Sunday, August 14, 2011


One part Catalan, one part Californian. 100% delicious.
At last my sardine cravings have been satisfied at a place that will bring back memories of Barcelona for anyone who has been there.
Wood Oven Roasted Montery Sarine and Avacado Toast (with onions atop)
I have been crazy about fresh sardines since I sampled them on toast at Fort Mason several years ago at one of those local/sustainable/organic SF food festivals. They were plump and meaty with a spunky, just-caught flavor.  
Jamon Iberico de Bellota
Since then I have discovered that it is hard to find fresh sardines in the US! But then Michael Bauer's article came to the rescue a few weeks ago with a list of restaurants serving them up around here. La Ciaccia was booked so we went to Contigo, a Catalan-Californian style place in Noe Valley.
Little Gem Salad (with beets and slices of toasted garlic)
Three of us went, lingering there for three hours over delicious wines (Corvo for me, a dry red and a white for my discriminating, superbly food-literate companions), plates of sardines, beet salad, black rice (with hefty chunks of octopus) and salmon over a summer corn salad.  We finished off the feast with plates of peach cake with basil gelato, and plum tart with almond-cardamom gelato. 
Local King Salmon Baked on a Fig Leaf. (The salmon was a bit more orange than it should be, but it was tasty, especially with the sweet corn salad.)
Calamas a la Planxa
EVERYTHING was fabulous.

Contigo's atmosphere is also lovely with the open kitchen, bar, wood-paneled dining room, and bright semi-outdoor area in the back, where we were seated. Along the wall  of the outdoorish dining room is a garden of chard, peppers, onions strawberries and squash. 

A warm peach cake with caramel, tangy peach sauce and almond gelato (and crushed almonds)
The only wrinkle about the place was the service, which was a little frosty.  Our server appeared to be stressed and not inviting of questions. Maybe a bad night for her.  Towards the end of the meal, she threw stares at our table, intimating, without actually telling us so, that the table was needed for another party.  Alas, this is not Europe where lingering is permitted, and Contigo is popular. But the cooks up front seemed relaxed and friendly even though the place was bulging at the seams with activity.

I definitely recommend this oasis of food and atmosphere. Another perk:  it is invisible to tourists in the middle of August!