3115 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Why did we dine here? – Californios is a Two Michelin Star (in 2017) Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, the highest rating of its type in the US. We were intrigued and hesitated to come here, but finally succumbed to all the positive accolades and were glad we did. ($177 for Mexican food?!) Chef Val M. Cantu crafts cuisine of the highest regard, having moved up from a popup years ago. Open the really heavy door and you will enter this fairly small restuarant. It almost seems like it should be twice the size, and a little less dark – hard edged.
This restaurant uses tock for reservations, requiring you select a day/time and PAY up front. No refunds.
Insider Tip – Dine at the Chef’s counter. It fills up first.
Cuisine – Comtemporary Mexican
Location – San Francisco Mission District
Opened – 2013
Service – Californios had really good service and it was clear they were trying hard. The food pacing was good, fairly rapid, with a meal finishing in about 2 1/2 hours. There were a couple minor hiccups that prevented them from hitting the top.
Verdict – Californios met our high expectations. Was it worth $177? To some! Food of this caliber definitely fall in this class. Californios definitely can cook. The first couple dishes plus the incredible desserts still ring in our memories. With all the new restaurants popping up serving slight variants on the same theme, Californios is a breath of fresh air. There is not another restaurant in San Francisco like this!
Also check out: Cala serves up pedigreed Mexican.
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Yes. 1 Hour? Yes
Californios Signature Dishes – Daily Changing Menu. $177, $125 wine pairings. We dined in December.
Californios gives you a menu at the end of the meal. 19 total courses including palete cleansers. They can work around allergies and fulfill vegetarian needs.
Our Tasting Menu
agua fresca – horchata – Rice from California – Sharp initial flavor kick
calabaza – pumpkin – Jicima empada on a shisho leaf, crisp and chewy
chicharron – scallop – crisp and seafoody – a great start
hongos – mushroom taco with a strong citrus component. 3 types of local mushrooms piled high. Slight burnt hint.
cangrejo – crab – corn tostada with bloody butcher corn from Santa Rosa, local dungeness crab. Hard to hold, big spice note, messy fun
hielo – ice – tart palate cleanser with pineapple sorbet and bee pollen
persimono – fuyu torched – Topped with tarragon oil. Beautiful fruity touch. Honey citrus liquid.
ceviche – trout – with green apple sauce. Sour, spicy, some common themes here.
aquachile – fall vegetables – Pretty combination with okra, chilis, yogurt and more.
tamal – black bean – Comes in a dim sum style bamboo steamer with salsa on the side. Very smooth stuff. Afficianados of this will go nuts.
caldo – broth – Smoked squab consumee was hot and light on flavor yet very savory.
alternate pepper soup
tres frijoles – three beans topped with Tsar Nicholas caviar, gold flakes was very smooth. If all dishes could be this well done!
pescado – salsa verde – Fried Chicken thigh was great. Very crispy, excellent crust, very hot.
alternate – cod deep fried – Just fricking fantastic!
carne asada – A5 wagyu from Japan. Tender, fatty, really good, but not like the stuff we had at Don’s in Tokyo!
alternate – sturgeon was also very good. You don’t encounter this fish much, but really should.
pichon – squab smoked, brined with thin round tortillas on the side. Medium rare, tender, well done.
alternate halibut with quince was also good. The previous sturgeon dish just overshadows this.
churro – foie gras, duck fat was good but not stellar.
alternate plantain was interesting.
dulce de leche – pear was incredible. OMG. What a dish.
nuez – pecan ice cream on pecan cookie with candied pecans was also heavenly. Unbelievable how good it was.
digestive – digestif – Adult Cherry coke with vermouth. Not my type of tea..
Could have used some petit fours or take home trinket.. perhaps in the future?
Do you agree with our review? Have you found other similar restaurants that are better?