Monday, March 16, 2009

Contigo: Very good Spanish tapas in SF

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of eating at an authentic, Catalan inspired tapas restaurant which recently opened up in Noe Valley. Contigo is the vision of Brett Emerson, who apparently had been in the process of opening his restaurant for the better part of two and a half years (read more about the struggle on his blog here). Yes, between financing, build out, licensing, staffing and many other considerations, opening up a restaurant has the potential of testing even the most patient of business owners. Well I'm glad that Emerson and his business partner (front of house manager and girlfriend Elan Drucker) perservered. The fact that the space is as green as it is, from building materials all the way up to choice of a printer for their business cards, is an added bonus. As far as first rate regional food experiences go, Contigo is a great addition to any San Francisco resident's list of go to places in town. And if you're out of town, on the prowl for tapas, Contigo should be at the top of your short list. For the New York tapas fans, think Casa Mono or Tia Pol. Otherwise, the only other comparisons would be the more contemporary (but not overly so with regard to foams, quotations and precious plating) tapas bars in Spain.

What follows is not a proper restaurant review, but rather some captioned photographs of the food. I'm sure that I'll be back soon to further explore the menu and enjoy more of what's on offer. If you're in the area, I suggest that you do the same. In fact, maybe an SF food and wine blogging (readers and bloggers alike) community dinner is in order.

Fried skate with pan fried baby artichokes

Roasted chicken

Coca (Catalan flatbread) with house made Basque style chorizo and wilted radicchio

Tortilla española with mushrooms

mixed chicory salad

croquetas de buey (deep fried balls of braised brisket, served with arugula and a lemon wedge - great flavor and textures: crisp, juicy, smoky, earthy, bright)

Setas a la plancha (wild mushrooms with parsley pesto)

Iowa's finest: La Querccia prosciutto

Bread served with fruity, mellow, arbequina olive oil

A humble '04 Montsant blend of Garnacha, Cariñena, and one or two international varietals from Celler El Masroig called 'Castell de les Pinyeres.' Sturdy, fruity and well liked by our table.


Anonymous said...

>>In fact, maybe an SF food and wine blogging (readers and bloggers alike) community dinner is in order.<<

I'd be up for that.

Joe Manekin said...

I'd be up for a Thursday or Sunday night in April.

We should round up some peeps.

Anonymous said...

Whats good about oversmoked american ham?
Whats good about a spanish wine list with no lopez de heredia?
You trust people serving la gitana manzanilla?
I really have to disagree with you on this one,contigo seems to me like a new A16 for spanish food......all about the slick decor,mediocre(at best) food, terrible winelist....
Style over substance!

Joe Manekin said...

Anon -

Reveal thyself, hater! How do you really feel about Contigo? Some answers to your rhetorical questions:

Whats good about oversmoked american ham?

Which dish are you referring to?

Whats good about a spanish wine list with no lopez de heredia?

OK, it would have been nice to see some LdH representation, agreed.

You trust people serving la gitana manzanilla?

Sure. It may be ubiquitous at tapas bars both good and bad, but it's the gold standard for a reason. I drink a lot of sherry and always find their manzanilla to be among the best two examples of the style around. So do Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, and countless others, but hey, maybe you're right and we're all wrong.

As far as the A16 remark, the food is definitely better at Contigo. And the space significantly less showy, the crowd less, um, Marina. That's a rough comparison there.

Maybe you just caught Contigo on a bad night (very possible for a restaurant not even one month old). And maybe my experience was an unusually good showing for them. Who knows? All I'm saying is that, based on my dinner there, Contigo is as good as tapas get in this country.

Tommy said...

Just came across this post recently. Contigo has a new wine buyer and wine list looks very much improved. The have LdH Rosado 1997 and the are now pouring La Cigarrera Manzanilla BTG, it's much fresher than La Gitana being that is was just bottled back in February. Salud!