The Mission dive Mr. Pollo has long been a standby for great Venezuelan arepas, but now a real chef, Manny Torres Giminez, is running the place. Giminez has cooked at top restaurants around San Francisco and around the country, and now he’s doing prix-fixe dinners of the food he cares about most—doing all the prep, serving, and even dishwashing himself.

For starters, you might get a trio of arepas. The first, of course, is Venezuelan: a silver-dollar-sized disk of white cornmeal, split and sandwiched with a slice of kiwi. “The crisp browned crust on the outside of the arepa and the creamy interior were a surprisingly delicious contrast with the cool, sweet-tangy kiwi,” says Ruth Lafler. The Colombian version is bigger, more deeply browned and oozing with cheese, caramelized by a touch of sugarcane on the outside that also brings out the corn flavor. Venezuelan chachapas round out the selection—pancakes of fresh corn purée, not masa, folded around melting cheese.

The chicken and potato-filled Colombian empanada that comes next was too bland for Ruth Lafler, but it was LikeFrogButOOOH’s favorite of the night. The aji dipping sauce with scallions and cilantro adds a kind of Chinese flavor.

The main dish is a duo of tender, deliciously simple braised lamb on achiote rice, based on a recipe by the chef’s grandmother, and a grilled baby Australian goat rib, cooked perfectly medium rare. The sauce on top is insanely complex, Ruth says, with jasmine, lavender, and other herbs.

Although the menu states that the tasting menu is $15, hounds found the actual price to be $20. This didn’t leave a good impression with kare_raisu, who also found the food lacking in soul and artfulness, and says, “I only appreciated really his ability to finesse the cornmeal into different guises.” There’s no doubt, though, about the chef’s passion for the foods of his homeland.

Mr. Pollo [Mission]
2823 Mission Street, San Francisco

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