Review: The $15 Chef’s Tasting Menu @ Mr. Pollo, The Mission District, San Francisco

A friend recently informed me of Mr. Pollo in the Mission District, although I understand that this restaurant has also been featured on the “Bang for the Buck” episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” (as chef Chris Cosentino’s selection, Episode #3.13). Sorry for the late pass, folks. Given my own first impression, Mr. Pollo is certainly an enigmatic entity, the spirit of quasi-haute cuisine, shoe-horned into a tiny storefront on Mission and 24th, and surrounded by a bevy of taquerias, fast food joints, and one of the Bay Area’s dodgiest BART stations. Aesthetically, Mr. Pollo blends into the neighborhood perfectly, still boasting the sign and the name of the space’s former occupant. However, under the current ownership of chef Manny Torres Gimenez, Mr. Pollo represents the most unlikely culinary oasis.

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Whether or not Mr. Pollo is actually “ready for prime time” — well, I just haven’t decided yet. If the chef’s tasting menu morphs as much as people claim, then I look forward to seeing more from the kitchen. Personally, I’m not swayed either way by Mr. Pollo’s chipped mishmash of plates and silverware, nor the stripped-down, 12-seat dining room. The restaurant’s cash-only policy is a minor inconvenience, but that doesn’t really matter, either. For me, the food is always the bottom line, and at Mr. Pollo, the dishes were varied and well-prepared, creative, and mostly on-point. Ultimately, at just $15 for four small courses, the answer to “why” is simply, “why not?”

Butternut squash soup with a cilantro crema. The flavor combination was surprisingly compelling, and quite unexpected.

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Sauteed bay scallops with Peruvian purple potatoes and watermelon radish, dressed with a citrus vinaigrette.

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Although the grilled squid appears lonely in this presentation, it was perfectly cooked. Carrots and zucchini located across the great divide.

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On the left, the baby eggplant is stuffed with goat chorizo, while the dish also features slices of goat leg with chimichurri sauce. I believe the greens are blanched beet leaves, and the "clouds" are composed of rutabaga foam.

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