April 10, 2009

From Spain to China – via San Francisco

Dire situations often lead to opportunities. The recent global economic crisis has led to the closing of many shops, cafes, and other businesses around my city. My own small neighborhood of Potrero Hill has seen the doors close on a restaurant and a shoe store.

Other establishments are most likely seeing a drastic a decrease in revenue. Across San Franisco this pattern is repeated. And I am sure the same is repeating itself throughout the rest of the state of California and beyond.

But, a new pattern is also emerging – opportunity. Each closed shop or business creates space for a new venture. Samovar's Tea Lounge, one of my favorite places to relax, has opened a third cafe in Hayes Valley. My favorite pizzeria, Delfina, has opened a new location Pacific Heights. And in other empty store fronts new shops and cafes are opening.

Two of these new restaurants that I recently had the opportunity to try are Contigo in Noe Valley and Heavens Dog in SOMA.

Contigo is a Spanish and Catalan restaurant on Castro Street. I had dinner here with my husband, Jonathan, about a week ago. The restaurant is modern and clean with bright colors and wood accents. We shared wine, a chicory salad, cheese, and patatas bravas. In addition, Jonathan enjoyed some Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Then for dessert we had some fabulous and creamy chocolate caliente con churros. Dinner was great – very yummy food.

And the chocolate and churros were perfect – rich, light, and crispy with cinnamon! A perfect conclusion to a great meal!

This week I met a friend for dinner at Heavens Dog. The dog is a new restaurant and bar situated on a rather rundown block of Mission Street. The restaurant is next to the San Francisco Federal Building in the shiny new SOMA Grand Condominiums – but across the street and to the left and right vacant buildings with shuttered windows fill the street.

Inside, Heavens Dog is a relaxing space – muted walls with paintings of its namesake animal, wood accents, candles, and red couches adorn the lounge, bar, and dining room. For dinner we sipped on cava and shared vegetarian “pork belly” (tofu) in clam shell buns, crispy sautéed kale with fermented black beans and ginger, dan dan mein noodles, and a confection platter. All were tasty – a good balanced of flavors and spices.

Two new experiences – two new restaurants I look forward to dining at again!

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