We have always loved venues and restaurants that remind us of parlors, largely because we gravitate to the nostalgia of old-world Europe where cafes, speak-easy bars and salons have attracted artists, thinkers, philosophers and writers since the late 1700’s and well into the 1880’s, what is mostly known as the era of Romanticism.
Having lived in Europe, we’ve spent many afternoons people watching in our favorite cafes and even more evenings drinking cocktails and incredible French wine, 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 years, and have read it several times since then. Combine a little Oscar Wilde with a little of San Francisco and you’ve got The Dorian, your modern day parlor for bohemians, artists and knowledge seekers.
Located along the ever so trendy Chestnut Street, this hip restaurant and bar is a big attraction for millennials but if you’re not one, don’t let it stop you from giving it a try. The Dorian is indeed an ode to a bygone era. On one wall, you’ll find an antiquated bookshelf with classic books from yesteryear whereas classic European paintings house another.
“THE DORIAN is an ode to a bygone era, a modern day parlor for Bohemians and Freethinkers — a place to savor classic fare, fine whiskey and craft martinis.”
Located on the corner, they have plenty of outdoor space if you’d like to dine outside but if you want the fun vibe of its interior, you’ve got two choices: the bar area and booths on one side and tables with a few booths on the other, where its set up more like a traditional restaurant.
There’s no question — the bar area is fun and so is the vibe around it. They’re known for their cocktails and spirits so you may want to start your evening there and then move to the restaurant area for quieter dining.
Two cool things we loved about the restaurant side of the house were the elegant chandelier combined with the funky hanging wooden boxes where plants draped around and through them, both of which add a lot of warmth to the place.
Although its no secret that Anthony and I are all about the wine, when a place touts great cocktails, it’s usually worth trying one to get a sense for what they offer and who they’re catering to with their menu, drinks and decor. We were surprised by the lovely balance of all the cocktails we sampled. Let’s start with the one I was dead certain was going to be too sweet for my over 45 year old palette: the Libertine, which is made of vodka, basil eau de vie, strawberry, yuzu and lemon. 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 Bees. Why does it have that name? It has honey in it of course, but it also has healthy ingredients that reduce inflammation as well, like turmeric, chia seeds (I toss them on dishes every day at home) and ginger. It would be a health drink except for 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 bit too sweet for my liking but Anthony loved it but then again, he’s a bourbon fan.
They even have a frozen Rose which is beautiful to look at as well. (or get the liter of their famous frose in a souvenir cup if there are several of you who wish to share). Then there’s their Magic Mushroom, which combines Bombay, Moletto, Porcini Mushroom and Olive Brine. Say what?
Moving right along.
Whenever deviled eggs are on the menu, Anthony must try one and the ones at the Dorian have a kick to them, so be prepared. Here’s what makes the Dorian’s creative version of them so unique — they add pickled fresno, chipotle (whoah Nellie) and applewood bacon. Can you say heavenly? We did. You’ll never look at deviled eggs the same way again.
We moved to wine fairly quickly because….well, that’s what we do. Wine is integral to our lives so I had to order their Heron Chardonnay from Mendocino and Anthony had the same to pair with dinner since we opted for seafood. If beer is your thing, they have a great selection of bottled beer, 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 and inside out like the deviled eggs. Another great example is their Burrata appetizer. There’s no heirloom tomatoes here but instead, you’ll find sweet peas, strawberries, fennel pollen, sumac, olive oil and griddled sourdough. Wow right?
Then of course there’s oysters. Enuf said!
Other great appetizers worth calling out include their Ahi Poke Tacos, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with caramelized orange-honey glaze, and their Truffle Fries, apparently a local favorite which they serve with truffle, aioli, truffle buffalo sauce and curried ketchup.
For main entrees, there are a variety of choices but we decided to keep things light that evening as we just came from Puccini’s TOSCA…it was in fact, the last performance of it at the San Francisco Opera. How can you say no to Coconut-Lemongrass Mussels? It was utterly divine — served with chorizo, coconut green curry and salt and pepper fries, although you can 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, toasted farro, bacon, calabrian chili, gremolata and crushed pistachios. The latter topping takes away the low calorie and fat benefit of ordering grilled salmon but it is so so worth it. And, let’s not forget the beautiful presentation to boot.
They also have burgers, filets, steak and chicken and if you happen to have kids in tow, 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 in an unusual way of course, with bone marrow torchon, dijon-truffle aioli, watercress and pickled red onions. Oh so yum!
Truth be told, we were surprised by the quality of the food, drinks and service. The Dorian makes a great night out on the town and they also offer a private room upstairs that has a speak-easy flare, perfect for small gatherings, girls nights out, birthdays and other celebrations.
Two thumbs up! We’ll definitely be back.
2001 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
Note: we were hosted by the venue but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.