149 Fell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Modern Mexican bliss in SF. Why did we dine here? – Cala is Mexico City’s Gabriela Camara first restaurant in the United Stats. She is renown for her Contramar in Mexico City. Finally we get a taste of modern Mexican cuisine, outside of the usual Americanized dishes. This restaurant is a welcome change from all the me-two new restaurants serving the same old New California cuisine of Kale, Deviled eggs, ahi tuna, pork belly, etc!! Needless to say, this was #1 on our hit list.
This converted sound studio create a loud open dining room with a bar and long communal table at one end. You could barely hear the thumping tunes even though they have spend a ton of a noise shaping program from Meyer Sound.
Insider Tip – Reserve well in advance. They also sell Tacos Mon-Fri 11am-3pm in the back.
Cuisine – Modern Mexican
Location – San Francisco Civic Center
Opened – 2015
Service – Cala builds in the service charge. This worried us, but the waitress and helpers were fantastic. Good attitudes, helpful suggestions and constant scanning. Pacing was good too.
Verdict – We really looked forward to trying Cala, and it even fulfilled our high expectations. This is a must visit for foodies interested in cutting edge Mexican food. Something modern and different from the restaurants popping up every week.
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Yes. 1 Hour? Yes.
Cala Signature Dishes – Trout Tostada, Rock Cod, Sopes, Tamal.
Cala’s Menu changes seasonally. A bunch of small plates dominate the menu along with a couple big plates. Lots of seafood and not much in the meat area.
Cala Food Picks:
Condiments: Green habanero salsa, crunchy pickled vegetables (carrots, cauliflower and potatoes) and a small bowl of brava spicy sliced veggies.
Mezcal margarita ($14) – amaras mezcal, citrus cane syrup, lime, orange bitters – Strong, aromatic and representative of a strong cocktail program. Try the carrot cocktail for something more interesting.
Sopes playeros with midnight black beans, crema and ricotta salata ($10) had 4 warm good sized bites situated on a thick tortillas. Good dish for vegetarians. A bit on the rich and neutral side.
Trout tostada with chipotle, avocado and fried leeks ($16) was fantastic. 4 beautiful tostadas topped with trout sashimi and some nice fried leeks and green onions. A must order.
Tamal de cazuela with sea urchin and charred habanero-leek relish ($20) featured local Half Moon Bay sea urchin in a huge reused shell. It was filled with buttery soft masa, a polenta like pudding. Not a lot of uni, but a nice bold contrast against the neutral poleta.
Oysters and mussels over toast with carnitas and shaved egg ($18) had 4 large bruschetta like pieces topped with oysters and mussels. They used a sauce that was way too overwhelming, hiding the bold flavors of the other ingredients. We brushed some off and enjoyed the rest of the dish. This is a filling and large, ‘small’ plate.
Rock cod a la talla ($38) is a signature dish that comes from the Mexico City Contramar menu. A massive fish, grilled and butterflied and capable of feeding 2 or more. Cooked perfectly, slightly over salted. Crunchy tail! Another must get. We wondered why no one on Yelp had a picture of this. Odd. Black midnight beans on the side were ridiculously great.
Arroz con Leche ($9) is a classic rice pudding with a hint of cinamon. Nice carmelized crust and al dente rice.
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra ($19) we cooked till it was charred and the smoke essence infused on the surface of the huge yam. The thick salsa negra did not have much marrow flavor and frankly was a bit of an acquired taste. Really nice freshly made tortillas.
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
Do you agree with our review? Have you found other similar restaurants that are better?