Modern Mexican Cuisine at Papito West, SF

by foodhoe on September 16, 2014

425 a hayes st. SF 94102 | 415.554.0541  | website

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I met my friend DebbieG for a hosted dinner last week at Papito West in Hayes Valley.  A hosted dinner you ask?  One of the perks of being an obsessive chronicler of everything I eat is that I occasionally am invited to check out new restaurants and get to dine on the house!  This lovely restaurant is an offshoot of Papito in Potrero Hill, a Mexican bistro serving French-accented organic fare that opened earlier this year by restaurateur Jocelyn Bulow of Chez Maman and Chez Papa Bistrot with co-owner/manager David Alexander.  They bring healthy, organic Mexican food to the neighborhood with a focus on quality ingredients cooked with classic technique by chef Reynol Martinez, who worked previously at Globe Restaurant, Aperto, and Epic Roasthouse in San Francisco.  The storefront has the clean modern exterior that fits in with the edgy Hayes Valley vibe and we totally dug the excellent mural by local artist Matthew James McGowan on the back wall.  It’s a stunner isn’t it?

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The space is bright and airy with high ceilings, exposed wood beams and sleek modern styling, the view looking out front is distinctly cafe or bistro-esque.

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This is a  refreshing Michelada, one of the specialties of la casa.  It is made from your choice of beer on ice with tomato juice, chili, salt and lime ($5.50).  The rim of the glass was coated with a savoury spice mixture that made my lips burn and made me drink faster…

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We were served a bowl of housemade guacamole with cilantro, lime juice, pico de gallo, topped with crumbles of salty pungent queso fresco ($9).  It was beautiful and very freshly made but the price was high and I honestly think they should offer a smaller portion for a smaller price.

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We dug into the homemade salsa trio with chips ($3), beginning with the orange one, which we swore our server said was the mildest, but it actually was the spiciest  of the bunch (a mango habanero perhaps?).  There was a mild tomatillo salsa and the intimidatingly dark red one was surprisingly benign.

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One of the things about this restaurant that initially got my attention was the fact that they are an Oysteria serving daily oyster specials and a raw bar menu that includes ceviche!  After my epic seafood quest in Baja earlier this year, I am all set to check out any Mexican restaurant serving fresh seafood.  The oysters were plump, briny and fresh.  My dining partner Debbie had a kumamoto that she thought tasted like spirulina, but I was smacking my lips over the juicy mollusks, which were served with a spicy mignonette and a thick tangy red sauce and that just meant more for me!

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We had a hard time deciding from the raw bar, but were intrigued by the Crudo ($12) which came beautifully composed, strewn with brightly colored edible flowers and tiny shiso microgreens.  Thin slices of striped bass placed over thick smears of avocado mousse, topped with paper thin slices of jicama, mango, radish, and the utterly delectable fish chicharron and sparkling with mexican sea salt.  It was an elegant presentation full of fresh flavors and textures, the fish chicharrone were ethereal crispy bits that lent a rich crunch to each bite.

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We shared an assortment of tacos, 4 Tacos ($15) adorned with drizzles of rich sour cream.  In the front is the camaron costeno made with sauteed shrimp, garlic, chile de arbol sauce, avocado, cilantro, red onions & mango pico de gallo. It was nicely spicy, and the shrimp were perfectly cooked.  I don’t know why I ordered this over the duck confit taco.  Hello, duck confit taco?  What was I thinking…

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Our favorite of the bunch was the Pastor, made from tender marinated Berkshire pork shoulder which was a brilliant taste sensation combined with the bright flavors of roasted pineapple pico de gallo, onions, cilantro and salsa verde.  The tacos are all wrapped with La Palma organic tortillas, which were tender and so delicious that I was loathe to stop nibbling them even when I began to feel stuffed beyond belief – which my friends happens to the best of us…

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I couldn’t resist ordering the Baja taco, I am a sucker for battered and fried cod drizzled with rich spicy chipotle remoulade and topped with piquant purple cabbage slaw.  It was tasty, but by the time Debbie got to hers she said it was a bit soggy.  So if you order this, make it a priority to eat it right away, as it is a universal truth that fried foods taste bestest when they are fresh out of the fryer.

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The pollo empanizado: fried chicken, chipotle remoulade, salsa roja, guacamole, purple cabbage slaw was also quite good, the crispy fried chicken were tender and juicy without being the least bit greasy.

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The Enchiladas mole con pollo arrived, packed into a casserole and topped with brightly colored herbs and edible flowers.  This was magnificent,tender braised chicken, rolled up in tender corn tortillas with jack cheese melted on top, slow cooked in a rich Oaxaca mole, topped with pickled onions, toasted sesame seeds served with black beans & rice ($17).  The sauce was well seasoned with spices, not too sweet, rich with flavor that was completely infused in the tender chicken.

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This is a dish worth coming back for, the rice and beans were delicious and those tortillas I already raved about.

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We ended with a couple of selections from the postres/desserts menu.  The decadent churros ($7), were short branches of fried dough filled with rich dulce de leche which made them feel dense and heavy, especially after so much food!  They were served with a side of chocolate dipping sauce  and dusted with powdered sugar.

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Our favorite was the Flan ($7), it was rich and creamy topped with a very ripe raspberry and fresh mint served with mexican wedding cookies.

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Thanks Papito West, I enjoyed this meal very much, everything was beautiful to look at, freshly prepared with interesting flavors and I really have to come back to try the duck confit taco or burrito.  Probably the shrimp tempura taco too.

Papito West on Urbanspoon

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Pieology, fast custom pizza in Pleasant Hill

by foodhoe on September 8, 2014

2380 Monument Blvd, Pleasant Hill, CA. 94523 | 925.338.2475 | website

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Pieology Pizzeria is a chain from SoCal that specializes in customizable pizzas that recently opened up in Pleasant Hill.  It joins a block of fast food chain restaurants (Panda Express, Wingstop, Rubios) that is visible from the I-680 and is just off the exit for Monument Blvd.  The name Pieology refers to the study of pizza pies and the chain is the brainchild of Carl Chang, the older brother and former coach of tennis professional Michael Chang.  It is difficult not to compare them to Chipotle, as the experience is so similar.  You enter and stand in line to place your order at the counter in the back, your pizza pie is assembled to your specifications then brought to your table when cooked.  It’s super fast and the clincher is that all the pizzas, no matter how many toppings you add are $7.95.  (A plain cheese is $6.45).

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The interior has an open, industrial feel that features polished concrete floors, light wood architectural elements and tiled walls. The menu offers seven pizza combinations to choose from and allows additional toppings at no extra charge.  For those who want to diy, the menu has three sauces, four cheeses and 17 topping choices, along with seven “after-bakes,” which are toppings or sauces placed on the pizza after it’s baked.  The process begins with a fresh ball of dough placed into an industrial press where it is flattened into a 12-inch disk and then par-baked.  The dough is then topped with your choice of sauce (red, herb butter or olive oil) and cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and/or gorgonzola), then with the toppings of your choice.

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Your pizza is  baked in a fiery 500°F gas Wood Stone oven for 3-5 minutes until the crust is crisp, the cheese has melted and the toppings are hot.

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Dining on Dim Sum at Hong Kong Lounge II

August 25, 2014

3300 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 | 415.668.8802 | website I recently met some friends for dim sum in the City at Hong Kong Lounge II which was opened in 2012 by Annie Ho who sold the original and very popular Hong Kong Flower Lounge, so she could focus her attention on a smaller venue.  The Chronicle recently […]

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Townie on University Ave in Berkeley

August 18, 2014

1799 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA | 510.356.4903 |  website | facebook There has been a bit of buzz about Townie restaurant and bar since it opened last month.  When I sent an email around to some of my blogger friends to go check it out, Christina who writes the enchanting East Bay Dish somehow managed to get us […]

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SF Street Food Festival 2014 is this weekend!

August 12, 2014
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I love going to the La Cocina Media Preview for the San Francisco Street Food Festival which is happening this Saturday, August 16th.  This time, it was held at Pier 70, a historic pier in Potrero Point, way out on the other side of the city from the usual Fort Mason.  We pulled up to […]

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Dinner with friends at Frances

August 4, 2014
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870 17th Street SF, CA 94114 | 415.621.3870 | website hours: Sun – Thurs 5:00 – 10:00 | Fri, Sat 5:00 – 10:30 I met my friends Libby and Chris for dinner at Melissa Perello’s restaurant Frances in the Castro, which has been on my list for a long, long time.  In fact, it’s already […]

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A light repast at Café Gibraltar

July 29, 2014
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425 Ave. Alhambra, El Granada | 650.560.9039 |website Half Moon Bay is a charming coastal town that is our go-to destination when craving ocean air and fresh seafood.  It’s a straight shot headed west over Highway 92 and is less than an hour drive from our house, sometimes more like a half hour if the […]

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