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Hot on the heels of their success with Consuelo Mexican Bistro at San Jose’s Santana Row, Bay Area restaurateurs Sylvia and Eduardo Rallo have opened their second restaurant, Colibri Mexican Bistro, in the heart of San Francisco’s bustling Theatre District, just a block west of Union Square. Spanish for “hummingbird,” Colibri combines the simplicity of authentic family recipes with fresh, high-quality ingredients to bring diners unparalleled, delectable Mexican cuisine in a charming, turn of the century cantina setting.
Originally from Cuernavaca, Mexico, Eduardo and Sylvia Rallo first developed this concept after longing to find a restaurant that served the authentic dishes they grew up with in Central Mexico.
“Classic Mexican cuisine is a true blending of rich flavors, textures and traditions, from ancient Aztec and Mayan foods like chiles and corn to Spanish and French contributions such as dried fruit, nuts, wines and cheeses,” explains Sylvia Rallo. “Colibri isn’t attempting to create a new, trendy style. It is simply introducing the San Francisco palette to the richness and complexity of authentic Central Mexican cuisine, a style many Bay Area diners might be unfamiliar with.”
The Rallos family recipes were adapted to recreate many of these classic dishes using complex flavor combinations, traditional preparations and fresh local ingredients, such as Niman Ranch beef and pork. Dishes such as the Codorniz en Pipian, roasted quail in a green mole sauce made with pumpkin seeds, tomatillos, nuts and spices, is one of the many dishes exemplifying Colibri’s mix of tradition with high-quality, locally-grown ingredients.
The experience begins as soon as you sit down, as warm handmade tortillas are delivered to your table with a trio of sweet and spicy dipping sauces. The tapas-style menu starts with such appetizers as fresh guacamole prepared right at your table, Ceviche de pescado, chunks of white fish marinated in lime juice and served in three different styles, and Ensalada de jicama, jicama salad with avocado, citrus wedges and cilantro accented with a refreshing chile piquin dressing.
Among the especialiades (“house specialties”) at the heart of the Colibri menu are Mole poblano, a rich sauce of spices, chiles, nuts and chocolate served Puebla style over chicken; and Chamorro de cordero, lamb shank marinated in a paste of Muscat wine and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed to perfection.
Dessert selections include Crepas con cajeta, crepes with cajeta (a thick, dark syrup made from caramelized sugar and milk) and vanilla ice cream, Natilla de café, creme brulee infused with Mexican coffee, and Pastel de chocolate, a “to die for” warm Mexican chocolate cake. All of Colibri’s dishes are served in a small plate format to allow diners to sample the unusual combinations of textures and flavors found in these homemade dishes, and are priced between $7 and $16.
"The cantina style bar boasts a selection of over 360 100% blue Agave Tequilas, including 100 kinds of the best Blanco, Reposado and Anejo tequila and offers shots ranging in price from $8 to $80. Colibri’s signature beverages are their tantalizing margaritas, featuring blackberries, raspberries and other fresh fruit crushed with homemade sour mix and Tequila and served on the rocks.And of course no Mexican cantina would be complete without the classic agua frescas (“fresh fruit waters”), refreshing non-alcoholic beverages made with seasonal fruit that will vary daily. Flavors include limón y chía (lemonade), pepino (cucumber), melón (cantaloupe), sandia (watermelon), tamarindo (tamarind), and fresa (strawberry)."
Architect Charles Thompson designed the restaurant to evoke the look and feel of a Mexican cantina circa 1900, getting much of his inspiration from Mexico City’s world famous La Opera Bar. Upon arriving, diners are greeted by an elaborate wrought iron screen that fills the front window and wrought iron gates that flank the entrance. A long banquette and large, comfortable booths upholstered with a rich tapestry fabric line the yellow and gold fresco walls. Beautiful lanterns, giant talavera ceramic urns and Mexican ornamental metal chandeliers complete the authentic 19th century cantina atmosphere. To make dining at Colibri a fully authentic experience, the Rallos had all the furnishings and fixtures hand made in México and shipped to San Francisco for installation in the restaurant.
Colibri is located at 438 Geary Street, between Mason and Taylor, across from the Curran and Geary Theatres.