Green salad of roasted asparagus, Tetragonia spinach, avocado, peas, elder flowers, and cilantro dressing
(1 of 6)
Mexican red snapper, cauliflower, radishes, baby iceplant, foam
(2 of 6)
Oyster on the half shell with cucumber-Serrano foam
(3 of 6)
Fresh baked brioche with beef tongue, mayocoba bean spread, queso fresco, habenero escabeche, and spring onion flowers
(4 of 6)
Huevos con chorizo with egg, potato purée, pickled jalapeno, lime crema, cricket, and nasturtium leaf
(5 of 6)
A dry martini with mezcal
(6 of 6)
Last night, we snuck into a preview tasting prepared by La Urbana at Jiun Ho’s gallery in SoMa. La Urbana (661 Divisadero) is the big budget Mexican restaurant/taco lounge/mezcaleria headed to the Western Addition (which seems to better embody its Nopa moniker every day). Last week, we showed you some renderings of the space, and this week it is time to look at some of the menu.
Guests started with non-alcoholic tortilla lemonade or tortilla “grapefruit-ade”—both tasting like a corn chip was seamlessly blended into the liquid (because it was!). This sounds odd, but the people I spoke with were mostly intrigued by the flavor.
Since we’re on the subject of tortilla chips, you should know that none were served last night. Also not on the menu: tacos, guacamole, salsa, or any of the typical items most San Franciscans expect from a Mexican joint. (Are we really this provincial?) The first bites were raw oysters on the half shell, each one fully immersed in a cucumber-Serrano foam that tasted just as it sounds: cooling and spicy at once. Then, there were "huevos con chorizo": egg shells filled with soft-cooked egg, potato puree, pickled jalapeno, lime crema, and a toasty cricket garnish. The rest of the bites served were either garnished with edible flowers or a foam of some sort. Everyone plowed through while downing La Urbana Margaritas, which had been rimmed with bacon salt.
Clearly, La Urbana is taking a different tack from the slightly rustic Californized Mexican food served at very popular places like Padrecito, Tacolicious, and Nopalito. Chefs Benjamin Klein and Julio Aguilera are putting together a menu that would definitely fly in Mexico City, and probably in Los Angeles or New York too—but it remains to be seen if San Francisco can handle Mexican food with foam. We’ll know for sure when La Urbana opens this July.
Important Fact: I went back for two plates of the skin-on Mexican red snapper, decorated with paper-thin cauliflower chips, a dollop of thickened mole, foam, and a slice of jalapeno. It almost tasted like a deconstructed fish taco. Almost. For more on the food, flip through the captions and images in the slideshow above.