Review: Oro.

Since I finally tried chef Jason Fox’s first establishment in San Francisco, Commonwealth, I was intrigued to try his second restaurant that opened last fall.

Like Commonwealth, Oro serves New American cuisine but in a swankier atmosphere. Since Oro is located in the Mint Plaza, it’s open for lunch and dinner and they even offer a very long happy hour. We arrived during happy hour so we were able to try a few dishes at a discounted price and then eventually ordered items off the dinner menu.

Halibut Chicharrones with Crème Fraîche and Trout Roe (6/10).

Chicken Liver Mousse with Fermented Grape Jelly on Brown Rice Crackers (7/10).

Beef Tartare with Cured Egg Yolk and Smoked Mussels on Ancient Grain Crostini (8.5/10).

Grilled Lamb Rib with Meyer Lemon, Mint, and Kefir (8/10).

We started off with various small snacks. The halibut chicharrones was a creative take on classic pork chicharrones but the combination of the halibut with the trout roe in the dipping sauce was overly fishy. The chicken liver mousse was flavorful and smooth but I wanted more flavor from the fermented grape jelly and the brown rice cracker was a bit too fragile. The next snack, the beef tartare, was my favorite. The beef was tender with creamy cured egg yolk with herbs on a thick slice of earthy bread. The last snack was also quite delicious. The grilled lamb rib was unctuous with sweet tart Meyer lemon, fresh mint, and a tangy kefir sauce.

Fried Pig Ears with Pickled Celtuce, Fermented Chili, and Whipped Buttermilk (8/10).

Another favorite of the night was the fried pig ears, crunchy and soft at the same time tossed in a fermented chili sauce. It was served with strands of pickled celtuce (a Chinese vegetable that’s a hybrid of celery and romaine lettuce) and whipped buttermilk dressing that perfectly cut through the richness of the fried pig ears.

Broccoli with Sichuan Pepper, Puffed Rice, and Cheddar Cheese (7.5/10).

The broccoli was vibrant with herbs, a touch of heat from the Sichuan pepper, melted Cheddar cheese, and crunchy puffed rice. However, Sichuan pepper leaves a tingling sensation on the tongue that some people wouldn’t like.

Chicken with Salt Baked Celery Root, Sprouted Grains, Date, and Toasted Barley Jus (8.5/10).

The last savory dish was surprisingly really tasty and well executed. I typically don’t order chicken at restaurants because I find it boring but it’s also a great test to see if they can make it exciting. The chicken was cooked perfectly with a moist tender interior and crispy skin served with velvety celery root purée, pieces of salt baked celery root, a sweet date sauce, and earthy sprouted grains. We didn’t try any of the main dishes (there’s only two options) which are substantially larger, probably better for a large group.

Chocolate Mousse with Sweet Potato and Pine Ice Cream, Burnt Meringue, and Candy Capped Mushroom (8/10).

Yogurt Ice Cream with Rhubarb Consommé, White Chocolate, Bee Pollen, and Buckwheat Crumble (7/10).

For dessert, the chocolate mousse was really good; super creamy covered in burnt meringue with sweet potato pine ice cream in the center. I didn’t taste the sweet potato or pine flavor as much as I expected but it was still delicious. The other dessert, the yogurt ice cream, was refreshing and light with rhubarb consommé, white chocolate covered in bee pollen, and buckwheat crumble.

Overall I enjoyed my meal at Oro but I think a few dishes could be slightly tweaked so my rating is a 7.5-8/10.

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