By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Potrero Hill’s newest (and long-anticipated) Papito Mexican restaurant is so small people get acquainted between a glass of sangria and a plate of guacamole. Tight, cute, and cozy as a pea pod, Papito is green on the outside, and copper-orange on the inside, to match its lime-marinated shrimp and mango ceviche, and other Pico de Gallo-adorned specialties by Chef Rodolfo Castellanos Reyes.Opened by the Big Papa of restaurant business, knowledgeable and successful Jocelyn Bulow, Papito adds a new flavor to his happy family of predominantly Southern French eateries, notorious for their great Provencal-style cuisine and casually elegant San Francisco ambience. Attracted by the restaurateur’s fame and previous delightful experiences in his Chez Papa, Chez Maman and formerly Pizza Nostra, patrons put their names on a waiting list by the door, or opt to eat outside when the miniature place is packed to capacity. Every bite at Papito is worth the wait, though. Avocado guacamole comes mixed with Serrano peppers and topped with queso fresco.Traditional chicken mole is reinvented with crème fraiche and Monterey Jack cheese, and has a strong rich chocolaty taste. Its spicy hit creeps up on you gradually, after several forkfuls. There are other great things on the small plates menu, but the shining star among them all is called elote asado. It’s an incredibly succulent chunk of grilled corn smothered with Mexican mayo, lime, and queso cotija, and dusted with homemade chili salt. Puts any other corn in the world to shame!On the main course menu, French influences peek through in duck confit taco, fried chicken empanizado with purple cabbage slaw, and garnishes of French radish and house made pickles. Besides being fresh, creative, and delicious, the food is served in bright glazed clay plates, and is festively decorated with red onions, mint, or cilantro. Three types of salsa are put on the table – hot chili, sweet mango (great for rock cod taco), and mild tomatillo. There is some hotter sauce in the kitchen, but patrons have to ask for it. Wine and beer are offered along with extremely popular red and white sangrias, the latter made with fresh apples, peaches, and lemons. Mexican sodas, mineral waters, and aquas frescas made of tamarind or fresh watermelon (yum!) present great choices for non-drinkers.El dulce, or desserts, consist of wonderful chewy churros with dark chocolate sauce; chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis, and absolutely divine caramel-rich Mexican flan.One more wonderful thing about this great little place is its friendly, fast and attentive service. Papito is located at 317 Connecticut Street, San Francisco. Lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Weekend brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Call (415) 695-0147 or visit www.papitosf.com for more info.
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