When Oscar Wilde wrote his famous philosophical novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, its protagonist was perhaps both indecent and immoral, at least at the time. Chestnut Street’s newest bar and restaurant, The Dorian, is neither, but its lavish array of fine whiskeys and handcrafted cocktails and its Victorian-inspired interior certainly feel decadent.
LEATHER AND DARK WOOD
Led by operating partners Anderson Pugash, Benson Wang, and Jack Herr of Union Street’s Palm House, along with others including general manager Chris Goodyear and executive chef Chris Ricketts, The Dorian bills itself as “a modern-day parlor for the bohemians, libertines, and freethinkers among us.” With a generous bar as its focal point, the two-level restaurant is divided into three distinct spaces — the state room, the drawing room, and the study — featuring opulent rich blues and greens, textured wallpaper, brass fixtures, leather, and dark wood. The main bar highlights an impressive whiskey display with teal and purple accents, and the study, a loft-like space upstairs, incorporates leather and dark wood, offering an intimate setting for small private groups. Special touches such as faux antique books on shelves and portraits on the walls mesh easily with modern, bright lighting and an overall open ambiance.
COCKTAILS AND WHISKEYS
The cocktail menu is intriguing with specials including the Alibi, with bourbon, salted pistachio, lemon, orange marmalade, and angostura; the Clockwork, with rye, Punt e Mes Italian vermouth, Benedictine, herbal liquor, and black walnut; City Lights, with mescal, spiced pear liquor, sweet vermouth, orange, and sparkling wine, and the New Century, a bottled cocktail that serves three-to-five people and includes bourbon, Lillet Rouge, grapefruit, lemon, cinnamon, crème de cacao, and mint. All specialty cocktails are $12, and there is also a hand-selected list of more than 75 American whiskeys. A “world tour” whiskey flight of three samplings is $30, and a plentiful selection of beer and wine by the glass and the bottle are also available.
AMERICAN CLASSICS MENU
As far as the menu goes, The Dorian offers American classics, all designed to share. It’s hard to go wrong with the irresistible truffle fries ($11), the fall salad of pear, almond, Humboldt fog goat cheese, and pomegranate ($13); Brussels sprouts with tangerine and hazelnut ($10.50), or the seasonal flatbread with hen of the woods mushrooms, Point Reyes blue cheese, and wild onion ($13).
Carnivores will delight in the steak tartare with quail egg, Meyer lemon, and capers ($19); the rib eye with watercress, crispy onion, and Dorian steak sauce ($29.50); and the house burger, served with “fancy” sauce, bacon jam, white cheddar, caramelized onions, and fries ($15.50); add $2.50 for avocado. There is also the Royal Dorian burger with peekytoe crab and black truffle for $40. An artisan meat and cheese selection is available for $21.
Those looking for something lighter will be drawn to the chicken Caesar salad with white anchovies and garlic croutons ($14); mussels and garlic bread ($15); free-range chicken with wild rice, Bloomsdale spinach, and quince ($19.50); local rock cod with celery root, andouille sausage, “cioppino” ($25); or yellowfin tuna with an avocado, hearts of palm, and jalapeno ($17). The bountiful and beautiful shellfish tower with peekytoe crab, shrimp, and Miyagi oysters, is $58, and definitely meant for the table.
DON’T MISS DESSERT
Sharing plates has the advantage of leaving diners with room for dessert, and The Dorian’s butterscotch pudding with vanilla bean whipped cream and rosemary shortbread ($11) is simply scrumptious. There is also an over-the-top banana split made with caramelized banana, house-made fudge, and vanilla, banana walnut, and strawberry ice cream ($12). If you can’t handle all that, a scoop of one of those flavors as well as chocolate and salted caramel are available as are strawberry and lemon sorbets ($3). After-dinner libations like Moscato D’asti and ports are listed on the dessert menu.
Early birds shouldn’t miss The Dorian’s happy hour, Tuesday through Friday from 4:30–6:30 p.m. The menu features Miyagi oysters ($1), truffle fries ($5), deviled eggs ($1.50), half-off select bottles of rose and Champagne, the Alibi cocktail ($9), house wine by the glass ($5), and Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale ($4).
The Dorian: 2001 Chestnut Street (at Fillmore), 415-814-2671, doriansf.com; Thursday–Sunday 4:30 p.m.–midnight; Friday–Saturday 4:30 p.m.–2 a.m.