With a spate of Spanish restaurants in the Bay Area like Coqueta and Duende (Oakland) opening within the past year along with and 3-year old Contigo, it’s easy to overlook some old veterans (betarano in Basque). Opened in 2004, Basque-native Gerald Hirigoyen’s Bocadillos Tapas and Wine Bar was an early pioneer of introducing San Sebastian-style pintxos and tapas to San Francisco. Set in Jackson Square, Bocadillos is open on Saturday evenings for dinner and on weekdays serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to the Financial District crowd and visitors alike. Hirigoyen, who also serves as Chef/Owner of Piperade, and his team hired Chef James LaLonde to head the kitchen at Bocadillos last May. With extensive experience having worked at popular San Francisco restaurants such as Salt House, Maverick and Delfina Pizzeria, Chef Lalonde has added some of his own touches to the decade-old Bocadillos.
It’s been a long while since we had dined at Bocadillos, not from lack of interest, but mostly because of the no-reservations policy which can lead to long waits. Now they take reservations for parties of four or more (which doesn’t really help us), but on a recent Saturday evening we took a chance and were pleasantly seated at the wine bar right away.
As a wine bar, they serve about 16 wines by the glass, along with a election of sherries and beers. There is a wine for every taste, with many offerings from Spain; however, wines from France and California are also prominently featured. We like our Tempranillo, so we started with a bottle of the solid Viña Alberdi Rioja to drink while we pursued the menu:
The menu offers a selection of 30 tapas plates spanning bite-sized pintos, meats, seafood to cheeses and desserts. We had to start with their namesake little sandwich, a Bocadillo, rubbed with tomato and stuffed with slices of delicious Jamón Serrano:
Many of the dishes are stalwarts that have lasted the decade, but there are a few new dishes added in by Chef LaLonde. Calling our names was the Fried Pigs Ears served with lime and Fresno chili pepper. The bucket contained plenty of the tasty offal strips — it’s a very welcome addition to the menu:
The Pork Spare Ribs were rubbed with espelette pepper and came with a sauce flavored with lemon and thyme:
The size of the Trout “Paella” served with manila clams, chorizo and bomba rice was just the right for two people to share, giving us the opportunity to try out other dishes. It was also a great ratio of perfectly cooked fish to rice:
We recognized that the Pigs Trotters served with frisée and chopped egg salad was one of their original menu items, although the original incarnation was more of an offal “innards” circle if we recall. This version is just as good — if not better — with twice the amount of crisp surface area surrounding the tender, fatty and tasty pork:
To accompany the trotter cakes, we also ordered the classic Patatas Bravas served with a delicious red pepper-based Romesco sauce. We noticed that a farm egg could be added to other tapas on the menu, so we asked if they might consider topping the fried potatoes with one, and they willingly obliged. Breaking the egg yolk over the spuds added a nice rich ‘sauce’ to the fries:
With most of the tapas plates priced between $9-$18, it’s a great way to try out many dishes and share. Chef LaLonde’s touch was apparent in many of the dishes, especially in the expertly fried and grilled items that have been updated.