We had a wonderful dinner last night at Contigo, and based on the food, service, and overall experience, they're off to an excellent start.
The atmosphere and decor are great - Brett Emerson has really done a nice job with the place. the setup is similar to Pizzeria Delfina, with bar seating along an open kitchen, and tables further back.
The service was great, especially given that the place is brand new - everything went smoothly, everyone was incredibly firendly, and our server was great - she was very friendly, professional, and offered some spot-on recommendations for both food and wine.
The menu (http://www.contigosf.com/menu.html) is divided into small plates, main dishes, Catalan-style flatbreads, and jamon. We stuck with the small plates because there were so many that called out to us - although it sounds like people love the main dishes as well.
The kitchen turns out food very quickly, and our server recommended ordering a few dishes to start, then ordering more as the meal progressed. We started out with 3 small plates:
Remojon - salad of house-made salt cod, frisee, orange and olives. This was a great start to the meal - the salt cod was tender, delicious, and not overly salty as has been my experience with salt cod. The tiny green olives were among the best I've had, with a rounded, balanced flavor reminiscent of very good olive oil - anyone know what these are?
Setas a la plancha - wild mushrooms with pounded parsley, an incredibly minimalist dish. Tasted like they'd been quickly cooked in butter, seasoned only with salt, pepper, and pounded parsley. Great way to highlight the fantastic, pure flavor of wild mushrooms - there were chanterelles, porcini, and several other varieties we couldn't identify.
croquetas del rabo del toro - oxtail fritters. These were large, very crispy and consisted almost entirely of tender braised oxtail - a very generous, hearty portion. They also contain raisins, pine nuts and (according to our server) chocolate. We wouldn't have identified the chocolate, but they had a very rich, complex, meaty flavor. Highly recommended.
At this point, rather than ordering a large dish to share, we went with two more small plates, both recommended by our server:
Calamares a la plancha - fantastic squid served very simply with harissa. The tender, smoky flavor reminded me of wood-oven-cooked squid I've had at Pizzaiolo - the super-quick high heat cooking caramelizes the squid in places and really brings out the best of its natural flavor.
patatas a la riojana - Potatoes stewed with chorizo and onion. This was one of the best dishes of the night, and was unlike anything I've ever had - although the ingredient combination certainly reminded me of the classic mexican taco/sandwich filling, chorizo y papas. Large chunks of potatoes had been cooked to the point of breaking down, with their starch creating a creamy, emulsified sauce that coated everything. This was a deeply-flavored, rustic, delicious dish, and I would love to know how the potatoes were cooked to achieve that texture so that I can make it at home!
We finished with a wonderful blood orange tart topped with olive oil ice cream. The tart was essentially candied slices of blood orange - rind and all - layered atop a tart crust. I tend not to be a dessert person, but this was great - the pure blood orange flavor of the tart married perfectly with the subtle ice cream.
Overall, best dishes were the dessert, oxtail fritters, potatoes, and shrimp - but every single dish we tried was good enough that I would order it again. Prices are very reasonable given the quality of the food - subtotal (pre-tax and tip) for 2 was about $60, which included 5 small plates, a 1/2 bottle of wine and dessert.
We will definitely be back - best of luck to this wonderful new restaurant!
1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114