Eating Out

Revisiting Californios at their new SoMa location in San Francisco

As I prep for yet another upcoming apartment move (I have somehow never renewed a lease in my life), I’ve been trying to visit local restaurants within easy walking distance of my current place. This is of course subjective, but let’s say somewhere reachable in a leisurely 15 minute stroll. Luckily for me, there is an abundance of excellent dining options including Californios, a contemporary fine-dining interpretation of Chef Val Cantu’s Mexican heritage.

I tried Californios a few years back when they were in a smaller space in the Mission. My dining experience then was pretty mixed. I really liked the menu on paper, but there were too many execution errors and the service was cold. Since they relocated last year to the former Bar Agricole space, many of my friends have visited and every single one loved their experience. With so many rave reviews, I was eager to give Californios another try.

The new SoMa space is airy and grand, with a sizable courtyard for outdoor dine, a spacious kitchen, an impressive wine cellar, and a full bar area. I appreciated the friendly and approachable service, and my dining experience also matched the initial impressions. On seating, we were presented with a very detailed and thoughtful menu which also featured the names of the entire staff.

The tasting menu was about 14 courses, portioned appropriately so that I was comfortably full afterwards, but not overly so. There were many standouts, but I especially loved the middle courses of tlacoyo and tacos, with the DIY accompaniments. The alfonsino fish taco in particular was my favorite, perfectly cooked with incredibly crispy scales. The very different, but equally standout lamb barbacoa taco on a sourdough tortilla was a close second. I would be very happy if Californios offered a taco tasting menu someday! The queso and bean filled tlacoyo was also a treat with the addictive huitlacoche crema.

Other highlights included the ceviches, the uni caviar sope, and the rack of lamb served with mole amarillo and morels. My sweet tooth loved the numerous, yet light desserts, especially the chocolate cornmeal tart with savory cacao nib salsa macha.

In lieu of wine, my table chose to enjoy a few cocktails with the tasting menu. The cocktails were fine, but not notable. I had a great prior experience with their wine pairing, and given their extensive selection by co-owner and Michelin sommelier of the year Charlotte Randolph, I would opt for wine on my next visit.

Please excuse my low light iPhone photos!

Californios - Paloma - tequila, grapefruit, honey, lemon, soda
Paloma – tequila, grapefruit, honey, lemon, soda
Californios - Chilapita - masa tart, smoked sturgeon mousse, golden osetra caviar
Chilapita – masa tart, smoked sturgeon mousse, golden osetra caviar
Californios - Tostado - hopi white masa, hamachi, salsa borracha verde, brokaw avocado, spring onion, cilantro
Tostado – hopi white masa, hamachi, salsa borracha verde, brokaw avocado, spring onion, cilantro
Californios - Crispy Taco - masa shell, dungeness crab, kashmir chili, sabayan, trout roe, pickled fennel
Crispy Taco – masa shell, dungeness crab, kashmir chili, sabayan, trout roe, pickled fennel
Californios - Venezuelan Arepa - harina PAN, fresh achadinah cheese, pluot jam, serrano ham
Venezuelan Arepa – harina PAN, fresh achadinah cheese, pluot jam, serrano ham
Californios - Sope - tierra vegetable black masa, hokkaido sea urchin glazed in white soy and piloncillo, camote, japones chiles, siberan caviar
Sope – tierra vegetable black masa, hokkaido sea urchin glazed in white soy and piloncillo, camote, japones chiles, siberan caviar
Californios - Hielo - cucumber sorbet from the peach farm, fresh cucumber, watermelon & mint tea
Hielo – cucumber sorbet from the peach farm, fresh cucumber, watermelon & mint tea
Californios - Ceviches
Ceviches – Pineapple with chile pequin tajin and ginger chamoy. Sea bream in green tomato aguachile with purslane and basil oil. Mexican blue fin tuna with tomatillo in strawberry rhubarb aquachile.
Californios - Sea bream in green tomato aguachile with purslane and basil oil.
Sea bream in green tomato aguachile with purslane and basil oil
Californios - Banana - grilled cavendish banana, savory dulce de leche, cold-smoked kaluga hybrid caviar from the caviar company
Banana – grilled cavendish banana, savory dulce de leche, cold-smoked kaluga hybrid caviar from the caviar company
Californios - Escabeches for taco course. And Invisible bicycle cocktail - reposado tequila, passionfruit, chile brine.
Escabeches for taco course. And Invisible bicycle cocktail – reposado tequila, passionfruit, chile brine.
Californios - Tlacoyo - cónico rojo masa, cranberry beans, smoked queso oaxaca, hoja santa. Served with huitlacoche crema.
Tlacoyo – cónico rojo masa, cranberry beans, smoked queso oaxaca, hoja santa. Served with huitlacoche crema.
Californios - Alfonsino fish taco, chipotle meco, chile pequin, manila mango, green mango salsa, fresh chile tepin
Alfonsino fish taco, chipotle meco, chile pequin, manila mango, green mango salsa, fresh chile tepin
Californios - Lamb Barbacoa Taco, sourdough flour tortilla, iacopi english pea puree, ramps, pea tendrils
Lamb Barbacoa Taco, sourdough flour tortilla, iacopi english pea puree, ramps, pea tendrils
Californios - Asado - Anderson Farms rack of lamb, grilled white asparagus. With mole amarillo, morels, hen of the woods mushroom
Asado – Anderson Farms rack of lamb, grilled white asparagus. With mole amarillo, morels, hen of the woods mushroom
Californios - Coachella white corn ice cream, sorrel yogurt foam, blueberries. Oblea blackberry glass and goat cheese. Fresh young ginger juice, vermouth, pink lady apple.
Coachella white corn ice cream, sorrel yogurt foam, blueberries. Oblea blackberry glass and goat cheese. Fresh young ginger juice, vermouth, pink lady apple.
Californios - Chocolate cornmeal tart. Spun coconut sugar with piña colada paleta. 40% jivara bonbon with pepita ganache. 55% chocolate strawberry bonbon. Liquid honey truffle white chocolate.
Chocolate cornmeal tart. Spun coconut sugar with piña colada paleta. 40% jivara bonbon with pepita ganache. 55% chocolate strawberry bonbon. Liquid honey truffle white chocolate.
Californios - Chocolate Cornmeal Tart, 72% valhrona chocolate crémeux, candy cap mushroom cajeta ice cream, cocoa nib salsa macha
Chocolate Cornmeal Tart, 72% valhrona chocolate crémeux, candy cap mushroom cajeta ice cream, cocoa nib salsa macha
Californios - Vanilla extract parting gift
Vanilla extract parting gift

June 2022 Menu

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