Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Patatas Bravas - crispy fried potatoes with allioli and salsa brava.

I had been following the writing of Chef Brett Emerson's exploits for quite some time and the last time I was in San Francisco, I emailed him to see if his battle to open Contigo had been won. Sadly, I was a couple weeks too early and would miss his new restaurant and went to another Noe Valley institution: Incanto.

Two years later, Contigo is no longer "new" and they're sure to have worked out all the kinks. Meeting us at the restaurant is childhood friend Dennis and his new girlfriend (? - one is never really sure) Kelly. By the time we arrive, they've already secured a table on the back covered patio where the gas heaters are running at full bore.

Marinated Spanish Olives - fried marcona almonds and pickled farmers market vegetables.

Contigo is interesting in that it combines the recipes and flavors of Spain and Catalan with the sensibilities of modern-day American Farm-To-Table. It's cute, hip and appealing. The design is clean and modern while remaining warm and comfortable. There's a show kitchen as you walk in and the equipment is gleaming.

But how is the food? As you read the menu descriptions that Farm-To-Table penchant shines through with F2T buzzwords like "Fried Farm Egg" and "Pickled Farmers Market Vegetables" and the pimenton potato chips seem too cute (read:tiny) to really get into without having to bunch up a lot in your fingers and try to eat them with any semblance of elegance.

Jamon Iberico de Bellota - acorn fed spanish heritage "pata negra" ham, aged 36 months.

But everything is good - even the tripe and chorizo with chickpeas, easily the most contested dish of the evening. Everything is fresh and delicious (read: Pork Belly Bocadillo). Sadly, the beef cheeks were already 86'd by the time we arrived.

There's also a Seven Course Tapas Tasting Menu available for $40 per person, served family style. It sounds interesting but our way afforded us thirteen different plates for roughly the same amount of money, including a couple of drinks. The exploratory part of me is interested in the tasting menu, but there's something about selecting a range of dishes based on your whims that also is alluring. Maybe even more so.

A close up.

In the end, Contigo was worth the visit. The food was delicious and fresh. The staff was helpful and friendly. We ate a lot (but not too much) and we drank well (but not too much). Even with thirteen dishes, there's still a lot more to explore on the menu and we'll have to make another visit the next time we're in San Francisco.

Dennis and Ana compare jamon tasting notes.

Kelly anticipates the next course.

Local Halibut Crudo - with seville oranges, olives, kumquats, radishes and wild radish blossoms.

Pork Belly Bocadillo - with harissa allioli, pickled onions and pimenton potato chips.

First-Of-The-Season Asparagus - with mojama, pimenton almonds and an olive oil fried farm egg.

Calamars a la Planxa - with cara cara oranges, black olives, pickled onions and spiced chickpeas.

Tripe with Chorizo and Chickpeas - from our wood oven.

Coca (Flatbread) of Broccoli Rabe - our txistorra sausage, caramelized onions and manchego.

Chocolate sorbet, vanilla ice cream and barquillo.

1320 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

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