It might be that it's all the way across town from my apartment, or that they - up until recently - haven't taken reservations (I have a low tolerance for waiting), but I have been wanting to try out Contigo for a long while, and just haven't made it. Until last night, that is. I can't believe I waited so long, especially since I know chef/owner Brett Emerson and really respect his passion for the food he serves. Specifically that would be the food of Barcelona (and thereabouts) cooked with the freshest, mostly organic, mostly local ingredients. These California sensibilities allow the food at Contigo to shine with flavor, and I couldn't have enjoyed my experience there any more if I tried.
I mentioned I was vegan when making the reservation, and we were met at the door by co-owner Elan who had painstakingly taken a menu (above) and put dots next to everything that was vegan or could be made so. All the non-vegan items had been crossed out, making my options clear. I was floored by that hospitality. What hit me next was the beauty of the space. As anyone who followed Brett's blog as he built Contigo can tell you, this baby is GREEN. We're talking sustainable and reclaimed to the nines, but with no scrimping on style. It is a homey, bright, and inviting space, and I couldn't wait to dig into the food.
First up was a gorgeous salad of arugula, hazelnuts, and some juicy cherries that was to die for. What a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. My mouth was just having so much fun eating this. But then this next beauty arrived:
Behold the little gem salad with roasted beets, mint, and sherry vinaigrette. Oh, and those things that look like off-white flower petals on top? Garlic chips! They added the perfect salty and, well, garlicy, bite to this salad. Stunning.
Even the olives, served with marcona almonds and pickled veggies were something special. The veggies, in particular. I don't think have had such good pickled vegetables in a long time. Could have eaten a whole plate of those.
We also ordered sides of sauteed chard (with almonds, raisins, and garlic), roasted cauliflower (with olives, dates, and lemon) and patatas bravas. All were delicious, especially the salsa brava served with those perfectly crispy potatoes, but my hands down favorite was the cauliflower. I never would have thought to cook it with dates and olives, but man does it work. The balance between salty and sweet makes this dish a wonder. But, there's more!
This coca (flatbread) of asparagus and meyer lemon was just divine. Asparagus and lemon is a favorite combination of mine already, but atop some perfectly crispy flatbread served right from the oven it becomes a mouth watering, knock-your-socks-off, end to the meal.... or at least I thought it was the end....
My husband fell off the vegan wagon at this point and ordered churros for dessert. I was happy to just finish off the wine and sit and digest a while, but the "cookie" above magically showed up as a gift from the kitchen. I put cookie in quotes because this was simple deliciousness; pizza dough flavored with anise and coated with sugar that gets caramelized an top. Trust me - my picture does it no justice. An amazing light and sweet end to an amazing meal. (For the record, my husband declared Contigo's churros as the "best ever".)
So, my darling Bay Area vegans, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better place to eat well with others in San Francisco. Contigo means "with you" in Spanish, and I'm so happy that they include us animal-friendly folk in their embrace. I know I will be back (again and again most likely!) to Contigo, and highly suggest you get there too.
Meanwhile, I'm heading to some old faves this weekend, so stay tuned for updates. Enjoy the rest of the week, everyone!