My wife and I celebrated our anniversary at Orson last night and had a spectacular meal.
While deciding whether to order or do a tasting menu we had cocktails and the Parmaggiano Pudding. My wife loved the Raspberry Citrus Bomb, I enjoyed the Touch of Evil, but thought the bourbon overpowered the rest of the drink. They also brought out snack mix made of sushi rice, cooked, freeze-dried and sprayed with meyer lemon juice and spices - I hope they never bag & sell it, because it would be dangerous to have around the house.
The Parmaggiano Pudding was incredible! Almost too rich, but the pepper jam it's served with cut through the heaviness beautifully. The pop-rocks in the pepper jam were a surprise, fun and I think they helped cut the richness of the dish a bit. It also has cocoa nibs - I'm not sure they contributed much, but I'd happily eat one with and one without side by side to see for sure...
At our servers suggestion (Christopher - he was great) we did one regular 3 course tasting menu and one 3 course Pork tasting menu, with half-glass wine pairings. Each started with an amuse. First was 2 shot glasses of soup - one was watermelon and saffron, chilled. Very different, enjoyable but overshadowed by the other soup - Roasted Corn w/ Ginger. We each could have eaten whole bowl of that one. On the pork side it was chicharrones w/ bbq sauce - nice, but not spectacular, I'd have been better off saving that space for what was to come.
First course - there was an arugula salad with a stone fruit, can't remember if was peach or nectarine, shaved parmesan and topped with more chicharrones - nice and bright. Then there was the Smoked Tempura Egg Nori w/ Scallion Boullion. WOW! Soft boiled egg fried in tempura batter... egg yolk mixing with the broth... we both wanted more.
In addition to they also brought out their house made charcuterie - rye salami and sprice tri tip were both good, even better on top of the curry lardo. The terrine was the best of the bunch, though.
First course was paired with a nice Sauvignon Blanc, can't remember the name and don't see it on their wine list online, but it worked well with each dish.
Second course - seared skate w/ turnips, potato confit and watercress. I don't like fish, so this wasn't my favorite, but it was good enough I ate all of my half. On the pork side there were 4 different pork items served over soft polenta - deep fried trotters, roast pork, pork belly and a ravioli filled with a pork broth. Our server cut open the ravioli to let the both mix with the polenta - yummy! This was my first time with trotters - better than I expected, but not my favorite on the plate. Pork belly was great and I expected to like it best, but the roast pork surprised me - it was so perfectly cooked and seasoned, tender, juicy - it ended up being my favorite, more because it exceeded my expectation than actually being better than the belly, which just only met my expectation...
Along with the second course were two sides - Peas & Carrots w/ Cipollini Onion and Sherry Butter froth. Very good, something in there had a texture like jelly, which surprised me, but it tasted great. The other side was Farro w/ Grilled Peach, Scallion & Crescenza. This could have been a dessert - the texture was like porridge, flavor reminded me of bread pudding.
Second course was paired with a Gamay - again I don't recall the name and can't find it on their site. Held up well against the hearty pork dishes yet didn't overpower the skate, a little tannic. Good pairing.
Dessert started with a tiny scoop of Apricot Ice Cream. Nice butterfat content, delicate flavor, nice transition to the sweets.
First dessert was Browned Butter Ice Cream with Stout Beer Foam, a chocolate log (looked like a tootsie roll only softer and oh-so-much better) over a sprinkling of chocolate cookie crumbs and two caramel sauces. Excellent! And, with the pork menu was the Maple Bacon Ice Cream w/ Waffle Cookie and Sauteed Apples. I've seen Bacon Ice Cream on Iron Chef, I've seen it reviewed and I loove bacon. I was prepared for bacon flavored ice cream. What I wasn't ready for (but loved) was how smoky it was. Makes me think of making ice cream with Laphroig or Lagavullin.
Dessert was paired with a Chenin Blanc - my wife had most of mine, as I was getting full and was going to have to drive soon.
We hadn't mentioned it was our anniversary, until late in the dinner when the hostess came by to see how we were doing. So, after dessert they brought another dessert. Pop Culture Olive Oil Cake (tasted like lemon poppy seed w/ olive oil) with Rhubarb Sorbet. I can't believe we ate the whole thing...
Service was great, attentive without being rushed. Tasting menu was well paced. All of our servers suggestions were spot on for us. Price wasn't bad either, two tasting menus, drinks and an extra appetizer and it was just about $100 per person before tip. Not the kind of money I can drop every week, but for a special occasion meal of this quality, I thought it was a bargain.
Others have said it might be best to think of Oson as a bar with great food rather than a restaurant with great drinks - I couldn't disagree more. Orson is a first-class restaurant in my book.