A friend and I stopped in for dinner at Pica Pica last night. I'm sure it might improve, but as it stands now I don't think the food is up to San Francisco standards.
Whether they know it or not, there are several restaurants within two blocks of their location putting out more flavorful maize-based delights, all of which are cheaper, and none of which are standard Michoacan Mexican fare. True, none of them have Venezuelan Arepas
We ordered two Arepas, two beers, a trio of cheese empanadas, and a small cup of the shrimp seafood soup. The total of $40 felt somewhat high for the service level, location, and food quality. It was an adequate amount of food for two men, but not filling.
The empanadas were deep fried and pretty greasy. Something about this style of oil-soaked highly refined masa does much less for me than nice flaky buttery or lardy empanadas from other culinary traditions. Tasty, but not worth ordering again.
My Catira arepa of chicken sauteed in sofrito with cheddar was perfectly tasty, but just didn't sing. I asked for some hot sauce or salsa, and they gave me a pepper cream that tasted like chipotles blended into sour cream. The web site menu lists a Pica'Pun signature hot sauce, but either it wasn't available or the guys manning the registers decided for me that I wanted the pepper cream rather than the hot sauce I had requested. The aioli and pepper creams were both delicious, but the chicken was already pretty richly oily, and I think some tartly spicy hot sauce would have perked it up better than the rich options they gave us.
My friend's pulled pork with tomatoes, avocado, and aioli was good, but the pork didn't have much porcine depth.
The shrimp seafood soup had a very nice flavor to the broth and perfectly cooked chunks of potato, but only 3.5 small shrimp in the whole thing. I should have been charged less for it in combination with my Arepa, but I was charged full price and didn't want to make an issue out of it.
The cheddar shreds used in my Arepa were suspiciously regular in shape, and tasted like decent quality pre-shredded cheddar, not higher quality cheddar. Too bad.
Beer options were Mirror Pond or Napa Smith Brewery's Amber Ale. Both fine options, but it wouldn't hurt to have more variety.
Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
401 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103