A look into the dining room at The Morris. Photo: Leo Gong.
The smoked duck. Photo: Leo Gong.
Chef-partner Gavin Schmidt (left). Photo: Leo Gong.
A beaming Paul Einbund. Photo: Leo Gong.
Test dinner at The Morris. Photo: Leo Gong.
Exterior of the iconic building. Photo: Leo Gong.
Paul Einbund has been planning and plotting his own project for years, while sharing his talents as a sommelier at top SF places like Frances, Octavia, Slanted Door, and Coi (and building up his collection of rare wines and spirits as well). He’s also had his chef and partner lined up for five years, Gavin Schmidt, who he met when they were both working at Coi (Schmidt was chef de cuisine). Schmidt has also worked at Elisabeth Daniel, Campton Place, Blanca Restaurant in San Diego, and trained under Laurent Gras. He enjoys whole-animal butchery and reportedly has quite the hand with charcuterie. (I even hear he’s working on a country ham, Cali style, swapping out the Virginia molasses for other ingredients—stand by for more on that.)
And now, it’s time for Einbund to open the doors to ~THE MORRIS~, which, as I see it, is a neighborhood restaurant from people who know their shit. It’s opening in the former location of the ultimate neighborhood restaurant, the Slow Club, which Erin Rooney opened back in 1998 in the Media Gulch/Potrero Flats. It still has that great Slow Club DNA, but the update from architect Charles Hemminger and designer Scott Kester has given it a new and fresh feeling. The vibe is meant to be playful and comfortable, backed up with skilled service and quality products.
The dining room tables, from Earl Gonzalez, are now topped with white ash that was whitewashed, and the bar stools are by furniture maker Fyrn. There is a clever divider from the bar to the dining room made of mother-in-law’s tongue plants that you can still peep through. They took a lot of care to install sound-dampening materials since the room was notoriously loud (even the slats on the ramp to the dining room actually help diffract sound). Einbund’s wife, Vanessa Yap Einbund, is known for her crafty design ways; she made some denim coasters and even the wine list has a denim cover, with a fun neck tag (like on a shirt) that says Booze & Stuff. San Francisco designer Evan Kinori designed the uniforms.
Looking at Schmidt’s menu, there are some fun nibbles like shrimp toast and chicken and foie dumplings (sold by the piece), and I can totally see myself posted up at the bar for some of his charcuterie (rabbit terrine, pâté de campagne, tête de cochon, fennel salami) with some cocktails. There’s also a selection of cheeses, and score, they have Tartine bread on the menu (great neighbors to have—they wheel over their wagon each day to pick some up). Schmidt’s food is dialed to be full of flavor and seasoning, the kind of food you want to drink with.
The opening menu has seasonal picks like tomato salad with melon, almond, and burrata, and blistered wax beans with grilled squid and chile lime. Four mains include lingcod, grilled Berkshire pork, and sausages, all $28 and under. And then there’s the sure-to-be-a-showstopper smoked Muscovy duck with pomme rosti and roasted root vegetables, which Einbund says is an abundant dish (half $48, whole $96), inspired by their desire to have something iconic on the menu, like the Zuni chicken. Dishes are easy to share, but you can easily have a meal for one if you want to go that route too.
Of course, the wine list is a major focus here. On the back of the dinner menu, Einbund will be listing his preferred wines of the moment, whether it’s sparked by a selection that goes particularly well with something on the menu, or something he’s excited about (which happens often—like being fired up over four domestic chenin blancs that he said taste like French chenin). Take a look at the biodynamic calendar and lunar cycle notations on the menu—yup, extreme geekery here. Einbund explains, “Over the course of my career, I have learned everything affects wine. Some taste better when the moon is full. I like to consider when to drink a delicate old wine that is fragile. We are paying attention to everything.” So for those of you who like to geek out, you can see if it’s a leaf, root, fruit, or flower day. And if you like to drink wine out of Zaltos (and not everyone does), there’s that option too.
House wine is an important thing to Einbund—he’s known for implementing the “pay only for what you drink” practice (measured by the centimeter) at Frances, which is also how they will charge here. He is a big proponent of California wines that are young, fresh, and affordable. But if you are looking for something old world, or aged, or you really want to splash out or do some spelunking, then you’ll want to ask for the main list, which is deep, with some real finds tucked in there. Madeira is another one of Einbund’s passions.
As for the eight-seat bar, Einbund is known for his love of Chartreuse, and you can bet it’s on the cocktail list, namely in the form of a Chartreuse slushy ($10). He worked with some mighty talented folks in the biz (who prefer to remain nameless) on fine-tuning the classic cocktail recipes. He wants the list of seven drinks to remain pretty set, so they can continue to tweak the cocktails until they hit a Japanese level of execution, with one exception: look for the slushy to get swapped out for a hot toddy in the cooler months.
The Morris (named after Einbund’s father) is due to open on Monday October 3rd. Hours will be Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. Look for Sundays and weekday lunch to be added, plus brunch and later hours are possible too. 2501 Mariposa St. at Hampshire, 415-612-8480.