I think I love Orson.
Perhaps this love of mine is truer than most. Because I’ve still got a lot of criticism. It’s a lot like loving a family member, really. One feels compelled to put in a good word for family, fuck-ups and all.
Orson’s space is awesome, if noisy. Very cool, very stylish, simultaneously spare and ornate, as swirling design motifs decorate a loft-like, concrete cathedral of cuisine. In a few years, it’s going to look tres 2008—just like all of our be-doodled hoodies and distress-printed Ts—but for the moment, it’s just what SOMA needs.
With such hipness abounding, you’d think the staff would be too cool for school. But our waitress, our bussers, and our wine steward were all as sweet as punch. Helpful, welcoming, and genuinely interested in our feedback. Elizabeth Falkner worked the room, checking on each table. And even though she’s a friend of a friend and all that jazz, I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit star struck in such a glammed-out atmosphere. I mean, here’s a women who might actually know what Padma Lakshmi smells like. That makes her a bonafide star in my book.
But on to the food.
LA is not my city. I could never live with the traffic. But I’m learning to love it when the subject is food.
Case in point: AOC. Consider it modern, California tapas. I knew I’d love place from the moment they set down the menu—the first page is nothing but cheese and olives.
AOC is not necessarily a vegetarian Shangri-La, but there are certainly plenty of options to keep a girl happy. Far more than most restaurants, I’m happy to say.
We started with the Root Vegetable Salad with Burrata, Ginger and Mint. The burrata/mint combo was inspired—subtlety defined as a salad dressing. It had that kind of effortless balance that actually takes a shitload of work. We also had the Marinated Beets, Olives, Fried Chickpeas and Feta Salad. Fried chickpeas, dude. Who knew? So crispy. So light. And the feta was as mild as a day in May. (That is to say a day in May if you live somewhere other than San Francisco. May here is apt to be colder than January.)
Next, from the wood-burning oven, came Cauliflower with Curry and Red Vinegar. And you know what a whore I am for roasted cauliflower. They nailed it, too. Just like my lovers at Pizzeria Delfina. It was cooked to a creamy surrender.
And finally, a Farro and Black Rice dish with Pinenuts and Currants. This was a reco from our waitress, and I’m so glad she steered us toward it. I might have overlooked the dish otherwise, and headed for the Crushed Fingerlings with Crème Fraiche. (I had the potatoes on a previous visit, and have dreamed of them ever since.) The farro and rice was a hit, though, with the currents adding a flirtatious hint of sweetness.
So, yeah. AOC. It kind of makes up for the boob jobs and chin implants in LA. But not really.