Last week, Sam and I went to Orson on their first publicly-open night. She wrote an outstanding post about it here, including some excellent tips for getting the most out of a meal at Orson.
I thought I'd toss my two-cents into the ring, as so many of you today are heading over from her post, and decided to take the opportunity to ask an interesting question, as well.
To begin though, I have to laud Jacqueline Patterson's cocktail list. I fell so promptly in love with the Celery Gimlet that I actually ordered two of them instead of trying a second cocktail. Interestingly, I tried Alembic's celery & gin concoction on Friday night, and have to say that Orson's version is a far more balanced drink. Sam's Catch-22, while not my personal cup of tea, is a masterful libation loaded with flavor.
Also, as Sam mentioned, the Lightly Smoked Fish ($15) is a wonder of sous vide cookery -- the outside is texturally similar to hot-smoked salmon while the interior retains the texture of cold-smoking. Charred Octopus ($11) is a light dish, punctuated by paper-thin shavings of beef tendon and sprouted peanuts; an odd combination to be sure, but one which works beautifully.
When Chef Falkner came out to say hello, Sam and I both couldn't help gushing over everything, from the drinks and savory courses I espoused above, to the lovely space and service. We chatted for a bit about the never-ending "California Cuisine" debate, which leads me to ask you this question:
Is San Francisco ready to embrace technique-based cooking?
Ours has long been a culture of ingredient-driven food, and with good reason -- just stop in at any Farmer's Market and you can see why. But in that process, we've effectively denied our restaurant kitchens the opportunity to develop and cultivate the use of creative techniques, styles, and flavors.
I think back to the wonderful and memorable Smoked Yogurt that accompanied our chocolate cake at Coi, and how it disappeared not long after our meal there because it was "too different". And yes, while I know that Winterland's location was cursed, it's still unfortunate that they closed SO quickly (though, by all accounts, service never really got where it needed to be). How about the dishes that Daniel Humm was turning out at Campton Place? How could we have let a creative mind of his caliber run off to New York?
The question has been asked many times, many ways. But I can't help but ask it again. Are we willing to pay top-dollar for food because of the effort it takes? Is San Francisco ready to support a local favorite daughter in her attempt to push the boundaries of what we eat in this town?
Weigh in, please. I'm truly curious to know your thoughts.