Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back for Seconds: Laiola

This is an occasional report on return visits to restaurants that I’ve already reviewed.

Swan Song for Spanish Tapas
2031 Chestnut St. (near Fillmore), San Francisco
Marina district
PH: 415.346.5641
Dinner daily from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday)
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

Original visit: November 2007

In today’s economy, everyone’s looking for a deal. And one of the best deals I heard about in town was Laiola’s “Taco Tuesdays” when you can get a taco, tecate beer and tequila shot all for $10. While I’m not a big taco fan, I knew others who were so I organized another one of my single guy dinners recently at this Marina hot spot.

As I was planning the dinner with my friends Ken, Doug, Billy and Tom, I read news that Laiola will be closing at the end of the year and reopening in February as Tacolicious, the concept owner Joe Hargrave has been experimenting with at the Thursday farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building. So it turns out Taco Tuesdays will soon be every day of the week.

At dinner, the menu gave a preview of what Tacolicious would be like. And that’s a lot of tacos and Mexican dishes like mole, burritos and ceviche. While I understood the shift to Mexican cuisine, especially on Taco Tuesday, I was still hoping there would be some of my favorite Spanish-influenced dishes I had when I first visited Laiola. Things like grilled squid or anything ala plancha.

But instead, the menu seemed to be mostly sides like drunken beans, potatoes, and other vegetables. They were still mostly the small plates formula, with prices ranging from $7 to $14.

I ended up ordering the Rock Cod ceviche ($7), which came in a little cocktail cup. The fish pieces on the top seemed dry, like it was sitting for awhile or something. But once I dug down to the bottom, the rest of the dish was moist and tasty.

I didn’t see anything else on the menu that I really wanted to get, so I ended up just getting the green salad topped with grilled salmon ($14). Tom got the same salad but with chicken as the topping.

Both Tom and I enjoyed our salads because of the freshness and the nice, creamy dressing mixed with roasted sunflower seeds. With my salmon, my salad had an extra kick of healthiness with cubes of tiny avocado. The only thing that threw me off about the salad was the large cubes of salmon. I expected a thin filet of grilled salmon, but instead they were these large cubes, which meant 80 percent of the salmon was raw so when I bit into it, it was like eating a marshmallow. An odd texture for me, that’s for sure. But if you like raw salmon, then you’d like this preparation.

The rest of the gang went the Tacolicious route ordering the Mexican-themed dishes. Doug got a hefty pork dish with mole sauce that he totally enjoyed, and both Ken and Billy ordered the taco specials, which was three street tacos for $10. There were about five different tacos that they could choose from. Above is a shot of Ken’s plate of tacos, which were mostly vegetarian and one made with rock cod.

Side note: Even though it was Taco Tuesday, Laiola doesn’t give out free chips and salsa, even though they give you three types of dipping sauce. We had to buy our chips ($4) and I thought the chips were inconsistent. They were all thin, but some were crispy while others were stale. They need to watch their quality control since they’ll probably be serving up more chips as Tacolicious.

While it was a fun evening hanging out with the guys and Laiola still had that young, fun vibe, I was missing the food that I first fell in love with. While I do eat Mexican food, I have to be honest and say it’s not one of the top cuisines that I seek out. So you can probably guess that I’m already missing Laiola and probably won’t be checking out Tacolicious in the new year.

Update experience (previously 4 stars): Knocking it down to 3.25 stars because Laiola is already on it’s way out. Not that excited about Tacolicious.

Laiola on Urbanspoon

Reviews of where you can find Spanish tapas:
Boqueria Soho (New York): “Did I Land in Barcelona?”
Barlatas Tapa Bar: “Small Bites Make a Big Splash in Oakland”
Cesar: “Spanish Flavors Wake Up Piedmont Avenue”


Hungry Dog said...

Sounds a little odd. You should not have to pay for chips, especially when they give you the sauces? Seems chintzy. The salmon chunks are surprising but I would probably like them since I like raw fish. But, most people would probably be put off.

Carolyn Jung said...

A good taco is a true thing of beauty. Can't wait to try the new incarnation of Tacolicious. In this economy, it sounds like the perfect place to get your tasty fill.