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Monday, July 6, 2009

Portuguese Bistro-Slash-Food Shop Horatius Brings Big Drama to Potrero

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 2:45 PM

It's part café, part food shop and event space, with a dose of Williams Sonoma thrown in for good measure. The sprawling, soaring new food venture Horatius opened in Potrero Hill late last month (350 Kansas at 16th St.), with a crest-y logo that'd be right at home at the mall (preppy polos for Abercrombie wannabes?). That may be because the owners have obvious retail aspirations: Though the heart of Horatio is a café serving up bistro food with a Portuguese slant, the rest of the rustic modern space offers olive oils, wines, a few high-end groceries, cheeses, even bowls and platters.

The open interior is rustic modern.
The look is all pale gray walls and exposed trusses, pools of sun from myriad skylights, and a back wall clad in weathered barn wood (the massive doors slide open to receive projection images for parties and other events). Owners Horacio Gomes and Michael Greaney ar CEO and COO, respectively, of HeadQuarters, a Spanish-language advertising agency whose offices are down the street on Brannan (though they'll be moving to the still-under-construction-space next door). Ex-Sur La Table culinary director Kimberley Davis is manager.

Davis and exec chef Antelmo Faria told SFoodie dinner service is slated to begin August 1 (you can currently score breakfast and lunch from the order-it-yourself counter, Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.). They described the concept as comfort foods that hype Portuguese and "core Mediterranean" flavors (Spanish, Italian, North African). For the current menu, Faria -- previously of La Salette, the Portuguese café in Sonoma -- is drawing from the Portuguese food he grew up with: bacalhau á casa (salt cod hash), chicken with chile-laced piri-piri marinade. Future menus should emphasize other Med cuisines.

A roast pork panino ($10) layered ultra-thin slices of Niman loin slathered with harissa, the North African spice paste. Deliciously sweet-sour roasted tomatoes were the real stars of the sandwich -- those, and the floury, brittle-crust roll. The accompanying paprika-spiked potato salad? Meh. Still, you get the feeling Horatius has only taken its first baby steps -- we're eager to taste what Faria can pull out once the kitchen gets established. Not sure we'd ever do any food shopping here, though the wine bar should be a cool spot for after-work sipping. Especially if you want to mingle with designers from the nearby Design Center in love with spatial drama. And if Horatius has anything to offer, it's spatial drama.

Roast pork panino with potato salad: Roasted tomatoes give it a lift.

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