I used to drive past Andalu in San Francisco’s Mission District all the time when I lived in the city. Forever intrigued by this busy tapas bar on 16th Street, it’s only recently that I stepped inside to see what all the hype was about. And you know what? I get it now. The authenticity of these tapas might make a Barcelonian shudder, but Andalu’s small bites are innovative, fresh and most importantly, delicious.
My dining companion and I started with the ahi tuna tartare tacos (which apparently, you can also order on Tuesday nights for one dollar apiece).
Topped with a mango salsa, this was easily one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The tuna was buttery and the tacos were crispy. In other words, just right.
Next we tried the baby spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, Roquefort cheese and candied walnuts.
This was tasty but too rich for my taste. I’ve got to be honest: as wonderful as bacon can be, I think I’ve had enough of the bacon trend. And after bacon cupcakes and bacon vodka, bacon vinaigrette has got to be one of my least favorite permutations.
Our third dish was the polenta fries with spicy tomato vinaigrette.
Served piping hot, these were more like polenta cakes than fries. I think I expected a crispier exterior. I actually preferred their texture once they cooled down; they became less crumbly on the inside and served as a perfect utensil to scoop up the incredible tomato sauce.
Next came the miso-glazed sea bass in lettuce cups with sweet soy.
The miso wasn’t very detectable here but the fish was super moist and tender so it didn’t really matter. The soy was indeed sweet; perhaps a bit too sweet, but I can’t really complain. Did I mention the fish was outstanding?
I had lost count of which number dish we were on by this point, but our next plate to arrive was the roasted asparagus with truffled Pecorino.
These thin asparagus were crunchy and lightly charred on the outside, with just the right amount of cheese on top to give the spears a salty kick. I wished there was more truffle essence on these, though; I could taste only the faintest hint of truffles.
Although I could hardly eat at this point, what became one of my favorite dishes at Andalu arrived next: the Coca-Cola-braised short ribs with white bean salad.
The ribs were practically falling off the bone, and oh, the sauce. I don’t know what they’re putting in that ecstasy-inducing sauce but it is fantastic. That being said, the white bean salad was so good that I really wouldn’t mind if it was offered as a dish on its own.
Our last savory dish of the evening was the grilled eggplant stuffed with ricotta, spinach and pine nuts.
And yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looks. I’m a huge fan of eggplant, so Andalu couldn’t really go wrong here. Oh, and ricotta. Who doesn’t like ricotta?
We finished off our ridiculously gigantic meal with an order of fresh donut holes with Castillian hot cocoa.
I was hoping for actual donut holes, but they were cake-like in texture instead. The hot cocoa was super sweet and thick, which is probably how it should be, but I like my cocoa a little thinner. Still, it was nice to end the meal on a sweet note.
Whether or not you’ve been driving past Andalu for years like I was and wondering what all the fuss is about, go. Just go. Parking can be a pain and Andalu often has a wait, but once you’re inside and seated, you’ll wonder what took you so long to come around.