cala (sf)

Upscale Mexican seafood place in Hayes valley. Enjoyed the black cod with red Chile adobo, steamed in collard leaves, very hearty dish and cooked just enough. Trout tostadas were also enjoyable. Ended with strawberries with meringue, a nice riff on a pavlova. Airy space with skylights and plants gave the illusion of eating al fresco
Fell st between van ness and Franklin

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I also tried it about 2 weeks ago. Four of us had a nice meal, though it wasn’t nearly as memorable as the meal I had at Contramar in Mexico City.

I liked the salads, especially the one with nopales. Fried calamari and fish was totally boring. Charred sweet potato was good, and the sauce that came with it brought out the great smoky flavors. However I couldn’t help thinking that I could char my own sweet potato pretty easily at home and it would be just as good.

Trout tostadas were nice, but I thought there wasn’t enough chipotle or enough flavor to the fish. I prefer the tuna version of this that I ate in Mexico City. In fact, we were so uninspired by this dish that we actually made our own version of the tuna dish (with tostadas, chipotle aioli, avocado and fried shallots) for a dinner party the next night. We more or less followed this recipe.

Cocktails were good. Service is completely included in the bill, which confused me at first, but is cool I guess. When you pay with CC the receipt doesn’t have any place to put a tip.

Service was slow. Space was nice. I probably won’t rush back, but I think it might be worth a try again in a few months after they’ve been going for a while.

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Sounds like a casual wing, Tacos Cala opens tomorrow for lunch.

Does anybody like their brunch?

I will answer my own question. The answer is, it depends. I have not eaten at Contramar in CDMX. The short summary is, the brunch tasted pretty nice, and the kitchen is probably the most skilful Mexican kitchen around here. But the brunch seems to fall a little short compared to meals of similar price range of other cuisines.

Sopes playeros with black beans and ricotta salad. Semi-crunchy fried masa, though the black beans seemed a little boring. The salsa with a small kick was probably the most interesting component of the dish.

Trout tostadas. Smoked tostadas with crunch fried leeks and avocados on top of a crunchy fried tortilla. Have not had the original tuna tostada at Contramar. The dish was very enjoyable. The trout was slightly smokey, and could probably be smoked a little longer. The fried leeks and the tortilla added a textural balance with the tender trout and creamy avocado. While I quite enjoyed the dish, it didn’t wow though. So I assume the tuna tostada at Contramar probably is more interesting if that’s what they are known for.

Chilaquiles verde, carnitas, fried eggs. Well executed. The green tomatillo sauce was the highlight with the tortilla chips mopping up the last bit of this tart and slightly spicy sauce.

Torta ahogada, carnitas, avocado. The Guadalajara specialty. Its an ok sandwich. I was expecting it to be more elevated than its mercado counterparts given this is Cala. The sauce was a tomato based sauce and in this case, I didn’t feel the sauce added dimensions to the carnitas or the torta.

Dessert was the palanqueta with chocolate icecream. The palanqueta was quite delicious. The icecream was a bit dense to my liking and not remarkable.

Agua fresca was a hibiscus drink. Slightly sweeteed and very refreshing. Also had the jamaica mimosa.

4 dish plus dessert excluding drinks added up to $83 (2 adults, 2 small children). 20% service charge plus 5% healthy SF charge, tax and drinks and it was $133. Its an enjoyable brunch with well executed classics, though at that price range there were plenty of competition and Cala didn’t truly wow with any of the dishes. The food in the brunch was probably comparable to those from the brunch at a place like Nido on its best day. Service was helpful, courteous and efficient. One of the servers seemed a bit confused what to do with the table that shared, and wanted to put the tostadas down when the middle of the small table was already occupied by the sopes. I moved the sopes to the corner. Article about Cala’s staff here.

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Went to dinner in a largish group at Cala. Standout dishes were the trout tostadas, the abalone tostadas, and maybe the rockfish a la talla. Would go back for either of those again, and maybe try the crab tostadas.


Trout tostadas with chipotle, avocado and fried leeks
Nice bites with a good amount of delicate fresh tasting trout balanced by a lime (?) spiked avocado sauce and some nice oniony leeks.

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Abalone tostadas with trout roe and sea beans
Could definitely taste the abalone in this. Nice mix of flavors with the sweet abalone, briny roe, and creamy sauce underneath.


Kampachi aguachile with chayote and pickled red onion
Greenish sauce was citrusy and had some heat. Nice combination of the kampachi with the melon like chayote. Kind of a small portion.


Sopes Playeros with black beans, crema and ricotta salata
Nice texture in the sopes. Crunchy exterior but with some softness inside. Like @sck noted in his report though I thought the filling was not very exciting.


Quesadillas with mushrooms, quelites and toma cheese
More like tacos dorados than quesadillas? Fried so that they were sealed together, with a cheesy center.


Frito mixto with lingcod and squid
This was fine, had kind of a spicy aioli.


Sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra
This is apparently one of their signature dishes. It was good. Came with some warm tortillas. The sweet potato was quite charred on the outside and had a bit of smokiness. The black colored bone marrow salsa added some more smokiness and fatty meatiness as well.


Whole fried rockfish with cabbage salad and beans
I thought this was ok. The rockfish were fried bones and all, was a bit of work to get through the bones. Some bits of fin and parts of the head were fried enough to eat. Not a super amount of meat.


Rockfish a la talla
Half of this had a smoky reddish adobo sauce, and the other half had a greenish sauce that kind of reminded me of a chimichurri. Came with beans and tortillas. Very good - I liked this better than the whole fried rockfish. Quite tender and flavorful.


Islas flotantes with pomegranate
Meringue on a vanilla cream sauce.


Flan de cajeta
My favorite of the desserts we had, very rich. Wished there were more of it.


Buñuelo with ricotta and strawberries
Crispy fried discs with sweet ripe strawberries.


Menu

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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