The story: The Morris is the highly anticipated new restaurant from Paul Einbund, a sommelier who has worked at some of San Francisco’s finer establishments, from Daniel Patterson’s Coi to Melissa Perello’s Frances. He’s now struck out on his own, opening the splashy new restaurant in the former home of longtime Slow Club on Mariposa.
Why I went: Einbund’s pedigree piqued my interest in checking out the new restaurant, which opened last month. I recruited my fellow food blogger friends Brenda of Bites and Bourbon and Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging, and we went for a weeknight dinner.
The vibe: The sleek decor with an open kitchen create a bustling vibe, but intimate with its low lighting and tiny space (there’s only about 40 seats). Slow Club was a pioneering restaurant at the prime of the first real tech boom in the city, and now The Morris attracts some of that next generation of techies working in the neighborhood. While the restaurant is very polished, it doesn’t take itself seriously, as evident in the whimsical short films projected on the walls of the hallway leading to the restrooms (and even in the restrooms themselves).
The booze: As a sommelier, you’d expect a fine wine list, and you do see wine highlighted as you walk in and see a wall of wine bottles on racks behind a glass wall. The servers are well equipped to recommend wine, as I found when I had a nice red wine with dinner. (Following a custom developed at Frances, the cost of the house wine is based on how much you drink.)
I did start with one of the seven specialty cocktails, trying the fun Chartreuse Slushy ($10), which had a nice subtle underlining citrus flavor. Brenda tried the Mai Tai ($12), which was like a modern, less tropical-looking glass of rum and lime.
The menu: Chef Gavin Schmidt is behind the menu at The Morris. Einbund and Schmidt worked together at Coi. Schmidt’s menu isn’t very extensive, and almost seems like a menu of building blocks to build a meal. It starts with a nibbles section, a couple of platters (one charcuterie and one cheese), small plates and large courses.
The charcuterie ($20) is a great way for a group of diners (like us) to explore the food at the start of dinner. The elegant platter has refined head cheese, pate and a dreamy duck liver mousse. Sandy and Brenda couldn’t help but order a deep-fried food, going for the “nibbles” plate of crispy pork trotters ($7), which worked out fine since there were only two tiny pieces and I wasn’t about to partake fried foods.
The entree options range in price from $26 to $98, with two items that seem to emphasize family style dining because they’re definitely made for more than one person (looking at you, grilled Berkshire pork and smoked duck). The duck comes half ($48) or whole ($98); we went for a half duck and it was more than enough. There was a lovely smokey flavor, but the texture was hit and miss. The breast slices were perfect to me, but the thigh and other dark meat pieces were tough. (Brenda actually says she’s made a better smoked duck at home, and she and her husband are die-hard smokers.) The Morris hopes its duck will be a signature dish similar to Zuni Cafe’s roasted chicken.
My favorite dish: While everything was done well with quality ingredients, I do dream about the luxurious duck liver mousse from the charcuterie plate, a ridiculously silky texture with a slight sweetness to balance the liver flavor. I wanted to lick the jar it came in.
The last bite: The Morris is buzzing with diners and the festive crowd can sometime make it hard to hear in the tiny space. The menu looks like a work in progress, with some exciting and unique dishes on paper that don’t necessarily deliver, like the chicken and foie gras dumplings ($3 each), which looked beautiful and delicate with bonito flakes on top but tasted oddly like tuna. Still, the ambitious smoked duck and pan-seared cod show signs of first-rate cooking that holds a lot of promises as this new hotspot takes root.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: The Morris, 2501 Mariposa St., San Francisco. PH: 415.612.8480. Open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. Closed Sunday (and Thanksgiving day). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. themorris-sf.com
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