Chef's Counter at Californios

This is a long overdue review. Parking was a pain in the butt as usual in SF but I was lucky to snatch a spot nearby.

Meal was terrific! In fact, Californios was my significant other’s favorite meal of the trip bettering Benu and Manresa. There were distinct and bold flavors throughout the night and smokiness from their charcoal grill was especially highlighted in many courses. I thought they went a LITTLE overboard on that but overall flavors were still well balanced.

We sat at the chef’s counter. Service was flawless and you really can’t beat watching the chefs whip up course after course in front of you. Lastly, descriptions of some courses could be off since I’m going off of my memory!

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Complimentary Prosecco for a special occasion

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"agua fresca" | cucumber and lime

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It’s always fun to see the chefs in action!

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Amuse Bouche Duo: Kampachi tostada and barley “chicharron” with a goat cheese and chilhuacle amarillo dip

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"hongos" | blue corn torilla taco with 3 types of smoked mushrooms
It was by far the best taco I’ve ever had! I can taste the individual components even though I stuffed the whole thing in my mouth! Oh so complex!

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"cangrejo" | dungeness crab and herbs tostada

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"hielo" | guava gelato with pineapple juice and bee pollen

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"citrico" | charred mandarin marinated in a chili honey citrus broth

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"ceviche" | smoked trout wrapped in layers of shaved Gala apple on a Granny Smith apple broth

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"esparragos" | charred asparagus with trout roes and avocado puree

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"yuca" | uni taco wih avocado puree, finger lime, jalapeno
The avocado puree’s creaminess paired perfectly with the uni but the uni was slightly overpowered by the amount they put in

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"caldo" | double smoked chicken broth with spring vegetables
Extremely smokey in a nice way and very flavorful. However, my palate was fatigued within a few sips.

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"tres frijoles" | whipped three beans froth on top of fermented vegetable broth, pickled shallot, Osetra caviar

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Plating up a storm!

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"pescado" | fried seabass in a corn masa batter, salsa verde, grape, olives, pickled pearl onion
The corn masa batter was a little thick and tough for the soft and flakey seabass but I understand that they’re trying to contrast the textures in a more unique way

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At this point, we were asked to pick out a knife for our upcoming course. These are made by a local SF maker.

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Mole incoming!

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"Carne Asada" | Japanese A5 Wagyu, mole, smoked yam, black truffle

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"Pichon" | smoked and grilled squab, mole, fermented vegetable

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Dipping and sipping sauce for our next course

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"churro" | foie gras churros with Mexican hot chocolate spiked with coffee liqueur

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Moar dulce de leche please!

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"dulce de leche" | Bartlett pear sorbet, Bartlett pear, dulce de leche

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"nuez" | pecan ice cream, glazed pecan, shortbread cookie, butter poached apple

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Rather than petit fours, we get a digestif.

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"digestivo: | paloma with vermouth

Californios
3115 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110

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Fantastic report and photos, thanks for sharing!

One of my top favorite restaurants in SF! They’ve been rock solid since my first visit, and should you go back a few more times they keep record of what you had before so you may get something slightly different if you come back say, a month later.

Their wine pairing is very thoughtful, out of the box at times in a very daring and fun way, and worth trying.

Awesome report. How early did you book in advance? Wanting to get up here badly, but, ugh, prepaid tickets are so frustrating.

Where else do you like in SF? Going up in August for the first time in years.

I don’t quite remember how far I booked it in advance. It might’ve been 3 weeks or so? IMO, Tock is great since you can leave whenever you like after you finish your meal instead of dealing with the check.

As far as SF goes, I mostly focused on the higher end Michelin restaurants since I can satisfied all my ethnic food cravings in LA. The few notable places that I sprung to my mind were dim sum at Dragon Beaux (quite a few highs and lows within the same meal but great value for SF standard), Cotogna (good Italian but pricey), B Patisserie, and Tartine.

I also swung by Bouchon bakery in Yountville…
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…I left disappointed since I was expecting their pastries and brioche to be rich, fluffy and/or flaky like the ones served at TFL down the street. However, they weren’t even close even though Bouchon bakes all the TFL goods. Anyone know why???

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I would love to go back but there are just so many great places at SF that I need to get to! What’s your top 3 must visit in SF?

Hmmmm that’s difficult to choose!

In addition to Californios:

Within SF:

  • La Ciccia (Sardinian)
  • Benu (which you’ve visited already), you could consider the owner’s other restaurant Monsieur Benjamin (French focused brasserie type fare) which I found very enjoyable

Outside of SF

Meadowood (Saint Helena)
Sushi Yoshizumi (San Mateo)

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