smashed it a little and moved it all over the top layer of my paella, thereby maximizing Janet-killing potential.  I didn’t worry too much because I had my epi-pen, and indeed I was fine.

All of the entree pictures turned out horrid, so I lifted a shot of Vic’s braised short rib from the website:

His was the winner dish of the night.  “But Janet, of course braised short rib is delicious – that’s a no-brainer and, really, just cheating if you ask me.”  Understand that I KNOW that and it was STILL just a jaw-droppingly luscious, deeply flavored bite of meat.  If I were a stuffy food writer like Miss Irene, I’d say it was a “triumph.”

Jeremy got the special of the night – some sort of flat iron steak; also great but just because the meat tasted sooo beefy.

But who cares about mains when you have…fucking DUCK fucking FAT fucking FRIES!  [note: Julie Powell fears Julia Child doesn’t like her because of her occasional use of the “F” word…I would be just totally fucked if that’s the case.]

Here again, my picture was awful (probably because my hands were shaking with lust) so here is the photo from the website:

Aside from being a bit lukewarm, they were killer.  Now I see what Sam from Top Chef Season 2 was saying in his audition tape about wanting to have sex in duck fat.  At the time I thought he was being hyperbolic and pushing his “I’m sexy” angle.  Now I get it.  I wanted to do naughty things to these fries, lord help me.

I’d like to go on a bit of a side story here; one about our server.  He was kind of a tough looking guy; very cold and rather hostile from the moment we sat down.  I looked at his enormous forearms and joked urgently to Vic, “He’s a wife beater!!! Our server is a wife beater!!!”  Aside from being scary, he was also not that attentive, and I even though when he looked at me I tipped my head back and drained my champagne and pushed my empty champagne flute so that it was teetering on the edge of the table, he did not come over to refill my glass.  Our busser, on the other hand, were super sweet and attentive and joking and cute, so I said to Vic, “Why couldn’t HE be our server?” and then realized to my cold horror that our server was standing immediately to my right.  I said, “HE’S RIGHT BEHIND ME ISN’T HE?” and giggled a bit at that joke before being horrified again.  Goddamnit.  I’m always putting my foot in my mouth like that.  Vic said, “Ooohhh he’s going to beat you so hard tonight!” and I said, “My kidneys!!!” (experienced wifebeaters like to beat their wives’ lower back on their kidneys, because this is where it maximally hurts but is minimally visible – I learned that from Stephen King).

Ok, onto desserts!  You’d think a chick who made her name making sweets would have stellar desserts, but we didn’t like – nay, hated – the two desserts we got.  First was the bomb pop - chocolate fudgesicle, cherry sorbet, and lavender whip served in a wineglass.  It was hard to get everything all in one bite, and when I did, I was struck at the similarity in experience to the amuse – it tasted like a fudgesicle, cherry sorbet, and lavender all stuck together, with no melding.

The other dessert, called “admiring the apricot,” had apricots, bitter almond shets, apricot cream, and  cobbler bites. What the hell are shets?  They tasted kind of like shet, so they are appropriately named I guess.  I would chalk up this dessert hatred to just me being a dessert grinch, but the other two were not into them, either.  Corroboration.  Hmmm.  Perhaps Falkner is intentionally making her desserts ho-hum so that people will rave about her savories.  If so, I’ve totally fallen into her trap!

Indeed, I will go back again and again for her lardo and fries and meaty entrees.  And I don’t think anyone, after tasting her food, will doubt her savory chops.  We saw her looking frazzled and running around, so I didn’t get to stop her and say “Brava!” but I’m sure she’s an avid reader of MTFB so she’ll read it, right?

508 4th Street
SF 94107

Note: It WAS Eve!  Thanks, Eve!

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