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Turkish and Latin-Spiced Hot Spot in the Mission

What happens when one business partner from the town of Bodrum, Turkey -- Merdol Erkol, a food lover with a background in artificial intelligence -- starts a restaurant with a seasoned restaurateur, Jorge Martinez, from Guadalajara, Mexico? If you’re thinking, a restaurant serving cabeza kababs, Mexican pilaf, and flan-baklava -- um, no, not exactly. Instead, in Loló, Erkol and Martinez have created a smart, subtle intermingling of Turkish and Mexican cuisine, using only the freshest local ingredients, cooking up family recipes and favorites from Latin America, the Mediterranean and beyond.

Housed in their digs at 22nd between Mission and Valencia -- formerly home of Café Vogalonga and, before that, Villa Poppi -- Loló’s space encompasses two rooms, combining dark woods and heavy gilt mirrors with colorful prints and brightly painted walls reminiscent of Mexico. The décor is both playful and inviting, showcasing booths upholstered in Mexican market bags and a long wooden bar that dominates the larger back room.

But it’s all about the food! Taking our cues from our very helpful server, we ordered the seared scallops ($10), the arugula and radicchio salad ($8) and the huitlacoche and ricotta stuffed dumplings ($8) to start. For our main courses, we tried the duck confit tacos ($15), flank steak with mole ($18) and charcoal-grilled prawns with Turkish paprika ($15).

All dishes were presented artfully and the produce was locally grown and procured from Happy Farms, an organic farm in Clayton, California. The scallops, seared to perfection, were paired with a basil aioli and cold citrus fennel sauce, and the salad, fresh and light, was served with tart dried cherries, French goat and sheep feta, and orange Muscat vinaigrette.

The more interesting of our appetizers was the huitlacoche and ricotta-stuffed dumplings with roasted pepper, tomato, and squash blossom sauce. Huitlacoche -- a truffle-like delicacy from Mexico -- filled each dumpling, looking and tasting similar to a traditional mushroom ravioli, though maybe lighter, and less pungent.

As was the case with many of the items we ordered, we were somewhat disappointed we
couldn’t taste all the ingredients listed in the huitlacoche dumplings’ description. We found it
unfortunate to advertise the seasonal and hard to find squash blossoms as a mere
ingredient in the sauce. Nevertheless, the huitlacoche pockets were delicious -- maybe
even a bit decadent -- and a wonderful start to our meal.

For entrées, we found the duck confit tacos to be a standout. Served in a volcanic rock molcajete and accompanied by traditional Mexican garnishes -- cilantro, white onion, and sliced lime, as well as a few white corn tortillas -- the duck was shredded and crispy with a bit of bite.

But the charcoal-grilled Cedar River grass-fed flank steak, with its peach and strawberry mole, was the hands-down favorite. The meat was so tender it could be sliced with a fork, and the contrast between the juicy meat and the fruity and citric mole was a revelation.

For dessert we ordered the Bola Verde ($7) -- a quince and mascarpone terrine square. We found this dish unfortunately flavorless with an odd, rubbery texture -- somewhat baffling after all the bright flavors that came before.

Other minor complaints had to do with portion size of each of our dishes, particularly the entrees -- none of which were served with any sort of side and in some way seemed to be portioned similar to a tapas, despite their price and being listed as main courses.

Still newly opened, and just beginning to spread her wings, Loló does show promise—we found our servers, as well as the cooks in the kitchen that opened onto the front dining room, warm and friendly, and we loved the way Loló presented each customers’ bill in a bright book about bird watching.

A cue of sorts -- Loló provides a fun, unique dining experience, and is definitely a bird worth watching.


Need reservations? No.