Bohemians & Salon Style Dorian in San Francisco
We’ve always loved places and restaurants that remind us of lounges, largely because we gravitate to nostalgia for old-world Europe where easy-to-hear cafes, bars and lounges drew artists, thinkers, philosophers and writers from the late 1700s to the present day. the 1880s, which is best known as the Age of Romanticism.
Having lived in Europe, we spent many afternoons people-watching in our favorite cafes and even more evenings drinking cocktails and incredible French wines, all in honor of greats like Plato, Kant, von Goethe, Rousseau, and yes, Oscar Wilde. I first read The Picture of Dorian Gray in London during my college days, and have read it several times since. Combine a little Oscar Wilde with a little San Francisco and you have The Dorien, your modern day living room for bohemians, artists and knowledge seekers.
Located along trendy Chestnut Street, this trendy restaurant and bar is a big draw for millennials, but if you’re not, don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. The Dorian is indeed an ode to a bygone era. On one wall you’ll find an archaic library with classic books from yesteryear while classic European paintings house another.
“THE DORIAN is an ode to a bygone era, a modern day lounge for bohemians and free thinkers – a place to savor classic dishes, fine whiskey and handcrafted martinis.”
Located on the corner they have plenty of outdoor space if you want to dine outside but if you want the fun atmosphere of its interior you have two choices: the bar and booths on one side and the tables with a few. cabins on the other, where its setup looks more like a traditional restaurant.
There is no doubt that the bar is fun and so is the ambiance around it. They are known for their cocktails and spirits, so you can start your evening there and then move on to the restaurant for a quieter dinner.
Two interesting things we liked about the restaurant side of the house were the sleek chandelier combined with the funky hanging wooden boxes where plants were draped around and across them, both of which add a lot of warmth to the place.
While it’s no secret that Anthony and I love wine, when a place has great cocktails it’s usually worth trying one to get a feel for what they are offering and what to expect. who they target with their menu, drinks and decor. We were surprised by the nice balance of all the cocktails we tasted. Let’s start with the one I was sure would be too sweet for my 45+ year old palette: the Libertine, which is made with vodka, basil, strawberry, yuzu and lemon brandy. Balance was all over this gem, so much so that you could even pair it with some of their appetizers.
My favorite however was without a doubt, a cocktail they call the Fable of the bees. Why does it have this name? It contains honey of course, but it also contains healthy ingredients that also reduce inflammation like turmeric, chia seeds. (I throw them on dishes every day at home) and ginger. It would be a healthy drink other than the fact that they add Gin to it. Oh so yum! The last one we tried was called Alibi, which is made with bourbon, salted pistachio (Yes really), lemon and orange marmalade. A little too sweet for my taste but Anthony loved it but again he’s a bourbon fan.
They even have a frozen rose which is also lovely to look at. (or get a liter of their famous frost in a souvenir cup if more of you want to share). Then there’s their Magic Mushroom, which combines Bombay, Moletto, Porcini Mushroom, and Olive Brine. Say what?
Go straight along.
Whenever devilish eggs are on the menu Anthony has to try one and the Dorian’s love them, so be prepared. Here’s what makes Dorian’s creative version so unique – they add marinated fresno, chipotle (wow Nellie) and applewood bacon. Can you say heavenly? We were doing. You’ll never look at devil eggs the same way again.
We switched to wine pretty quickly because… well, that’s what we do. Wine is an integral part of our lives so I had to order their Heron Chardonnay from Mendocino and Anthony had the same to accompany dinner since we opted for seafood. If beer is your thing they have great. selection of bottled beers including IPAs, Stouts, Red Ales, Mexico Style Lagers, Dry Cider and more.
One of the things we found so refreshing about the chefs’ choices is the way they take a traditional dish and turn it upside down like devil eggs. Another good example is their Burrata appetizer. There aren’t any heirloom tomatoes here, but instead you’ll find sweet peas, strawberries, fennel pollen, sumac, olive oil, and toasted sourdough. Wow no?
Then, of course, there are the oysters. Enuf said!
Other excellent appetizers worth mentioning include their Ahi Poke tacos, roasted Brussels sprouts with caramelized orange honey glaze, and their truffle fries, apparently a local favorite that they serve with truffle, aioli, buffalo truffle sauce and curry ketchup.
For the main entrees there is a variety to choose from but we decided to keep things light that night as we just came out of Puccini’s TOSCA… it was actually the last performance of it at the San Francisco Opera House. How to say no to coconut-lemongrass mussels? It was utterly divine – served with chorizo, green coconut curry, and salt and pepper fries, although you could opt for toasted Italian bread instead, which we did.
Then there was my favorite of the evening: the seared tandoori-rubbed salmon, which they prepare with corn-tomato succotash, grilled farro, bacon, Calabrian pepper, gremolata and crushed pistachios. This latter garnish removes the low-calorie, low-fat benefit of ordering grilled salmon, but it is. so worth it. And, let’s not forget the beautiful presentation to boot.
They also have burgers, fillets, steak and chicken and if you have kids check out the fish & chips. When available, you can also get their WILDE Burger made with Spice Rubbed Wagyu Beef, one of our favorites. They prepare it of course in an unusual way, with a bone marrow tea towel, an aioli with dijon truffle, watercress and candied red onions. Oh so yum!
Truth be told, we were amazed at the quality of the food, drink and service. The Dorian makes a great night out on the town and they also offer a private upstairs bedroom which has a flare-talk easy, perfect for small gatherings, girls’ nights, birthdays and other celebrations.
Two thumbs up! We will definitely be back.
2001 Rue des Châtaignes
San Francisco, CA 94123
Note: We have been hosted by the venue but all views expressed are entirely our own.