The Morris has only been in existence for just over a year-and-a-half, but owing to its location in the old Slow Club space — which was an old-timer at 24 years — it has the feel of a longtime neighborhood spot.
The Morris is named after founder/sommelier Paul Einbund’s father, which gives the restaurant an aura of days gone by — conjuring up visions of old art-deco apartments and hotels in Miami Beach — even though the interior is modern/garage/industrial/sleek, with an impressive custom-built, glass-walled wine case. It is pretty clear that owners Einbund (formerly of Frances and Coi) and Chef Gavin Schmidt (Coi) want The Morris to be an amiable, go-to restaurant for those that live in the area, as well as a destination.
Because of Einbund, there is an impressive wine list, which we didn’t come near to touching (we did have a bottle of a lovely zin with dinner, though.) The Morris is also playing with bottle-aging cocktails, a method by which a classic cocktail ages for anywhere from months to years. I had the 17-month-old Manhattan, which came with a sidecar.
Very nice, and I LOVED the cut-glass barware (they pay a lot of attention to locally made dishware, hand-made linens, and cutlery here — keep your eye out for the for-purchase Opinel knives, with Pop Morris’ signature burned into the handle), but while I know the point is to round out those rough, boozy edges and offer a smooth, more in-depth cocktail, the grit is what I crave in a Manhattan. (I also found the $25 price tag steep.)
There were four of us, so we started with some shared bites:
The chicken and foie gras dumplings in broth, topped with shaved bonita flakes that dance delightfully like fluttering petals from the heat of the dish, were orbs of bliss! Such umami, such soothing comfort food.
My friend and I split the uni toast bite — and it is literally a bite — which should have been better.
The uni was very mild, notably missing some of the funk that I’ve always associated with it. Perhaps I’ve never had uni this fresh? Doubtful. The toast point it was served on was soft, so there was no contrast in texture. It needed crunch, or something to kick it up.
We also ordered the cracklins, which were as ethereally light as clouds (like 4505 Meats’ chicharrones, if you’re familiar).
They came lightly sauced with honey, which for us was the wrong choice, and the Aleppo pepper was barely discernible. I would have liked more heat and salt.
The couple with us had already tried the restaurant’s specialty, the famous smoked duck, but it took no twisting of my arm to order a half for the BF and me.
This duck has been widely touted, and rightly so. It’s a tour de force, with a matching price tag ($60 for half, $120 for a whole), but the labor-intense preparation more than justifies the price: the bird goes through a process of brining, days-long air-aging in the fridge, smoking, and then finally convection-oven roasting, all in the pursuit and ultimate realization of gloriously crispy skin enveloping silky, succulent, ruby meat, all lovingly napped in jus, nestled atop a bed of roasted root veggies. The duck arrives carved, glowing, glistening, beckoning. This is a knockout dish. And if the price gives you pause, the BF and I split the half-duck, our friends had a few bites, and I still had enough left for a substantial lunch the next day.
Our friend ordered the black cod.
Perfectly cooked, moist, springy and Springy. If I hadn’t had the duck, I would have been more than happy with this entrée.
Her hubby got the house-made sausage (they have many, many ways with the pig here) with rapini, and I believe pulses, and/or sprouts, the latter of which were, for me, a bit undercooked, but his wife loved the crunchy, fresh, vegetal-ness of them.
We all had a bite of the sausage and deemed it very good.
The BF and I also split an asparagus-herb salad with a kimchi aioli.
Sadly, the aioli was very much lacking any kimchi flavor. When you say kimchi, you expect funk and heat and brine, but this was like a slightly spiced mayonnaise. Despite the rye-toast nuggets and hard-boiled egg chunks, the dish suffered from blandness.
The restaurant very kindly, and unbidden, brought us a Dungeness crab salad (on the house) with avocado, breakfast radishes, and cucumbers.
While it was a fresh-tasting dish, and I really hate to look a gift crab in the mouth, it was also a bit underwhelming. Perhaps because we’re nearing the end of the season, the crab itself didn’t have much of its usual sweetness.
All was redeemed by the next dish, however.
Charred broccolini with grilled squid in a spicy chili/lime sauce was maybe my favorite dish of the night, running neck-and-neck with the duck. It had surprising heat, umami, fun textures, and pizzazz! It was a jolt and made me want to come back again.
Although we were more than sated by this time, because we were with friends we ordered dessert. We asked for the buckwheat donuts with a whiskey crème Anglaise, and they generously brought us a piece of carrot cake as well.
Those donuts! Fabulous! With a sprinkle of chili and a subtle saltiness, dipped into the creamy, slightly boozy Anglaise, they were pure joy in the mouth.
The carrot cake was lovely, sitting in its pool of creamy carrot juice. The cake itself I found drier than most, but not unpleasantly so, with a spicy hint of cardamom. I have to confess I may have been a little too full to completely appreciate this dessert.
Although we’d already had quite a bit of the menu, I told the boyfriend we just had to come back, as we’d not had a chance to try any of their house-made charcuterie.
On our second visit, we sat at the cozy bar in the back of the restaurant.
I started with the oyster with strawberry and black pepper.
Quite interesting — the notes of sweetness played funkily with the brine of the oyster. However, I didn’t note any black pepper, which would have made a nice contrast.
Next, we had the five-charcuterie plate.
Holy mama! Grilled and olive-oil-drizzled Tartine bread accompanied our Jaegerwurst, smoky pepperoni, tete de cochon, pâté de campagne, duck liver mousse, and, as requested, a side of the duck-offal confit. Luscious, all of it. I loved the crunch of the tete de cochon, the silky, sherry musings of the mousse, the slight bite of the pepperoni, and the rich silkiness of the Jaegerwurst. The confit was heady, and I all but drank the little cup down when I ran out of our second order of bread. The Morris knows its charcuterie.
I also had a glass of their in-house blend of wine that evening, a mixture of Semillon and orange muscat. This was a lovely glass of wine — cool, dry, with mere whispers of the muscat. I would be hard-pressed not to go with their house wines in the future, despite the allure of Einbund’s heady wine program.
The board of meaty delights was more than enough for us for a meal, but we’d ordered a salad as well.
Can I rave about a salad? I shall. Billed as a peach, burrata and arugula salad, what made it for me were the crispy, nutty artichoke leaves, reminiscent of the Roman carciofi alla giudia. Toasted pistachios added more crunch, and the peach juice dressing over the creamy burrata was a dream. What a way to end a meal!
Wait! The real way to end your meal is with a trip to the bathroom, where an ethereal soundtrack lilts over video footage of lovely, peaceful drives through the likes of Sonoma and Belgium. You’ll be tempted to take your wine glass in with you, but don’t: That would be weird. But go.
The Morris is clearly Mr. Eindbund and Chef Schmidt’s love child, and a fitting tribute to its namesake.
2501 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA 94110