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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Beso Brings Much-Needed Romance to the Castro (With Tapas!)

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 11:01 AM

click to enlarge Cojonudo (chorizo and quail egg on toast). - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Cojonudo (chorizo and quail egg on toast).

If you’ve ever thought (as I have, many times) that fine dining in the Castro could be summed up as “Frances, Starbelly, and meh,” the almost two-month-old Beso will get you to reconsider. It’s a Basque-California alliance that works. As a concept, small plates might be a little past their sell date, but since tapas are what started it, you simply cannot err by going back to the roots.

click to enlarge Pulpo a la plancha, with piquillo peppers, fingerling potatoes, paprika, basil oil and Labne yogurt - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Pulpo a la plancha, with piquillo peppers, fingerling potatoes, paprika, basil oil and Labne yogurt
First off, Beso is a new project from the team behind Bisou, around the block. It’s romantic but not so dim that you can’t appreciate the presentation, and the wine list plants one foot solidly on the Iberian Peninsula. That other less-than-universally-adored trend, a communal table, is also present, but since Beso has 54 seats, you won’t necessarily be getting elbowed. (There are lots of two-tops.) And the check is presented in a stylish wooden prism with slots for multiple cards.

I can’t resist myself from going overboard when presented with any tapas menu, but with some helpful candor from the patient server I managed to keep our order within the confines of good taste. Among the cheese and charcuterie, the acorn-fed salchichón ibérico and a rosemary manchego were particularly complementary, but the cojonudo (hot Palacio chorizo and quail egg on toast points) made the best hors d’oeuvres-like bite.

click to enlarge Setas (mushrooms, manchego, egg yolk, thyme, vinegar and lemon zest) - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Setas (mushrooms, manchego, egg yolk, thyme, vinegar and lemon zest)
A plate of setas (roasted wild mushrooms, shaved manchego, egg yolk, thyme, cherry vinegar and lemon zest) might have been slight overkill but the textures were flawless. And since paella is common enough, the real test of a kitchen’s chops might be pulpo a la plancha. This version, stacked on a smear of yogurt sauce, was perfectly tender and smartly presented. (The radial symmetry of the plate draws the eye away from the fact that you’re eating tentacles, and everyone loves their kale.)

If Beso should ever get a full liquor license, it will be truly unstoppable, but just the opportunity to vary up date night in the Castro is a gift.

, 4058A 18th St., 801-5392.

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Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40


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