Apparently, we unknowingly picked the wrong day to entertain out-of-town friends at Orson, and this impacted our dining experience. There were a couple of private functions in the bar area and the upper level dining room was quite loud as a result. Upon arrival, we were offered a table in the adjacent room (I assume it is a private dining room) because the staff acknowledged that the restaurant was louder than usual. This alternate room was dimly lighted and lacked any "atmosphere" - we declined the offer and chose to eat in the regular dining room.
We concluded that, at least on this night, the facility was a "bar" with a restaurant attached as an afterthought. But we could envision the dining room being more appealing on a quieter night. Lesson learned - check in advance to see if there will be large groups in the bar.
The food was mostly good, but some portion sizes seemed small given the prices. The only "bad" item was the Oysters Rockefeller. These were shared among the four of us, and we unanimously hated them. Much too bitter. Our friends were visiting from New Orleans and have more than a passing familiarity with oysters; they were anxious to compare this local version with what they experience in New Orleans. Yikes!!
Main courses were tasty and nicely presented. Service was good. Desserts were overpriced at $10, and were good, but not as spectacular as we had hoped, given the reputation of the chef whose career has been built on desserts.
We left with a general feeling of disatisfaction; we had an "OK" experience (except for the oysters) but we would not return; there are just too many other choices in San Francisco.