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As no one has talked about Patio Espanol in detail for several years, let's start a new discussion. My first time here was in January. I've known about this spot for all my years on Chowhound, but never seemed to make it to that corner of San Francisco.
The setting and style of service is decidedly old-school and I guess you could say that about the cooking and presentation too. However, there was something unique and wonderful about those long simmered, stewy flavors that we don't run across much in the California fresh style. I enjoyed the change of pace on a winter night and found a lot of comfort and satisfaction in these dishes.
How nice it was to pull up to a San Francisco restaurant and not have to look for parking. Plenty of space in its private lot.
The wine list no longer features older vintages of Rioja that I'd heard about in the past.
I opted for a glass of palo cortado sherry to carry me through the meal.
So hard to choose from the long list of tapas and larger plates. The tripe dish, Callos a la Madrileña, I'd wanted to try was already sold out. So, we ordered Torta de Cangrejo, fat crab cakes served with red pepper sauce. Decent, but on the bland side though not too much filler. This was the weakest dish of the night, things were uphill from here.
Almejas y Mejillones Marinera, clams and mussels sauteed with white wine and tomato, was perfection. Nothing innovative here, just very fresh bivalves cooked to exacting standards with a bit of wine and tomato-y enhancement. The kitchen has as good a sense of timing as a Hong Kong seafood chef, which is a big compliment from me.
Tortilla Española with onions, potatoes and sweet red peppers was excellent. Not dried out and the egg melded with the vegetable elements beautifully. We loved Albondigas a la Castellana, meatballs braised in white wine and tomato. This had a touch of smoky pimenton making the seasoning completely different from the similarly prepped shellfish.
The entree came with a choice of soup or salad. Our server told us that we should try the Sopa de Ajo Aragonesa, made with garlic and pimento. Just fabulous with long cooked sweet and softened near mushy vegetables that tasted so good.
For an entree, we shared Pescado fresco del día, that was merluza. Also known as hake, we wondered if it might be shorthand for whale size portions. The kitchen split the entree for us, and this photo shows half the $20 serving. Another dish seasoned with garlic, white wine and tomato, but this one had capers and shrimp as well as butter, again managing to not be monotonous. Old school converted rice and sauteed veggies rounded out the plate.
Crema catalana was already sold out for the night, the must-have dessert here. No matter, we were too full to eat anything else. As it was, our server packed up four boxes of leftovers for us to carry home. Instead of dessert, I took a stroll around the restaurant to recover from this huge meal to see the private function rooms and admire the Spanish tiles.
Some might call the place dated and dingy, but in the right light and mood I found it romantic and atmospheric.
The holiday lights were still up the first week of January. The private rooms, banquet menu, full bar, and parking lot make this a good choice for a holiday party.
Old-fashioned cooking and service, along with throwback prices make Patio Espanol an excellent value. With a varied menu and large venue, it can accommodate big groups and many tastes as well.
Patio Espaňol Restaurant
2850 Alemany Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94112
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