Last week, I emerged from my writing bunker to attend a preview dinner of SORREL, which just opened last Friday, and what a beaut it is. Anyone who was mourning the loss/move of Nico from Sacramento Street to North Beach will be so happy to see such a stylish and considered (and utterly San Franciscan) restaurant taking its place. Co-founder and chef Alex Hong and co-founder and director of operations Colby Heiman have done a bang-up job of designing the restaurant themselves, and it’s a purr-fect fit for the charming Laurel Heights neighborhood.
Sorrel started as a pop-up (accumulating a tally of 135 dinners!) and now chef Hong gets to really craft an entire dining experience in a dedicated space. His background includes Jean Georges and Quince, and you’ll note some Italian influences in his elegant Northern Californian/New American dishes, which all reflect the height of seasonality and quality local ingredients (plus a few items from their burgeoning roof garden).
A great place to start on the à la carte menu is with the oysters ($4.50 each), with sorrel, oro blanco grapefruit, and Asian pear, and it will be tough to not fill up on the warm sourdough focaccia ($6), which comes the option of a green garlic bagna cauda dipping sauce (uh-huh) or cultured butter (each $3). Vegetables and light fish dishes round out the starters, plus a spring lamb tartare ($16). Everything comes on ceramics from Mary Mar Keenan, and the focaccia’s claypot dish was custom made.
Pasta lovers will be thrilled with the entire column of housemade pastas on the menu, from tortellini in brodo (stuffed with smoked duck) to the downright springy cappellacci in whey, with English peas, mint, green garlic, and sheep’s milk ricotta (both $17). Mains include striped bass ($34) with wild ramps, roasted artichokes, cauliflower, and the perfume of saffron, while meat lovers will find a dry-aged duck for two ($85), brightened with accents of fennel pollen and kumquat. Desserts continue to hit the seasonal notes, like a bright strawberry number with elderflower, black pepper, and white chocolate.
You’re in great hands with wine pairings from beverage director Samuel Bogue (wine director for the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group), from crowd-pleasers to some more esoteric selections (this is a great place to play and explore). You’ll also find some low-ABV/aperitif-style cocktails—perfect to enjoy at the bar along with some bites.
The space is welcoming and chic, from the eight-seat marble bar at the front with ribbons of green in it, to the blue-gray palette, and natural light coming in from the skylights. Down the center of the room are two walnut slab tables (by Ben O’Hearn at Modern Millwork), with large suspended planter boxes overhead and teardrop globe lights hand-blown by Guido Gerlitz at Effetto Glassworks. If you’re on date night, you’ll want one of the small tables that run along the blue-gray banquette (there are 50 seats in all). I loved the chairs, which are as stylin’ as they are comfortable, and the table setting is elegant and well-chosen, from the stemware to the flatware.
You can take a peek into the exposed kitchen in the back, and the private dining room has room for 16, with bold artwork, more globe lights, and a record player, so make yourself at home. You’ll notice the music in the restaurant is a bit upbeat, and the service style is professional but relaxed—you’re supposed to enjoy yourself. And you will.
Open for dinner Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm. 3228 Sacramento St. at Lyon.
The airy and natural-chic dining room at Sorrel. All photos: © tablehopper.com.