A few weeks ago we dined at a very small Mexican/Spanish fusion restaurant–Lolo (3234 22nd Street, San Francisco)– that had an innovative menu of succulent morsels, aka tapas, that even foodies like us could find nothing to criticize. This tiny, dark restaurant with cramped tables seating no more than 45 people had friendly service and a quirky, humorous decor–one wall is filled with hanging spoons.
The key for us whenever we order a lot of small plates–appetizers, soups and salads–is to test the chef’s skills. So, a tapas restaurant is our idea of culinary nirvana! Lolo’s is a study in transformations! Nothing on the menu is what it seemed–a pleasant surprise to say the very least!
We had about eight different dishes for the four of us. Although tapas are small plates, sometimes it isn’t easy to share a particular menu item four ways. So, we asked and our waiter guided us in the right direction every time without fail.
We began with a fabulous salad of roasted beets with a dollop of feta mousse and pickled rings of red onions. We followed that with a double order of ground lamb sliders, double order of crab tostadas with chorizo, leeks, and aioli with avocado puree, tuna tacon–seared tuna, shellfish aioli, avocado, and roasted tomatillo sauce, and an extraordinary, thinly sliced octopus tiradito–chili flakes, sea salt, and aioli –that tasted like a slightly spicy ceviche.
Our final courses were the heaviest: double orders of gorditas– blue corn masa pockets filled with braised short ribs, roasted three chile sauce, and pickled onions–and carnitas–shredded pork shoulder with organic blue corn tortillas and roasted tomatillo sauce with guacamole and pickled onions
To top off this fabulous feast we ordered two plates of “taco tropical”, spice-dusted panko-crusted fried shrimp in a jicama, sliced paper-thin instead of a tortilla. The jicama is marinated in lime juice overnight to make it pliable for bending like a tortilla. For us this dish is the star turn on the menu, although not highlighted as such. Go to Lolo’s website —www.lolosf.com— under the “Videos” tab to see the YouTube clip revealing the creation of this dish and the testimonial by the chef from Specchio who is so addicted to this taco tropical that he visits Lolo every week for his fix! We probably would not have ordered this dish, if I hadn’t seen it being made on YouTube. Don’t deprive yourself of this treat–calling this “comfort food” does not do the dish justice!
A word of advice–this restaurant is a sleeper but hardly a secret to locals in the know. Without a reservation, you’ll have to wait. And, you shouldn’t linger…after all, others are waiting patiently to experience the same mouth-watering delights!