The team at Four Seasons Embarcadero just renovated the 155-room hotel and built out a new California-Italian restaurant Orafo, set to open on February 27. Orafo chef Gunnar Planter cut his teeth working with James Beard Award-winning chef Martin Woesle at Mille Fleurs as well as at numerous other SoCal restaurants through his 16-year-long career. But he’s always wanted to try his hand at the Bay Area’s powerful dining scene. “I think San Diego is still becoming a culinary city,” Planter says. “But San Francisco has layers, layers, and layers of James Beard chefs, Michelin stars, and so much more. That’s why I came here.”
Planter’s menu draws from Italy’s Tuscany and Calabria regions. Particular highlights include sharable appetizers such as tuna bresaola carpaccio with culatello and buffalo mozzarella. A la carte entrees including rich handmade pastas ranging from pappardelle to orecchiette to campanelle are stars of the show, too. Planter recognizes California-Italian restaurants are prolific throughout the Bay Area, but he says he feels Orafo will stand out thanks to his spins on classic dishes: fennel seed, just a small touch, shakes up the standard burrata, for example. Big bandstanding entrees like porchetta and branzino round out the options. The name of the restaurant itself — Italian for goldsmith — is a playful nod to the region’s historic gold rush in 1848. “Classic Italian food isn’t stuffy at all,” Planter says. “But you’ve had it. I want you to come in and have something you’ve never tasted.”
The restaurant is located on the ground floor and features dark, moody wood walls and handsome plush seating. And despite calls for tourism relief, the chef says he’s not concerned about a lack of foot traffic and visitors. In a perfect world, hotel guests will be drawn to Orafo and locals will see the new restaurant as a worthwhile place to eat in the same spirit as local Italian dining standards such as Jackson Fillmore, Flour + Water, Poesia, and Che Fico. He moved to Nob Hill just a few months ago and feels like there’s a chance to revitalize the city center, echoing Mayor London Breed’s recent hopes for a downtown recovery.
While cooking as executive chef at Del Mar’s Viewpoint and Carlsbad’s Ebullition Gastronomy, Planter focused on dry-aged meats and charcuterie. At Orafo he’ll aim to be a bit more seasonal, as is the regional standard up here, rather than preparing meats designed to last long winters. He’s already cooked with Rupert Blease of Lord Stanley in the past and has looked up to Dominique Crenn, Michael Mina, and the staff at Rich Table; he says he owns hundreds of cookbooks and books about cuisine, with lots of attention dedicated to NorCal. “One day I may go back to San Diego,” Planter says. “But even being this close to all this talent is awesome.”
Orafo (Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero, 222 Sansome Street) will debut on Monday, February 27, and will be open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.