The more I travel the more impressed I become as to the availability of quality Spain-inspired restaurants around the U.S. The West Coast has been a surprising plethora of such restaurants. A recent long weekend in San Francisco afforded me the opportunity to visit one of the city’s newest restaurants, Canela Bistro Bar, located in the trendy Castro neighborhood.
The brainchild of Executive Chef Mat Schuster and partner Francisco “Paco” Cifuentes, Canela is a welcome slice of Spain (with a noticeable California twist) in a part of town where hip and trendy restaurants dot the landscape. Here one can enjoy a quick tapa, a formal dinner, a delicious glass of wine, or just a cup of coffee for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Whatever your flavor you will likely find it here.
Many of the menu’s recipes hail from the kitchen of Paco’s mother in Spain. Creating the uniquely California-style Spanish restaurant has been Mat’s desire; and let me tell he has nailed it! The flavors of Spain are a perfect match for the freshness of locally grown foods from California. Their philosophy is to use sustainable and humanely-farmed ingredients, including those from Spain (for example, piquillo peppers, cheeses, and jamóns). The wine list also mirrors this philosophy. A wide array of Spanish wines fills the list while a number of California wines (usually those producing Spanish varietals) dot the menu as well.
My dinner consisted of an incredibly delicious collection of dishes from the eclectic menu. A local favorite, the “garlicy gambas” are shrimp sautéed with smoked paprika, sherry, and lemon. I also enjoyed the piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, setas (mushrooms) a la plancha (“on the grill”), and traditional jamón croquetas. One of my favorites was the lamb guisado, a tender shredded lamb stew served atop seasoned potato wedges. Finally, the coca (Catalan flatbread) served with chicken and salsa verde filled any remaining holes in my stomach. A 2009 Sierra Cantabria from Rioja served to tie the entire meal together.
Canela Bistro Bar has been open less than six months and is already garnering quite the following. Do not waste time in giving this restaurant a try. I suspect that you will fall in love with it just as I and much of San Francisco have.
Life is short. Drink Spanish wine!