Hello, my friends! This week, I’m adding a new category to my blog posts! I’ve decided to periodically include a select few San Francisco Bay Area restaurant reviews on the website (you can already see where I dine out on Instagram) because there are so many creative folks bringing us memorable meals that we should know about. I’ll only share my favorites, so you can see what establishments get the Miss Cheesemonger “stamp of approval” as you plan your visit or next night out in and around SF! We’re starting with Sorrel, a pop-up restaurant focused on featuring California produce through an Italian lens. They take over Picnic on Third at Bryant Street in the SOMA neighborhood of SF on weekends and various nights.
M. Cheesemonger and I were joined at dinner by one of my absolute favorite humans, Boston-area jewelry maker and ceramicist Kim Huestis of Porcelain & Stone, and her husband Chester. Kim and I met in 2004 while climbing Mont Ste.-Victoire outside of Aix-en-Provence on the same study abroad program. We’ve been weird with each other ever since.
The most noticeable, perhaps only, hiccup in the meal took place as soon as we arrived for our 8:30pm seating. Sorrel does two seatings per evening—that night, they were at 6:30 and 8:30. Being someone who loves to linger over good meals, that seemed a little tight to me in terms of timing. I think the previous crowd felt the same way, since we 8:30ers were obligated to wait outside for about 15 minutes as the staff prepared everyone’s tables.
Once we did cross the restaurant threshold, though, we were swept into the staff’s welcoming, capable hands. The balance between friendliness, attentiveness, efficiency, and discretion exhibited by everyone who stopped at our table was reminiscent of that of another of my favorite fine dining experiences—dinner at Michelin-starred Les Hautes Roches in the Loire Valley. All the staff was knowledgeable about the food and wine being served that evening, and could answer our questions with both ease and expertise. Executive chef Alex Hong often served us himself, not because of any intentional preferential treatment, but because we happened to be sitting right behind his prep station; all he needed to do was turn around to set dish after glorious dish before us.
The menu at Sorrel changes from week to week, depending on what is inspiring the youthful, energetic Chef Hong at the farmers market. What remains consistent, though, is the inclusion of sorrel somewhere in the meal. Our menu that evening consisted of:
Crostini topped with fresh heirloom tomatoes, accompanied by a small cup of refreshing corn bisque.
Crunchy Local Tuna with smoked padrón peppers, pickled daikon, and Green Goddess sauce
Heirloom Tomato Risotto with whipped ricotta, Meyer lemon zest, and basil seeds
Arctic Char with zucchini, tarragon, melted leek, saffron fumet
Cherry Clafoutis with cocoa nibs, pistachio gelato, and stone fruit
The influence from Chef Hong’s time working at such fine dining establishments as Jean-Georges in New York and Quince in San Francisco was felt in each dish’s beautiful presentation, the first-rate wine pairings, the staff’s attention to detail, and everyone’s commitment to excellent food.
Every bite offered some new delight to my greedy little palate. The amuse-bouche awoke and refreshed the tastebuds with its summer produce focus. The crunchy local tuna, lightly crusted and barely cooked, accompanied by a subtle green goddess sauce, livened up the meal with an estival array of color and flavors. Whipped ricotta, basil seeds, and Meyer lemon zest in the tomato risotto added a new level of sophistication to one of my favorite comfort foods. The arctic char arrived topped by its own crunchy skin shell, which I could crack open to reveal the fresh, light flesh beneath. A zucchini accompaniment offered the perfect sponge with which we could soak up more salmon fumet! Our meal closed on a farm-fresh note, with a cherry clafoutis topped with a scoop of pistachio gelato, stone fruit, cocoa nibs, and, if my memory is serving me correctly, basil. There was even a final cookie send-off after dessert, which I miraculously found room in my belly to accommodate.
M. Cheesemonger and I would all heartily recommend adding a wine pairing to your meal. Samuel Bouge and Alexander Stroth bring an array of rare, exquisite Italian wines to the table; each food and wine pairing complemented or accentuated the food considerably. I managed to overcome my laughably low alcohol tolerance to experience the pairings, just so I could give you a thumbs up on them!
If you are searching for a special evening out with your beloved, or with a group of your favorite foodies, I would recommend reserving a table at Sorrel (I even hope to take my mom one day). It’s not a cheap meal—the tasting menu cost $55 per person, plus $35 for wine pairing. But it is a wonderful value, offering a quiet, warm ambiance and masterful cuisine in the heart of San Francisco.
Thank you, Chef Hong, for inviting me to taste your creations! I am grateful for this opportunity, and I expect all of us will be hearing more about your success very soon.
If you would like to reserve your own table at Sorrel, visit their calendar to see when their next pop-up nights take place. You can make reservations online.
*Sorrel provided me with the food discussed in this article. All opinions are my own.
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