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Small Plates, Plenty of Choices

These days, small plate dining is a bit of an over-used catch phrase in San Francisco. It’s hard to find a new restaurant that hasn’t at least dabbled in the concept, but so few seem to get it right. Still, there are some types of food that beg to be served in smaller portions, the best of example of this being Spanish tapas.

Enter Bocadillos, the latest restaurant from Gerald Hirigoyen, the man who brought us local hot spots Fringale and Piperade. Hirigoyen grew up in the Basque town of Bayonne, making him uniquely qualified to create a tantalizing Spanish menu with French and Californian influences.

Located steps from the Transamerica Building, right next to Bubble Lounge, Bocadillos is already quite popular for lunch and dinner, and each meal offers something different. Bocadillos, which in Spanish means little sandwiches, is just about that during the daytime. The bocadillos are served on mini buns, come two to an order, and are broken down into grilled and ungrilled. The combinations, while not endless, allow for many worthwhile repeat visits. On the ungrilled side of things, the chorizo is excellent as is the catalan sausage with arugula and shaved manchego. If you’re in the mood for something grilled, the lamb burger is as good as a burger can get, but so are the ham and cheese and smoked salmon and chive cream cheese. A pair of bocadillos goes for a reasonable $7.50, with soup it’s $11.

But what about the tapas, you ask? While you can get a good selection at lunch, it’s better to go for dinner to enjoy more than 30 choices (broken down into such categories as bocadillos, a la plancha, peppers, and innards!). The plates vary in size but not in quality -- some of the highlights include lamb chops with mango and peach chutney ($12), prawns sautéed with garlic flakes and fresh lemon confit ($12), and crispy ground chicken skewers served with a mint yogurt sauce ($7). A must try are the boquerones, which are white anchovies that are actually wrapped like prosciutto around skewers of olives, artichokes and small button mushrooms ($3). Consider the refreshing garbanzo bean and corn salad ($5) or patatas bravas with romesco sauce ($5) to balance out the meal, and you will swear you’ve entered Basque heaven.

The wine list is a strong match for the variety of flavors coming from the kitchen. The 2001 Dehesa La Granja Tempranillo ($40) is a notable standout, but most of the 50-odd wines are offered by the glass ($4.50-9.50). A fun variant is the Kalimutxo ($5.50), which is half red wine and half Coca-Cola.

The restaurant occupies a rather small space, but this seems to add to the intimate and busy atmosphere. People can drop in for a quick business lunch, or stay for a lingering and satisfying dining experience; both types of diner are made to feel equally welcome. Reservations are not taken, which means you might end up sharing the one large communal table that dominates the restaurant -– perhaps all the better to make some friends you just haven’t yet met.

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