O3 Bistro and Lounge Graces Downtown
An unusual name for a restaurant, “O3” stands for an ozone formula which consists of three oxygen molecules. No worries, it’s not about your long-forgotten chemistry lesson, it’s about an entirely different kind of chemistry. O3 Bistro and Lounge is perfect for romantic dates. As well as for a pre-show meal before an anticipated opera or symphony performance. (Both the SF Symphony and SF Opera are a block away). It’s also good for just having dinner at a chic place with minimalist décor and stellar food.
Dark wood, grey walls, glass cylinders containing orchids, and muted lights create an immediate impression of being in a serene and graciously understated space. A large see-through bar area is equipped with cozy designer banquettes, side tables, and throw pillows.
An oversized print of Buddha’s head overlooks the elegant-yet-casual dining room, and the unobtrusive music selection sets the mood for a very relaxing and enjoyable evening.
O3 features an interesting list of signature cocktails. Both the gin-based O3 Soho and the Lavender Collins are delightful and beautiful to behold. Light-green O3 Soho is made with agave nectar, lemongrass, ginger, and muddled mint leaves. House-made lavender syrup and fresh blueberries lend a purple hue to the Collins.
The wine list is short and sweet, with an excellent white from Burgundy, a tangy zin from Napa, and wonderful Bordeaux – Chateau Haut Selve 2008.
Slow-cooked pork belly with a quail egg and diced pear must be a very popular appetizer – I watched other diners order it, and was tempted, too, by the succulent crispy morsels glazed with caramel.
My dining companion’s oxtail tacos were wrapped in fried wonton instead of tortilla, which added some welcome crispiness to the braised meat. The dish was served with a refreshing jicama, radish, and cabbage slaw.
All entrees at O3 have enticing garnishes.
Tender and juicy pan-roasted duck breast is placed on a bed of shredded Brussels sprouts with fragrant shiitake mushrooms. Braised pork shoulder comes with tiny pebble beans, thin slices of Chinese sausage, and kale.
Green tea cheesecake is for dessert has an Oreo crust, and is topped with house-made rice crispy crumble.
Chocolate and Vietnamese coffee cake has a pronounced taste of coffee, and the most delicate chocolate mousse as one of its layers.
Behind the magic of O3 there is a young-but-experienced team of San Francisco restaurateurs who brought this welcome addition to the heart of the city. Opened just a couple of months ago, O3 is quickly becoming a favorite of the theater crowd as well as of the lunching city government office workers and late-night diners.
O3 Bistro and Lounge is located at 524 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 am to 11 pm and Thursday through Saturday from 11 am to 2 am. To make a reservation call (415) 934-9800 or visit their website.