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San Francisco Bay Area

SF: Nopalito - the end of the barbacoa crawl (part 3)


Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area

SF: Nopalito - the end of the barbacoa crawl (part 3)

rworange | | Apr 9, 2009 12:15 AM

Nopalito is the Mexican version of Slanted Door with all the same good and bad of SD.

Michael Bauer says it best in his review

“There are the inevitable complaints that this is "gringo" food designed for a group too haughty to eat at a taqueria in the Mission. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth … for the quality and pedigree of the products, it's a true bargain”

Yes and no. Based on taste alone, Nopalito came in third as far as the lamb was concerned.

But first there are some really good things about Nopalito
- The staff is super helpful and super nice
- It could popularize regional Mexican food to people who would not otherwise try it. Will goat finally become acceptable with the masses?
- The first restaurant to serve a few true Nuevo Mexican dishes like the better restaurants in Mexico City

Like New American cuisine, Nuevo Mexican takes local ingredients, traditional flavors and puts a spin on them.

Tbe salad of slices of juicy grapefruit, mouth-watering blood orange, pickled red onion, chili, lime and queso fresco was so similar to the best of what I ate in Mexico and gives me hope for more to come.

This was not only delicious, but stunningly beautiful. It’s not any sort of traditional dish but uses Mexican items in new combinations and a new way.

If I only had the barbacoa I wouldn’t be rushing back. There was nothing wrong with it. The presentation was beautiful, it was just that other restaurants did it more deliciously.

Mom's Cuisine came in first for both the lamb and the consomme

Sazon had the next best lamb and finished last for consomme

For all the people interested in great Chinese and Japanese broths, I think the rich, deep lamb consommé would please you very much. I wish this could be ordered on its own without the lamb.

There were a few chickpeas with minced onion and a cilantro leaf or two. Mom's was just so much more amazingly complex and fragrant with herbs.

The lamb was nicely wrapped in a banana leaf. However, every bit of fat had been trimmed from the cubes which also trimmed the flavor and left if feeling dry. It just wasn’t as tender or tasty as the other two places.

Also it was spiced which overwhelmed whatever lamb flavor there might have been. A slight nit is that the banana leaf was tied too well. I had trouble unwrapping it as did the people sitting near me.

The three golden yellow corn tortillas were the prettiest I’ve ever seen. However, they didn’t have the intoxicating fragrance or corn flavor of the tortillas at La Borenquena in Oakland. La Borenquena remains the tortilla champ of the Bay Area, IMO. It was nice that Nopalito offered more tortillas when I finished them.

A small dish of salsa borracha (drunken sauce) was available to top the meat when it was wrapped in the tortilla. Despite tequila, beer, pastille chilis, spices, etc, I thought there was an unpleasant note to it. Also, it further covered up the lamb flavor rather than complimenting it.

The almond horchata was pleasant and creamy. The michelada was ok, but La Tapatia in Richmond does a far better version. The complementary fried garbanzo beans were nice and much better than fried garbanzos I paid $2 for recently at Olivetto Café.

No complaint about the tasty Mexican wedding cookie at the end.

They did have lime paletas for dessert, but I sort of lost interest after the barbecoa.

For me it is like Slanted Door, the dishes I like best are those that are not traditionally Vietnamese, the more creative dishes.

I was grateful to Slanted Door for introducing me a new cuisine and helping me embrace it. I hope Nopalito has this effect on people who might not order anything but tacos, burritos and combo plates.

306 Broderick St, San Francisco, CA

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