Based on Cynthia's post last week (see below), three of us headed to Cafe Bella Vista last Wednesday for a pre-pub quiz dinner. We had a mixed experience there. We were so prepared to like it, and so hopeful - the neighborhood is really cute (especially the wonderful example of storybook architecture across the street, and the lovely trees shading the streets) and they've done a nice job making a modern, loft-y space look cozy, with the use of lots of IKEA stuff, including nice lanterns.
At first (at 7pm) we were the only ones in there. Eventually two two-person parties moseyed in, but it still felt pretty empty. The one server was pretty young and amateurish, but very friendly.
We ordered the mussels, the cured salmon, the salad with goat cheese croquettes, the salt cod soup, and the lamb chops. The thing that colored the whole evening was the mussels being majorly off. The smell was overpoweringly bad when they were brought to the table, and my friend Abby was brave enough to try one, which she pronounced "scary". Despite feeling like we shouldn't send something back (because this is clearly a nice neighborhood place, more a labor of love than a money-making venture) we just had to. The smell alone was putting us off the rest of the feed. So we sent the mussels back, and the server returned a bit later and said that "yes, the chef detected a slight odor, too" and asked if we wanted anything else in lieu of the mussels. We were pretty full from the other stuff, so we declined.
The rest of the food was good. The salt cod soup (bacalao was translated as "sole cod" on the menu, which we thought was cute) was hearty and fishy, with potatoes (and corn?). Good.
The cured salmon was very standard. Nothing exciting about it. But they did provide a lot of bread to have with it.
The salad with goat cheese croquettes was very very good - goat cheese rounds seemed lightly battered and pan-fried, and there were three of them. Quite generous. Enjoyed the greens they used (standard mixed greens, I think - no arugula, frisee, or mache), as well as the dressing.
The lamb chops were $13.95, a little pricey. They were very tasty and well-prepared, but the three of them looked so tiny on the plate! We thought maybe they came from miniature lambs. Ha. I felt guilty even trying one small bite off of Juan's plate! And they came with salad and about 8 firm fries (we weren't sure they were potato at first because they were so firm - thought they might be yuca or something).
All in all a little disappointing, but I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and go back some other time if I were in the neighborhood. I'd like to hear about other people's experiences there, too!
Cafe Bella Vista
2598 Harrison St
San Francisco, CA 94110