Cala opened a year ago in Hayes Valley and was one of the City's hardest-to-get reservations. It has been recommended without much detail so I've started this thread to collect opinions. Please report in with more recent experiences.
I had a chance to try it for a solo brunch in January on the first service after the holiday break. A parking space appeared while I was driving by, so I snagged it with the notion of just taking a peek at the menu. The room had quite a buzz to it even for Sunday morning. While the tables were all full, as well as most of the bar, the large communal table had seating open.
My Paloma, $12, was beautiful, made with pink grapefruit juice, lime, aperol and tequila blanco.
Manila clams al chipotle, $23, tasted fine bathed in the moderately spicy juices colored by the smoky chiles. However, about 30% of the clams were rubbery from overcooking. And they were not nearly as shining with natural sweetness as served in a typical Hong Kong-style seafood restaurant. Accompanied by a custom-made pan baked by Tartine, this torpedo-shaped roll marked by the grill had the spongy texture with many chewy voids to soak up the tasty liquids well. However, having recently had the acqua pazza at A16 with perfectly cooked sweet manila clams, this dish still registers as a big let down even though it wasn't flawed enough to send it back. At this price point, execution should be better.
Cala grinds its own masa for making tortillas. When I told my server that I was disappointed my order did not come with the handmade tortillas, he brought out a couple on the house for me to try. They were indeed very good. However, I don't need to spend $45 on brunch here to enjoy equally excellent corn tortillas.
After that, I think my next visit to Cala will be for the weekday taco bar, recommended by Candice,
Cala adds an automatic 20% service charge to the tab. I did get good service because the host kept an eye on me from his station and intervened a few times to check when my assigned server was frazzled. The party of six young and chic Latinas sharing my table had multiple issues with their food, mainly asking for more spice. The server brought out some of the house hot sauce, a green version. Then they asked for red chile heat instead, and he was stumped. It was amusing when one whispered, "Don't you have some Tapatio in the back for the employees?" The answer was no, everything is housemade and there's no red salsa or bottled hot sauce.
149 Fell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
More photos of Cala: https://www.flickr.com/search/?sort=d...