Orson Brunch and a Fleeting Love AffairThursday, July 22, 2010
It’s the weekend. You rolled out of bed craving something good. It’s been a long week, you’ve been working hard, and you deserve some carbs that have been slathered in butter and griddled. And bacon. Definitely some bacon. The answer is, obviously, brunch.
Orson has been my go-to weekend indulgence ever since they started their brunch service months ago. This industrial-chic space is well known for its nighttime vibe, but in the light of day, the modern, artsy décor translates well. With one of the most well-composed brunch offerings I’ve seen in awhile, it won’t be a neighborhood secret for long.
True to form, executive chef Elizabeth Falkner has put together a stellar menu that features comforting classics, amped up with gourmet ingredients, nuanced flavors, and out-of-the-box combinations.
Cue: Blueberry and Thyme Monte Cristo with House-made Breakfast Sausage. Love at first sight. This sandwich makes all other sandwiches pale in comparison. It will make you go weak in the knees and will haunt your dreams for
days months after.
It’s savory, it’s sweet, it has melty cheese, and powdered sugar. What else could you ask for? Nothing. But Orson gives it to you anyway, like flowers, just because. The entire dish is like a big game of call-and-answer. The blueberry compote calls, and the French toast answers. The cave-aged Gruyere calls, and the Canadian bacon answers. A touch of thyme whispers aromatic notes to the house-made breakfast sausage, and staccato slices of pickled red onion keep it fresh amongst all that richness.
To my disbelief and heartbreak, I recently returned to Orson and discovered that the Monte Cristo had been taken off the brunch menu. Nooooooooo!! Just when we had found each other! The menu changes frequently depending on seasonality and the market, and I saw that a handful of other items had also been cycled out:
Despondent and stricken with grief, I considered drowning myself in $10 bottomless mimosas and making friends with The Mary’s.
I was consoled by the sight of ol’ faithful, the Pastrami Sandwich.
Rightfully lauded as one of the best sandwiches in the city by the likes of San Francisco Magazine, SF Weekly, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few, Orson’s House-cured Pastrami Sandwich with Cave-aged Gruyere and Russian dressing, on Sourdough Rye is all that it’s cracked up to be. Katz’s has nothin’ on this bad boy (sorry NY, it’s true).
The beef brisket is cured in-house with chili flakes and caraway, cold-smoked, then slowly steamed. The sourdough rye is baked in-house, and griddled to crispy, buttery decadence. And, needless to say, melted Gruyere and Russian dressing make any sandwich a winner in my book. Served with a side of Duck Fat French Fries (or salad), if you’re going for the glory, be sure to ask for the Brown Butter Bernaise dipping sauce, the stuff is like crack.
This sandwich is no joke – you can easily split it between two people. If you’re going to risk finishing it by yourself, be responsible and plan not to do anything that requires heavy brain function or operation of motor vehicles directly afterwards. A food coma and belabored heart is pretty much guaranteed.
The good thing about a restaurant that changes up the menu regularly is that you get to enjoy the bounty of what’s in season. The French Toast on the menu is a sure bet here, expect a big portion and seasonal flavors. This summery take featured juicy white peaches, lavender, and whipped brown sugar butter on top of thick slices of homemade milk bread that had been soaked in egg batter overnight. Solid.
Not so solid were the Eggs Benedict. Our server warned us that the Eggs Benedict were like none we had ever encountered. She actually used the word, “gnarly,” which I should have taken as a warning. She said it was rich (the hollandaise is made with bacon fat), but I thought, well yeah, any eggs benedict is rich…I was up for the challenge and went for it.
The order came out, and our waitress was right. Like nothing I have ever seen. The sous vide poached eggs and boudin blanc were floating in a swamp of creamed corn and scallion hollandaise sauce. Pieces of basil biscuits were buried beneath. Rich was an understatement. This monster was rich on rich. The boudin blanc and the biscuits had good flavor, but they were drowned in cream. Maybe Eggs Benedict in a Bowl and I just weren’t meant to be. Not like Monte Cristo.
All in all though, I think Orson has one of the best brunches in town, with staple dishes that you can’t go wrong with. It’s also a large space, which means you can sleep in and not face repercussions of an hour-long wait for a table.
Added bonus, there’s a Citizen Cake bake sale every Saturday and Sunday at the bar counter. They usually have an assortment of cookies, cupcakes, and brilliantly hued macarons.
Interesting News: It looks like Chef Falkner will be teaching cooking classes in August at $65 a pop. Maybe she’ll teach me how to make the Monte Cristo?
508 4th Street
(between Bryant St & Brannan St)
San Francisco, CA 94107