Elizabeth Falkner, of Citizen Cake renown, has launched her new venture: Orson. Located in a two-story building on 4th Street near Bryant the undertaking is audacious, both for its considerable size and for the edginess of the menu. The space uses the full height of the building with the ground floor featuring a large round bar at the center of a large open lounge area, with dining areas at the edges. The décor features dark soundstage-like grays, with glass and chrome. The upstairs areas, open to the lounge area below, are populated with additional dining tables.
The menu is divided into five sections, with three of them leading up to dessert: “teasers,” “shorts,” “premiere,” and two of them being dessert: “naughty” and “nice.”
“teasers” has, for example soup shots ($2), served in tequila glasses. Last night the soups were oyster, cauliflower, and shiitake mushroom/parmesan cheese. They were all intensely flavored, but easy to down in a single shot. Another example: duck fat French fries, with brown butter béarnaise. ($6).
“shorts” offers things ranging from the everyplace-seems-to-have-it-these-days house made charcuterie – rye salami, spiced tri-tip, peppered shoulder, ($5 each) to the more exotic charred octopus, with beef tendon and sprouted nuts ($11).
Moving along, the “premieres” include an intensely fennel-flavored chicken sausage with dino kale and candied pistachio pesto ($17) as well as blood sausage served with grits, pear, and rye crisp ($16).
These do look like very reasonable prices, but Orson serves small plates. The blood sausage is a few slices, and the chicken sausage was two pieces each about an inch and one-half long.
All of the food I tried was good, but the desserts were a standout. From the “nice” section, “gleaming the cube” was described as having “date soft chocolate, stout foam, caramel gelato, and brown butter sauce” ($10) The soft chocolate was served in a small log and tasted like the inside of a chocolate truffle mixed with chocolate mousse. The stout foam was a nice touch, obviously stylistically related to the molecular techniques pioneered at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli. Also from the “nice” section was “fleur de bleu” (lavender violet ravioli custard, citrus cells, chocolate slates, and lavender ice cream) ($9).
So, Orson inhabits a big, loud space that will be quite the scene if it stays full, and features some familiar food mixed with edgy and adventurous food. (The wood fired oven isn’t operating yet. When it does, they will also have pizzas, but I’m going to guess there might be some duck breast and arugula on them). Orson’s menu is very creative and I’d love for it to succeed.