Why You Need To Dine At Sacramento Street Newcomer Sorrel

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Marin County king salmon
Marin County king salmon

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ortiz

New restaurants open in San Francisco at an alarming pace—so much so that sometimes it’s difficult to keep up. While some eateries—like Che Fico and International Smoke—are highly anticipated and instant successes, others develop a following more slowly by word of mouth. One such place that recently caught my attention is Sorrel. From restauranteur Colby Heiman and chef Alex Hong, Sorrel, which opened six months ago, is Sacramento Street’s newest dining destination.

The dining room at Sorrel
The dining room at Sorrel

Photo Credit: Tule Horton

Like the Laurel Heights neighborhood where its located, Sorrel is a quiet, intimate, and relaxed place. There’s no hustle and bustle or pomp and circumstance. Instead, it’s an inviting and calming sort of spot. Wood tables and floors, seasonal floral arrangements that are lush and moody, and dim lighting combine to create a refined, yet unpretentious dining room. Upon entry, a black-and-white marble bar catches the eye as do live plants, an indoor tree, and oversized Edison bulbs that hang from a wooden fixture attached to the ceiling. Sorrel is a restaurant where, after a long day or lousy flight, one can sit back and unwind with a glass of sparkling Gamay and bowl of risotto.

Sorrel's marble bar
Sorrel’s marble bar

The partially open kitchen allows the diners to view the chefs working with precision and dedication. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, chef Hong trained at Jean-Georges in New York and Quince here in SF before starting a pop-up called Sorrel. For three years, Hong ran the pop-up, cooking over 135 sold-out dinners, honing his skills and developing the dishes for what is now his first brick-and-mortar. He serves upscale California-Italian cuisine—seasonal crudos, handmade pasta, and entrees like dry-aged duck and local king salmon.

Sourdough focaccia -
Sourdough focaccia 

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ortiz

However, to truly experience Hong’s prowess, I recommend the seven-course tasting menu. You’ll get to taste a little bit of everything from the bluefin tuna crudo with tomato water, black olives, and cucumber to the lasagne with oxtail, salsify, leek, and crescenza cheese. These days, most chefs incorporate a bread course into their tasting menus, and Hong begins his culinary journey with sourdough focaccia. The dome of bread comes warm and shiny from the oven with a smear of cultured butter on the side. Chunks of flaky sea salt dot the crisp, oily exterior. Take one bite of the bread, and you’ll know that you’re in for a treat—its the prelude to a memorable and flavorful meal.

Chef Alexander Hong
Chef Alexander Hong

When the first pasta course—tagliolini (thin ribbons of pasta similar to capellini) with chestnut, porcini, and preserved lemon—arrives, you may die with delight. It’s buttery, creamy, and rich—so indulgent that you can’t help but experience joy with each bite. It’s at this point during the meal that you may want to take a better look at the man behind the incredible cuisine. It’s a shock to realize that Hong is not yet 30. A lanky fellow with his chin-length hair tucked behind his ears, Hong looks like he could be the long-lost son of Angelina Jolie.

The chefs in the kitchen
The chefs in the kitchen

Photo Credit: Jordan Wise

As the meal progresses with perfectly crisp fish in a delicate chive beurre blanc and decadent chocolate cake with salty ice cream and kisses of ganache, it’s clear that Hong is a chef to watch. As he continues to fine-tune his craft, an experience at Sorrel will only become more impressive. Although you may have missed the opening of Sorrel, don’t wait any longer to enjoy this superb cuisine and fine setting.

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