The Dining Cryptographer: Orson and Plant Cafe (San Francisco, CA)
Welcome to the 2010 RSA Conference. San Francisco is a great food town, with good restaurants at every price range. In each issue, I'll review two restaurants: one within walking distance and one further away. Don't let distance dissuade you; taxis are cheap, especially if you're sharing.
Orson -- as in Welles -- feels as if it's trying a bit too hard with the movie theme, but if you ignore all that, you're in for some really delicious food. Start with a foie gras truffle covered in cocoa. Then try the house-made burrata, grilled octopus, the braised short ribs, or anything else that catches your eye. The bar serves the full menu, but pay attention to the cocktail-friendly bar menu. The fries, cooked in duck fat and served with béarnaise sauce, should not be missed. Extra points for the interesting cocktail menu, and the eclectic and reasonably priced wine list. Orson hosts a hip crowd, so ditch your convention badge before you go -- and try not to argue about math too loudly. (508 4th St, 415-777-1508, www.orsonsf.com)
Plant Cafe is an organic restaurant down on Embarcadero. Vegetarians will be very happy eating here, and your meat-eating companions will find chicken and fish dishes to make them happy. But -- I'm talking to you meat eaters here -- throw caution to the winds and order one of the plant burgers. The Swiss and mushroom burger, and the wasabi burger, might be the best veggie burgers ever created. There are also pizzas and pastas, and lots of good appetizers (I like both the scallops and the spring rolls) and main dishes. The quinoa bowl, with vegetables and greens, is good and filling even without added shrimp or chicken. And if you're still around, the weekend brunch is excellent. Nice wine list, too. (Pier 3, The Embarcadero, 415-984-1973, www.theplantcafe.com)
If you're feeling nostalgic, here are last year's Monday reviews: