By Niki D’Andrea
“Mirror, mirror on the wall – what’s the most posh nosh spot of all?”
Dorian, a new boutique dining concept that recently reopened after a summer hiatus, may be the answer.
The décor in Dorian is like something straight out of a Victorian steampunk scene – luxurious, oversize crushed blue velvet booths, white leather chaise lounges, giant sparkling chandeliers and massive mirrors, with a charcoal gray life-size statue of an angel wearing goggles standing sentinel in the center of the circular bar.
People who are self-conscious about the way they look or who don’t like other people watching them eat may find the setting unsettling. Mirrors are everywhere, even in the menus, so wherever you go, there you are. (Looking good, presumably.)
The self-absorption aesthetic is a fitting homage to the restaurant’s namesake, Dorian Gray, titular character in Oscar Wilde’s Gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the story, an infatuated artist creates a full-length oil painting portrait of the gorgeous Gray, who sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. The deal is that Gray’s portrait will age and become more hideous with every hedonistic act and sin Gray commits (and he commits many!), while the man himself remains physically flawless. Of course, there are generally severe repercussions to selling one’s soul in Gothic stories and blues songs. But we wouldn’t want to spoil anything.
Among the decorations are a few colorful portrait paintings. And of course, there is the picture of Dorian Gray. Or is it Val Kilmer? Sarah, the primary server at Dorian, always asks guests who they think the subject of the portrait is, and 90 percent of the time, people say Kilmer. Perhaps after a few drinks, some people might see Prince William.
Speaking of drinks, Oscar Wilde once said, “Work is the curse of the drinking class,” and Dorian can lift the curse with a handful of craft cocktails and a sizeable wine selection that’s hand-picked by the staff’s level 2 sommelier.
A few cocktails skew toward the sweet side, and some are very Champagne-forward (Dorian also offers a bevy of bubblies on its drink menu). A couple tipples are bourbon-based. (On Thursdays, Dorian offers a select, special menu of bubbles and bourbon.) Standouts among the six cocktails include the signature Dorian, made with Hennessy VSOP cognac, lemon, sugar and Chandon Brut Classic Champagne; the Trifecta, a blend of Bulleit Bourbon, grapefruit and honey syrup that maintains the brawn of bourbon with just a slightly sweet edge; and Chandon No. 5, a crisp and floral combination of Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, crème de violette, lemon and Chandon Brut Classic.
Moving on to the food: Dorian does breakfast and dinner, but not lunch. The breakfast menu, available seven days a week from 7 a.m. until noon, includes 11 main plates, three parfaits and two milkshakes. Among the main plates, the namesake Dorian Omelet – a fluffy egg dish as big around as a basketball and packed with bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, jalapeños, onions and cheddar cheese – will fill one up for the entire day. If looking for fuel in the form of a sugar rush, lemon cake pancakes with mascarpone cheese and passionfruit syrup will get you going (any of the lush parfaits with peach, blueberry or strawberry compote, granola and Greek honey yogurt will provide a metabolic push, as well). Breakfast burritos, chilaquiles, eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, and lox bruschetta round out the morning menu. And of course, there’s avocado toast.
Dinner (4 to 10 p.m. daily) brings a delightful array of dishes that, like an Oscar Wilde tale, often put unexpected twists on traditional standards. A standout among the appetizers is the grilled octopus. Served with a spritz of saffron lemon butter on a bed of tomato balsamic chutney salad, the octopus has a nice, black char on its suckers (all visible on the small tentacle slices) and unlike many other, more rubbery octopus dishes, this one has a malleable texture that won’t make you masticate until your jaw starts to ache.
Salads are surprisingly savory – the ancient grain salad with crab, in particular. “Ancient” grains (we thought we recognized quinoa, which is still kind of the new kid on the grain train) and roasted almonds give the salad a nutty, earthy flavor, which balances nicely with grassy avocado cream and light and fresh shredded crab. The tomato and burrata salad may also be a misnomer, since there are no greens or lettuce involved. That’s because the chef didn’t want to distract from the mind-blowingly good house-made burrata. Spongy on the outside and creamy on the inside, the burrata is drizzled in a rich and tangy balsamic vinegar and some basil oil, and rests on a bed of juicy heirloom tomatoes and strings of balsamic pickled onions. It packs quite a punch to the palate.
In addition to seeing yourself reflected everywhere at the Dorian, your food will also seem to keep a good eye on you if you order the popular branzino. Fried whole and curried – eyes and bones and all – the crisp-skinned fish is stuffed with fennel and draped in tang thanks to ginger, lemons and garlic.
On the turf side, braised short ribs amaze. Boneless and basically served as a fork-tender fillet, the beef is flavorful and umami thanks to the addition of a delicious mushroom demi bourbon sauce. It’s served in a macadamia spinach crust with white cheddar grits.
The trio of dessert options consists of a Black Forest trifle, a peach crumble and apple strudel. The latter is made to order and takes about 20 minutes, but is well worth the wait. The Black Forest trifle was a sugar bomb exploding with sweet and sour cherries and chocolate. We joked as we ate it that we’d be ready to play ping-pong for eight hours after dinner.
In addition to breakfast, dinner and the weekly “Bubbles & Bourbon” special on Thursdays, Dorian also hosts “Rosé & Roses” every Wednesday from 5 to 10 p.m., which features a select wine and a rose for the ladies. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Fridays and features $5 well drinks, $3 bottles of beer, 25 percent off craft cocktails and 30 percent off all food items on the bar menu.
The bar menu includes three kinds of hamburgers, bruschetta, calamari and the aforementioned grilled octopus, as well as four superb salads. It might not be a bad idea to order a handful of small plates in order to taste as much as possible.
And if you leave both full of food and full of yourself, that’s OK. After all, this may be the most posh nosh spot of all. Just check the mirrors.