As you know, I’m gun shy when it comes to trying new restaurants. I’m a huge fan of dinner parties at home and when I do eat out, I have my handful of favorites that have set the bar very high. Last night I was meeting a friend from culinary school. We hadn’t caught up in ages but, I know she’s one to be on top of all the new restaurants in town. I suggested Contigo, hoping she hadn’t already been (she hadn’t!), and we made a plan.
We met at 6. I know, that’s lunch time for some people but, Contigo doesn’t take reservations and with the buzz about the place, we figured it would be a long wait later in the night. The restaurant, on Castro St. in Noe Valley, is not big, I’m guessing 50 seats and a small bar. It’s simple design, outdoor space, and open kitchen were inviting from the moment we walked in. The hosts took us right to a table and explained the menu-mostly small plates, a few flatbreads, and 2-3 entree size dishes. The wines, from Spain, Portugal, and France were varied and reasonable and for $40 we had a dry, crispy Spanish white that was amazing.
On to the food…my first thought was “what are we NOT going to order?”. Then the reality of us being only two people kicked in and narrowed it down. I will say, eating with a fellow cook is always great-you can over order by rationalizing it as ‘market research’. From the small plates side of the menu we ordered snap peas with morels (crunchy, earthy-SPRING on a plate), calamares a la plancha (fresh and cooked just right), and a bocadillo of pork belly and pickled red onions (a small ‘slider’ that was a bit too fatty for me but, the mini pimenton chips on the side were addictive). Next was a flatbread, or ‘coca’, with artichokes, fennel, and a fried egg (a bit like a thin crust, tomato-less, pizza-crispy, flavorful, and just the right size). Everything hit the spot. Portion sizes were perfect for two people and the pacing of the dishes was spot on.
Of course we saved room for dessert…churros and hot chocolate are not to be passed up, right? The chocolate was rich and thick in the European style. The churros were mini and, at least for me, a bit too crispy. I love churros with a crunchy exterior and a soft, pillowy inside. Because these were so tiny, they got the crunch on the outside but, I missed the inside. Topping it off with press pots of Blue Bottle was icing on the cake.
I can’t wait to go back and try things like the tortilla espanola with asparagus, albodigas with lamb and pork, and the oxtail croquetas. The menu changes often, keeping the basics but making sure they include the most seasonal ingredients possible.
I live way across town from Contigo but, the distance won’t keep me away. It shouldn’t stop you either!